11 rock anthems you can’t believe weren’t written by rock bands
Let’s all be honest with ourselves for a second here: we rock fans can be a little fickle when the going gets tough. Pop music, as the cliché goes, is The Enemy. Opium manufactured for the masses. Soulless empty heart ear candy. ‘Fake music!’, we shout.
And yet, Kiss releases a full disco banger in I was made to love you and it becomes widely hailed as an all-time classic. Ozzy Osbourne, the godfather of heavy metal, the fucking prince of darkness himself, releases such a sweet and syrupy ballad in Mom, I’m coming home that it would make Celine Dion gag, and it becomes one of her defining anthems.
Rock and heavy metal are full of songs that, if released by anyone other than the bands we love, would be outright rejected by rock ‘n’ roll devotees. And, on the other hand, pop music has actually produced a surprising number of heavier songs that, if released by four hairy dudes with instruments, would be easily celebrated by your average rock sidekick.
With that in mind, here are eleven classic rock anthems from distinctly Not Rock artists who have filled many guilty pleasure playlists over the years. Its good. We’re all friends here: you can hug them now.
The Osmonds – Crazy Horses (1972)
While super-brilliant brother band The Osmonds had flirted with rock music by the time 1972 arrived, no one was quite prepared for the band that gave us A bad apple to take a full leap into happy heavy metal. “Before that, my brothers and I had been what is now called a boy band,” singer Merrill told the Guardian. “All of our songs were picked out for us by the record company. But now, having made it, we wanted to freak out and make our own music. We were rehearsing in a basement one day when Wayne started playing this rock riff heavy. I came up with a melody and Alan got the chords. Within an hour, we had the song. Bet paid off: 50 years later, it’s still their most famous hit.
Lady Gaga – You and Me (2011)
Lady Gaga’s rock credentials remain rock solid: She’s already professed her love for Iron Maiden, cited Kiss and Queen as major influences, and dueted with Metallica at the Grammys. In 2011 she produced what remains one of her finest moments on the fabulously OTT of 2011 born like this album. In collaboration with the powerful rock producer Mutt Lange, she designed the magnificent You and me, a swaggering, throaty country-rock epic that stands against any powerhouse rock ballad you care to name from the past three decades. Oh, and there’s also a song called heavy metal enthusiast on this same album. Clearly, Gaga has rock ‘n’ roll in her soul.
Christina Aguilera – Fighter (2002)
Dirtythe first single of 2002 Baremay have signaled Christina Aguilera‘s spectacular change from doe-eyed pop princess to sexually empowered badass, but it was the third single from that album, Fighter, which arguably provided a new career high. A defiant, guitar-driven, provocative post-breakup anthem, it included contributions from Jane’s Addiction ax man Dave Navarro, who would appear with Xtina at the 2003 MTV VMA Awards to perform the song. The video is also incredible: directed by Floria Sigismondi, who had previously worked with David Bowie, Marilyn Manson and Bjork, it was a dark and deliciously gothic vision unlike a lot of other mainstream pop media at the time.
Robbie Williams – Let Me Entertain You (1997)
Robbie Williams made no secret of rock ‘n’ roll’s influence on let me entertain youthe fifth and final single released from his post-Take That solo debut, in 1997 Life through a lens. As he tells it, the track was inspired after the pop star watched the Rolling Stones explosive concert film, The Rolling Stones rock and roll circus. “We watched circus rock and after that we went to record let me entertain you“, said the man himself. “When we started writing the demo, there was a furious rhythm in the jungle below, it was so hardcore that it excited me, and I’m still excited listening to it now. It’s not really heavy metal, it’s more camp rock opera! Williams would complete the theme by shamelessly looting Kiss’ entire look for the video.
Kelly Clarkson – Since You’ve Been Gone (2004)
18 years after its release, you’ll be hard pressed to find a pop punk or emo themed club night that can resist the temptation to release this absolute, certified banger. For the second album Break away, the original american idol The winner embraced her love of rock music by working with artists like Avril Lavigne and former members of Evanescence. Looks like someone took Feeder’s Buck Rogersgave her an extra coat of polish and injected her with chewing gum-lined steroids, since you’ve been Gone is the kind of perfect modern rock anthem that a thousand “real” bands have tried – and failed – to nail over the past twenty years.
Pink – Trouble (2003)
Pink has been a lifelong rock fan and has a number of guitar anthems that could have made it to this list. Difficultyhowever, was the song that signified the pop superstar fully embraced this side of his palette, released as the lead single from the third album. Try that. Teaming up with none other than Rancid legend Tim Armstrong to pen the song, the single unsurprisingly leans on punk rock as a key influence, even managing to land Pink a Grammy in the (unfortunately defunct) category of music. best female rock vocal performance.
Olivia Rodrigo – Good 4 U (2021)
Good 4 U is so shameless in his debt to Paramore Misery business that, following cries of plagiarism from Paramore fans, Rodrigo retroactively added vocalist Hayley Williams and former guitarist Josh Farro to the credits. Some claimed it was a sign of loving respect and gratitude, while Variety reported that the credit may have acknowledged that parts of Misery business were actually used in the song. It does not matter: Good 4 U was a monstrously huge pop-rock hit, racking up billions of streams and becoming one of the defining songs of 2021. It’s pretty damn awesome, too.
Miley Cyrus – Midnight Sky (2020)
Another pop star who has made no secret of her love of rock ‘n’ roll, Miley Cyrus went all the way in 2020 by tapping Joan Jett and Billy Idol for her 80s-tastic plastic hearts album. First single midnight sky was a wonderful reinvention for the singer, channeling everyone from Blondie to Stevie Nicks into mellow, neon-flecked synth-rock rage. Miley would of course embrace heavy metal the following year with a critically acclaimed Metallica cover. Nothing else matters for their huge Blacklist project.
Girls Aloud – No Good Advice (2003)
If the first single from Girls Aloud, 2002 The sound of the subwayflirted with rock via a unique blend of twangy surfer rock and hard-hitting drum ‘n’ bass, follow-up single No good advice took things a step further by beefing up the guitars and layering them with disco beats and futuristic synth swaths. It may not be the most famous song in the Girls Aloud catalogue, but the rockiest? You bet.
Rina Sawayama – STFU! (2020)
“My music is a mix of a lot of different genres, but I always find myself drawing inspiration from metal,” said Japanese-British singer-songwriter Sawayama. metal hammer last year discussing his cover of Metallica Enter Sandman. “Songs like STFU! and XS obviously metal/nu metal influences. I love pairing pop production with crisp guitar riffs and an epic solo.” Never did his combo work better than on the 2020s STFU!a riff-driven insta-classic with so much bounce it looks like it belonged on an Anger Management tour in 2000.
Demi Lovato – The Skin of My Teeth (2022)
Many rock fans reacted with surprise and even disgust when it was revealed that guitarist Nita Strauss had left Alice Cooper’s band to play alongside pop chameleon Demi Lovato. In truth, the reaction was a bit over the top: Lovato has always flirted with the alternative end of the pop spectrum, and this year’s grungy Hole-aping skin of my teeth single represented a new dawn for the singer. Pop-punk sequel Substanceperformed live on Jimmy Kimmel with Strauss in tow, confirmed Lovato has gone Full Rock for their next chapter — and they’re doing it with aplomb.