Pop-punk, pop rock, indie pop, power pop. All rock styles that clarify right in their name on what genre they're based — pop music. But what happens when a band in one of these traditions tries to write a metal song?
And we're not talking about the anthemic rock bands who already have a harder edge, such as Shinedown or My Chemical Romance, to name but two contemporary examples. Nor are we mentioning the hard rockers back in the day who retained pop melodies and structure, such as Aerosmith or Led Zeppelin or a great many others.
We also don't mean the various pop-punk bands who've covered previously written metal material for projects such as the Punk Goes Metal series. Nor metal covers of pop songs.
No, we mean more like when nerd-rock mainstays Weezer tried to write a heavy metal song in 1998 and didn't even release it until 12 years later. Or when Panic at the Disco! bandleader Brendon Urie leaked an extreme metal creation of his own even more recently.
Or when blink-182 acolytes Fenix TX used their final major label effort in 2001 to experiment with thrash metal. (The poppy group even gave Metallica a nod with the title of one song on that year's Lechuza, "Pasture of Muppets.")
So now that you know what we mean, let's get into it. Scroll down below to see if you remember these various metal attempts from pop bands. They all get an A for effort.
Sugar Ray, "New Direction" (1998)
Listeners who bought Sugar Ray's 14:59 in the late '90s were likely surprised by the thrash metal intro, which sounds nothing like the poppy alt-rock on the rest of the album. But they may not have known that Sugar Ray started out as more of a nu-metal band before finding the sound that made them famous. "New Direction" is just an acknowledgment of their other influences.
Fenix TX, "Something Bad Is Gonna Happen" (2001)
Fenix TX got the hookup from blink-182 when, circa 2000, the pop-punk kings' Mark Hoppus started managing them. Subsequently, the Texas-based upstarts' "All My Fault" took off on rock radio. Within a year or so, however, Fenix TX were writing way nastier riffs to go along with much more metal lyrics on tunes such as "Something Bad Is Gonna Happen." "You wanna fuck shit up? / Well, motherfucker, come on!"
Weezer, "Everyone" (2010)
Weezer kept "Everyone" hidden from listeners for over a decade. It finally emerged on the odd-and-ends compilation Death to False Metal in 2010. But is "Everyone" false metal in and of itself? The Rivers Cuomo-led group recorded it in 1998 at the same time as their cover of the Pixies' "Velouria," which can be found on the 1999 compilation Where Is My Mind? A Tribute to the Pixies.
Jimmy Eat World, "Get It Faster" (2001)
In retrospect, the odd part about Jimmy Eat World's "Get It Faster" is that the whole jokey idea of the song was apparent in the demo version. The poppy emo rock band was toying around with metal riffs, and out came the tune that contains probably the closest they ever got to a metalcore breakdown. Unfortunately, on the Bleed American recording, the joke is totally lost.
Sum 41, "Pain for Pleasure" (2001)
Somehow, out of all the 2000s-era pop-punk bands, Sum 41 showed they had the chops to play metal for real. So it's no surprise the idea quickly came to fruition on All Killer No Filler's Iron Maiden-indebted "Pain for Pleasure." The song title doubled as the name of the Deryck Whibley-led act's alter-ego metal band.
Brendon Urie, "Metal Song" (2019)
In 2019, Panic! at the Disco mastermind Brendon Urie revealed a metal song he made during a charity live stream on Twitch. And, believe it or not, it actually sounds like a "real" extreme metal song. Maybe Urie could look further into this style?
Foo Fighters, "Weenie Beenie" (1995)
Foo Fighters are seen as hard rockers. But though he came from Nirvana, Dave Grohl's first widely heard song as Foos leader was the poppy Beatles sendup "This Is a Call." It preceded the throatier Foo Fighters number "I'll Stick Around" as a single. But when "Weenie Beenie" hit on the self-titled debut's track list, it was the first time anyone outside of Scream fans had heard what Grohl could really do with heavy music. Of course, after subsequent solely-metal solo efforts such as Probot and Dream Widow, we all know now.
Bon Jovi, "We Rule the Night" (2004)
Bon Jovi, the band that perhaps epitomizes the type of '80s hard rock artist that was in all actuality a pop artist, didn't release their 1985 metal experiment "We Rule the Night" until the 2004 compilation 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can't Be Wrong. Give it a listen and see if you can suss out why.
NOFX, "Eddie, Bruce and Paul" (2009)
NOFX are the kings of independent pop-punk. And while Coaster's "Eddie, Bruce, and Paul" is undoubtedly a pop-punk song — forbidden beat and all — its thematic tribute to Iron Maiden, along with its wicked riffs and guitar solo, warranted inclusion here. Who knew Fat Mike was a Paul Di'Anno fan?
Ryan Adams, "Signal Fade" (2010)
Remember Ryan Adams? Before he all but disappeared from the musical landscape due to allegations of sexual misconduct in 2019, the folky singer-songwriter tried to write a whole heavy metal album. The result, Orion, came out in 2010. He seemingly hasn't tried since.