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10 Mind-Blowing College Marching Band Cover Songs

Beyonce, Daft Punk, Skrillex and more

The University of Michigan Marching Band.
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
September 17, 2013 4:40 PM ET

Turn on any college football game this season and you're bound to hear the White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army," which in the past several years, has become a stadium rally cry. But college marching bands aren't just looking at Detroit garage-rock for inpsiration, and in fact, are more in line with the pop charts than ever. Here's 10 mind-blowing modern covers done by marching bands at these select institutions of higher learning. 

Carly Rae Jespen, "Call Me Maybe" (University of California at Berkeley)
When Jepsen’s "Call Me Maybe" was released in February 2012, it was inescapable for the rest of the year, blasting out on every radio, TV, and iPod in three-minute intervals. It’s only fitting that a marching band would absorb the song’s ubiquity into its act. As Cal swings through the chorus, the audience happily sings along and shows that when it comes to the modern hits, people just can’t get enough.

No Doubt, "Spiderwebs" (Iowa State University)
Although No Doubt vocalist Gwen Stefani would go on to utilize the marching band aesthetic more directly with her first solo album, it’s a hit from the band’s third album, Tragic Kingdom, that gets the collegial re-working. It makes sense in a way: Tragic Kingdom found No Doubt transitioning from a high school ska band into one of the biggest rock acts of all time. As a nod to the band's brass beginnings, Iowa State increases the song's horn backing by a hundred fold and takes it from a ska-tinged rocker to a wall of trumpets.

Kanye West, "All of the Lights" (Temple University)
On the fourth single from Kanye's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, the rapper doesn't want some of the lights, he wants all of the lights. It's only fitting that Temple blows up the song into its most grandiose form with a version loud enough to fill a stadium. Would Kanye approve … or is this version not big enough?

Skrillex Medley (Michigan State)
The popularity of EDM proves to be frutiful in the marching band setting, as Michigan State performs a medley of Skrillex remixes, only to stop playing halfway through the performance, and do the world’s largest simultaneous beat drop. Michigan State seems to be asking: does a marching band even need to actually play its instruments to be a marching band?

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, "Thriftshop" (University of Idaho Pep Band)
Macklemore will be the first to tell you that “Thriftshop” has a serious message but it’s housed in a silly exterior. Acknowledging the song’s anything goes atmosphere, University of Idaho blows that twisting sax line up into a massive, ancient Roman battle cry. The song is also fitting: like the clothes at a thrift shop, most of those sweaty pep band and marching band outfits are in their second, or third, or fourth generation of use, much to the members’ dismay.

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Song Stories

“Santa Monica”

Everclear | 1996

After his brother and girlfriend both died of drug overdoses, Art Alexakis -- depressed and hooked on drugs himself -- jumped off the Santa Monica Pier in California, determined to die. "It was really stupid," said the Everclear frontman, who would further explore his personal emotional journey in the song "Father of Mine." "I went under the water. Then I said, 'I don't wanna die.'" The song, declaring "Let's swim out past the breakers/and watch the world die," was intended as a manifesto for change, Alexakis said. "Let the world do what it's gonna do and just live on our own."

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