Covering a pop song can be a metal band's truest test. Can you turn something that 99 percent of your fans hate into something 100 percent of your fans love?
These bands understood that good songwriting transcends genre, and that a great metal cover can exist wherever a solid foundation lies. Even with some of the most overplayed and corniest pop singles of all time, these metal bands created covers immune to criticism, giving us some pop-goes-metal bangers for the ages.
Children of Bodom – "Oops!… I Did It Again" (Britney Spears)
Nobody… absolutely nobody… did cover songs like Children of Bodom. From the all-too-serious world of neoclassical death metal, Bodom were never afraid to get silly, and their cover of Britney Spears' "Oops I Did It Again" is their crowning achievement in having fun for fun's sake. Epic solos, Alexi Laiho's vicious voice, killer arrangements… it's the GOAT.
HIM – "Wicked Game" (Chris Isaak)
Before HIM began showing up on every MTV show even loosely affiliated with Bam Margera, it was the band's cover of Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game" that made them superstars in Finland. Released in 1997, it ultimately became the most performed song of HIM's 26-year career. Ville Valo's voice is perfect on the track, and HIM's heavily melodic guitar sections made the classic song burst with color.
Type O Negative – "Summer Breeze" (Seals and Crofts)
Some of the greatest cover songs in history work because they're polar opposites of the original. Type O Negative took a sunny-day, soft rock hippy anthem and dragged it into the abyss. The doom metal reimagining of Seals and Crofts' "Summer Breeze" is iconic for its contradictory nature, but also because Peter Steele genuinely loved the original and treated it with the proper respect.
Graveworm – "Holding Out for a Hero" (Bonnie Tyler)
Metalheads love it when a band refuses to take itself too seriously. Enter Graveworm's cover of Bonnie Tyler's "Holding Out for a Hero"… often mislabeled as "I Need a Hero." Neck-and-neck with Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger", "Holding Out for a Hero" was one of the most cliche and overplayed movie soundtrack songs of the 1980s. It was so damn catchy that it just never went away. Graveworm did their part to keep the pop song alive, giving it a death metal rendition for the history books.
Turisas – "Rasputin" (Boney M.)
It's not often that a cover song solidifies a metal band on an international level, but here we are talking about Turisas and their version of Boney M's "Rasputin". The folk metal band transformed this eurodisco track and gave it eternal life, much like the mythical tales of the real Rasputin. Even if folk metal isn't your jam, this cover is too much fun to scoff at.
Ghost – "It’s a Sin" (Pet Shop Boys)
Ghost's cover songs always seem to come out of nowhere, like with Roky Erickson's “If You Have Ghosts” or Imperiet's "Bible". As for straight-up pop, though, "It's a Sin" likely ranks at the top of Ghost's many sonic transcriptions. Tobias Forge always seems to know how to Ghost-ify a classic track, and "It's a Sin" sounds like it could be an original from the Swedish occult act.
Chaos Divine "Africa" (Toto)
This has no right to be this good. Toto's iconic "Africa" is actually one of the most complex songs in pop history from a vocal harmony standpoint, so it takes surgical talent to perform. Simply put, Chaos Divine hit this song out of the park. The vocals are perfect, the guitar solo rips, the production is gorgeous, and even the little off-beat drum part in the song's verse is fantastic. Take a fucking bow, Chaos Divine.
Fear Factory – "Cars" (Gary Numan)
What a weird, weird, weird choice. It's unbelievable how well this cover works, as Fear Factory seamlessly blend the synth pop classic with their own industrial metal style. Fear Factory's "Cars" is a masterclass in the art of balance. Fear Factory kept the heart of the song intact, changed very few dynamics, but still made it their own. Take note, bands. This is how you do it.
I Prevail – "Blank Space" (Taylor Swift)
I Prevail are underrated for their pure songwriting IQ. It's why they've become a gateway band between the worlds of pop and metal, and this cover of Taylor Swift's "Blank Space" is like a giant neon sign that reads "come on in." This thing has 74 million views on YouTube and over 120 million streams on Spotify. It's the biggest song of I Prevail's career and it's certainly not from a lack of original material. These guys got the sauce.
Steel Panther – "I Want It That Way" (Backstreet Boys)
I didn't want to love this… but god damn it… it really, really do. Steel Panther does hair metal parodies better than most hair metal bands do hair metal, and now, the same goes for boy bands. Just when you think this Backstreet Boys cover couldn't get any catchier, Steel Panther hit a key change in the final chorus that takes "I Want It That Way" to another level. We're not fucking worthy of this.