Of all people to cover Rammstein’s “Du Hast,” not many would guess Lizzo. And yet, at her recent arena show in Berlin, Lizzo busted out a full rendition of the song, finding real joy in the unlikely pairing. For many of the newest generation of stars, hard rock songs like “Du Hast” have been around since their childhood — which might be why Post Malone livestreamed a pandemic set consisting entirely of Nirvana covers back in 2020.
But Lizzo’s recent rendition of “Du Hast” got us thinking: Why don’t pop stars cover heavy songs more often? And who will be the next pop star to channel their heavy metal alter ego? It’s a common move for many hard rock and heavy bands covering pop songs — post-hardcore outfit Our Last Night has been dedicated to covering many Top 40 hits for a decade now — but why does it rarely happen the other way around?
Perhaps our now “genreless” music landscape will allow for more cross-pollination of styles, as seen with hybrid acts like Poppy, Meet Me @ the Altar, and 100 gecs. Maybe one day, Post Malone will fulfill his life long dream of actually fronting a post-hardcore band, and we’ll all laud him for the pivot.
But for now, let’s take a look at 13 times pop stars donned a little more black than usual and covered punk, hard rock, or heavy metal tracks.
— Paolo Ragusa
Lizzo — “Du Hast” (Rammstein Cover)
After debuting an a capella take at the end of February, Lizzo opened March 2023 with a full-band experience. It’s a shame she merely danced to the synth solo instead of busting out the flute, but the end result still got the thumbs up from Rammstein’s Instagram page. How do you say “Twerk” in German? As the video demonstrates, Lizzo is still working on mastering Deutschland’s mother tongue, but shaking ass is universal. — Wren Graves
Post Malone — “Heart Shaped Box” (Nirvana Cover)
Love or hate the auto-crooner, Post Malone does a pretty convincing Kurt Cobain. And while there are plenty of Posty-Nirvana crossovers to choose from — the man did a full 15-song cover set — it’s hard to beat his rendition of “Heart Shaped Box.” He infuses enough grit into his vocal performance to pay respect to the original while throwing on his trademark vibrato to give it a tinge of originality. All the while, he’s nailing the guitar riff in front of Travis Barker, who plays the Dave Grohl to his Cobain. It’s as respectful as it is fun, and it’s a genuinely enjoyable listen. — Jonah Krueger
Miley Cyrus — “Head Like a Hole” (Nine Inch Nails Cover)
Don’t be fooled by her pop star past or her country roots — Miley Cyrus knows how to sing rock and roll. Even better is when she leans into something heavier, like her terrific cover of Nine Inch Nails’ 1989 classic “Head Like a Hole.” Cyrus has often pulled out covers of rock songs in her sets, but this one is a bit of an exception; it was recorded for Cyrus’ Black Mirror episode “Jack, Rachel and Ashley Too,” a story of a pop star longing to play rock songs and suffering from lack of control over her career. “Head Like a Hole,” then, is her moment — both Miley’s and her character, Ashley O’s — to show everyone what she’s truly capable of. — P.R.
Lady Gaga — “Moth Into Flame” (Metallica Cover)
Who else could perform onstage with Metallica at the Grammys, deliver a pitch-perfect rendition of “The Sound of Music” as a tribute to Julie Andrews at The Oscars, and sound equally at home in both spaces? The one and only Stefani Germanotta, of course. The Mother Monster has long proved that she is so, so much more than a pop star who needs shock value to sustain; rather, Lady Gaga simply can do it all, and allows herself the room to play and explore as she pleases. Her stadium-ready voice, which naturally seems to take on a raspier and grittier quality when singing certain genres, excels in this live cover of “Moth Into Flame,” recorded during Gaga’s country-rock Joanne era. — Mary Siroky
Willow — “Rx Queen” (Deftones Cover)
While it might be less surprising that Willow enjoys a little Deftones now that she’s well into her rock and pop-punk era, it’s still thrilling to hear her bust out the White Pony highlight “Rx Queen.” Guitar in hand, she bellows out the lead vocal, throwing a little polish on Chino Moreno’s effects-laden wailing without losing too much of the original’s emotionality. At this point, we’re ready for a Willow/Deftones tour. Hell, why not bring her up to sing “Passenger” with the band as they did with Haylee Williams? — J.K.
Hongjoong (Ateez) — “Numb” (Linkin Park Cover)
For those who haven’t spent much time in the genre, toss away any lingering preconceived notions of what a K-pop act can sound like; ATEEZ consistently throw out the playbook in their own music, frequently incorporating heavier elements into their discography. (Start with their wild 2022 single, “Guerilla,” and thank us later.) Hongjoong, known as the “captain” of ATEEZ, is the leader responsible for the group’s sound, the majority of their lyrics, and general production directions. He sounds right at home in this cover of the Linkin Park classic, and even adds in a verse in Korean for good measure. Simply put? It absolutely rules. — M.S.
Mariah Carey — “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak” (Def Leppard Cover)
“Bringin’ on the Heartbreak” may be a Def Leppard power ballad, but Mariah Carey makes it completely her own. Her nimble, swirling voice often sounds like she’s singing to you straight from her bedroom, rather than center stage at a hair metal show. Back when she recorded this cover in 2002, Carey’s career was in a bit of a grey area; after overwhelming success in the previous decade, she struggled to find a more unified sound until 2005’s The Emancipation of Mimi. So, it’s fitting she included a Def Leppard song, of all artists to cover — but then again, maybe if her scrapped rock album had been a success, this cover would be even heavier. — P.R.
Avril Lavigne — “Chop Suey” (System of a Down Cover)
For those in the know, System of a Down’s “Chop Suey!” is a certified karaoke staple. I mean, how could you resist belting out a good “WAKE UP/ GRABABRUSHANDPUTALITTLEMAKEUP?” That’s right, you can’t… because you wanted to. So, it’s no wonder Avril Lavigne wanted in on the action. Lavigne completely embraces the song’s fun factor, giving an over-the-top performance and savoring every line she screams. It sounds like she is enjoying the performance as much as anyone in the audience, fumbling her words and laughing as she makes her way through the classic. — J.K.
Tori Amos — “Raining Blood” (Slayer Cover)
Tori Amos isn’t truly a pop star, but she deserves to be that famous, and anyway some times you have to bend the rules for excellence. If Slayer’s “Raining Blood” is set in the eye of a cadmium-red hurricane, Amos’ creepy cover watches blood trickle down the windows and wonders whether it’ll ever again be safe to go outside. Her slower interpretation trades fury for dread, building tension with off-kilter minor-key piano chords so that a line like, “The sky is turning red,” feels like a horror movie just before a jump scare. Her voice swoops low on, “Return to power draws near,” acquires a demonic grind for, “Fall into me,” and the upwards flight she takes on, “The sky’s crimson tears” is simply beautiful — as angelic as Lucifer himself. — W.G.
Rina Sawayama — “Enter Sandman” (Metallica Cover)
There’s no denying that Rina Sawayama is a pop star, but there’s always an edge to what the Brit delivers. Just look to her song “XS” for proof of that — the raging guitar and always impressive vocals set the scene for a stellar cover she shared in the summer of 2021. Her take on the all-around rock classic, like many other Sawayama adventures, recalls the genre-fluidity of Lady Gaga in all the best ways. By the time the key change hits four minutes into the cover, which (correctly) stretches over five minutes, it’s Rina’s world, and we’re all just lucky to be visiting. — M.S.
Shania Twain — “You Shook Me All Night Long” (AC/DC Cover)
During the 2003 Up! tour, the Queen of Country Pop took “You Shook Me All Night Long” and bent it to her will, committing one such rendition to film for the live video album Up! Close and Personal. Twain demonstrates how to head bang for the apparently-unfamiliar audience, and recalled hearing the song as a young person. “Little did I know at the time that I was going to marry the guy who produced this music,” she said, little knowing at that time that she and Mutt Lange were headed for an acrimonious divorce. She’s not likely to touch it again, making this slide-guitar soloing, cowboy boot-stomping take all the more special. — W.G.
Pink — “Janie’s Got a Gun” (Aerosmith Cover)
Pink arguably built her career on her raspy, rock-adjacent voice, but she dials up the volume — and soul — for her cover of Aerosmith’s “Janie’s Got a Gun.” When she escalates to the song’s highest notes, her gritty vocal slides are infectious, and she unravels just enough to honor the original. Considering this performance and where Pink’s career went after 2006’s I’m Not Dead, it feels a little unfair that Pink has ditched her hard rock sheen for, well, music that is much less exciting. — P.R.
Demi Lovato — “You Give Love a Bad Name” (Bon Jovi Cover)
In 2022, Demi Lovato leaned fully into rock sounds with their album HOLY FVCK — they even declared their pop persona dead. It might’ve come as a shock for anyone who only knew the star from their many radio hits, but those who have been paying attention, and the loyal fans from the Disney days, know that Lovato has always had a voice as big as the sky that truly suits the genre. Travel all the way back to their 2009 album Here We Go Again and you’ll hear the potential; Lovato of 2008 knew it, too, with this fiery cover of “You Give Love a Bad Name.” — M.S.