May 172019

Under the Radar shines a light on lesser-known cover artists. If you’re not listening to these folks, you should. Catch up on past installments here.

The Dollyrots

Power couple Kelly Ogden and Luis Cabezas formed the Dollyrots, a pop punk band, in 2000. The oft-quoted origin story sets the scene for their musical style:

“We were watching the 2000 presidential election results, and at four o’clock in the morning, when we found out that George W. Bush had won, Luis and I were like, ‘The world’s probably gonna end anyway, and I don’t want to go to med school,’ so we thought, ‘Let’s just do the band.'”

Honestly, who hasn’t felt the same urge recently?

If you are “fashionably socialized” you may have at least heard of The Dollyrots’ biggest hit, “Because I’m Awesome,” in one of the variety of television shows, movies, and commercials that featured it. Along with releasing original music consistently over the years, The Dollyrots have covered a wide range of songs that span genres and decades of origin. Here is just taste of what they have to offer cover-wise.

The Dollyrots – Bad Reputation (Joan Jett & the Blackhearts cover)

Joan Jett’s rocker style has been a major influence for The Dollyrots. Jett’s music label, Blackheart Records, released The Dollyrots’ second album (containing and named “Because I’m Awesome”), and the band opened for Jett in the late ’00s. It’s only fitting that the band paid homage to their mentor by covering the classic “Bad Reputation.” Ogden’s slight, ironic Valley Girl voice contrasts Jett’s deeper, gravelly voice, but otherwise the cover stays true to the girl power anthem, right up to the “Not me!” screams.

The Dollyrots – Happy Together (The Turtles cover)

Three years after the release of the Because I’m Awesome album, A Little Messed Up followed, containing this cover as a bonus track. The beginning starts by matching The Turtles’ intro, albeit at an increased pace. This tempo change sheds The Turtles’ laid back style in favor of a more urgent rendition. There is also a key change that we hear in the beginning and recurring throughout in the cover’s chorus that doesn’t exactly match the original. The Dollyrots drop most of the echoing phrases characteristic of the original, but the “ba ba bah”s are thankfully preserved.

The Dollyrots – American Girl (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers cover)

In this cover The Dollyrots’ lead singer, Ogden, proves she is a new kind of American girl, raised on different promises.  Mixing the pop-punk style with a woman singer allows the lyrics to take on a more poignant tone. The Tom Petty tribute is sung with the sarcastic edge of a woman told to “take it easy” one too many times. The emphasis on the past tense in “she was an American girl” makes us wonder, what is she now? The Dollyrots don’t shy away from the original song’s heavy focus on the instrumentation either. They hold their own in the instrumental end, their guitars yielding a sharp sound.

The Dollyrots – Be My Baby (The Ronettes cover)

The opening chord and drum beat give no sign of what is to come, but when the lyrics kick in, you are hit with a sense of admiration for a band that is willing to give one of the top songs of the ’60s a pop-punk makeover. The Dollyrots swap an electric guitar solo for the original strings and the cymbals for the original shaker sounds. Removing The Ronettes’ background crooning and extended “oh”s gives the cover more edge. Whereas the drum often stands alone in the original, it is the guitar that steals the show in this cover. Despite the drastic genre switch, The Dollyrots’ version still provides “a feeling… a heartbeat.” However, the dance lesson scene in Dirty Dancing would have had quite a different vibe if this version of the song were used.

The Dollyrots – All I Want for Christmas (Mariah Carey cover)

Have you ever been in the holiday spirit but also just felt a tad angsty? If so, then this cover is for you. The Dollyrots’ take on this popular Christmas song ditches the jingle bells, ignores the slow build of the original, and jumps right in. The nature of The Dollyrots’ punk style could have led to a sardonic cover, but instead this cover is sincere in its Christmas wish. Mariah Carey’s hit gets a touch of spitfire, and although they don’t tackle the piercingly high end note nor rely on Carey’s characteristic trills, The Dollyrots deliver.

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