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.
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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.
Robin Thicke, “Blurred Lines” (Jackson State)
“Blurred Lines” might have Robin Thicke’s name at the top, but it’s Pharrell’s sparse, catchy percussion that drives the tune. Like so many salsa and meringue tunes, the song’s energetic and repetitive nature gets up inside your skull and just bounces around forever. Relying on Pharrell’s expertise, Jackson State used the song as a foundation for their huge drum line in order to infect an entire stadium with the tune.
Psy, “Gangnam Style” (Ohio University)
“Gangnam Style” was designed to be ridiculous. The video features Psy dancing through a trash storm. He gets straddled in an elevator. He wears a suit that even Bob Eubanks would turn down. So, it’s even more ridiculous for an entire marching band to do the whacked out “Gangnam” Style dance, complete with male-on-male straddle … and by ridiculous, we mean ridiculously awesome.
Daft Punk Medley (Western Washington University Viking Band)
Acknowledging Daft Punk’s dedication to performance and robotic showmanship along with the music, Western Washington University put on an entire Daft Punk tribute complete with raver glow sticks, Tron suit clad dancers, and strobe lights. Just like Daft Punk works best in a packed club, the band’s thick sounds reverberate through the gymnasium.
Cee Lo, “Fuck You” (Southern University)
Although the original version of Cee Lo’s nasty named anthem never hit the radio, everyone knew what the watered down version declared when he sang “Forget You.” You have to admit that it’s somewhat subversive to have a marching band play an instrumental form of this vicious revenge song.
Beyonce Medley (University of Michigan)
In order to up the ante, the University of Michigan recently brought in a ringer for their Beyonce medley – Queen B herself! Mrs. Carter appears on the jumbo tron and blesses the performance. Does this signify a new era of celebrity endorsed marching bands? Will we see Lil Wayne backing PSU? Nicki Minaj giving props to Pitt? Only if we’re lucky.