The Nerdcore VPC | Stiborge Reviews Round 2

The Nerdcore VPC | Stiborge Reviews Round 2

The annual Nerdcore Vocalist Producer Challenge is back for a fourth outing. Teams of producers and vocalists go head to head through a series of challenges over several months with the ambition of being crowned the VPC IV champions.

The round two tracks are in for the VPC IV, a now annual competition, where producers and vocalists form teams of two to compete in challenges set by the organisers. Each round has strict criteria to be met by both the beatmaker and the vocalist as well as adhering to a theme or key component in the makeup of their track.

Points are awarded by a team of four judges for how well the teams have achieved the tasks set out whilst a public vote makes up the fifth component of the scoring system.

As is tradition The Unheard Nerd has its very own resident VPC critic ready to heap praise or cast damnation on each of the tracks in each of the rounds. It is our great honour to welcome back once again Forrest aka ‘Stiborge’ to review round two.

Round Two Challenge | Nerdcore Goes…

Nerdcore Goes Pop! Nerdcore Goes Metal! Nerdcore Goes New Wave Shoegaze Blackened Folk Celtic Punk! It doesn’t really matter what you go, but it can’t be hip-hop for this round. Your team is tasked with covering an existing non-hip-hop/rap song. Any other genre is open for your choosing. And while we’re on the topic of “no hip-hop,” your cover doesn’t even have to be in a hip-hop style either! Been wanting to rework an Iron Maiden song into a soaring pop track? Do it. Wanna cover Kenny Loggins in a crust punk style? Have fun! Think you could do a rap cover of a CHVRCHES song? Have at it.

For the full rules for round two, to find out about round three and for everything you need to know about VPC IV visit the VPC IV website – and to keep up with all the chatter surrounding the competition like the VPC facebook page. To hear a playlist of each of the tracks check out the soundcloud page.

Stiborge Reviews Round Two

This is a round whose entries I was simultaneously really excited for and kind of dreading. Cover songs are something that can go either really well or horrifyingly terrible. This round could have been catastrophic… but I don’t think it was. I actually think it went pretty well. It’s not my favorite round of songs ever, when you’re dealing with covers things like the originals frequently get in the way nagging the questions “is this better than the original?” and if not “did this need to be done?” but I DO think there are some interesting entries. Oh and thank you all for not covering Nirvana. If I had to listen to another cover of Nirvana… I just… I don’t think I could do it.


Annex Dote – Once In a Lifetime
Vocalist: Kordlyss
Producer: Ardamus (if this is spelled wrong blame the soundcloud)

It should be pretty obvious by my everything about me but I’m a Talking Heads fan. I grew up with it. However, I can see how The Talking Heads might be a good choice for a cover song. Their style is just so unique that it’s potentially off-putting for a lot of people. Unfortunately I am not one of those people and I really think the original gets in my way in terms of my enjoyment of this cover. I think the instrumental is less interesting than the instrumental in the original and I think that, while I think Kordlyss’ flow is decent and the fact that it’s uniquely Kordlyss does a lot for making the song yours, it loses something without David Byrne’s bizarre singing style that is hard to replace.

Rating: 5 out of 10

Aural Sex – Nerdcore Jesus
Vocalist: Johnny Hacknslash
Producer: Code E

Personal Jesus is a decent song to cover, which is probably why everyone and their mom has already covered it. That being said this is less a “cover” and more of a “parody.” I’ll be frank, I was really hoping that there weren’t going to be any parody songs in the competition even though I knew that there were. I love Weird Al but parody is just kind of an oversaturated market right now and with the exception of Weird Al, I think I’d be happy never hearing a parody song again. To the point of this specific song, I didn’t find it super great. If Bulbasaur is the most clever nerdcore parody song then this is a middling nerdcore parody song at best in terms of clever lyrics. That being said I did actually really like the vocal delivery on it. I really like Hacknslash’s singing voice most of the time and this is no exception. And the beat is functional. It’s not a super exciting break away from the original or anything but it works well enough. This is also one of the few mostly non-rap songs that has a rap verse near the end that doesn’t feel jarring. All in all, I probably would have actually liked it better as a straight up cover with maybe a bit more of a sonic break away from the original.

Rating: 4 out of 10

Beat Tape Bandits – Weekend
Vocalist: Lex Lingo
Producer: Klopfenpop

This was the first song I came up on where I was unfamiliar with the original and I ran into a major problem with listening to the original song right before this cover. See that meant that instead of judging the song based on how it compares to my memory of the original, I’m comparing it directly which is a very different thing. So, I decided to give myself some chill time before listening to this song again and admittedly after that I enjoyed it a lot more. For the record I can see why this song was chosen, after listening to the original, it shares themes with some of Lex Lingo’s songs. Interestingly, I think that the cover, as like its own thing had I not listened to the original at all would have probably been one of my favorite songs of the round. It’s a very fun listen. But the original points out some problems with the cover that become hard to ignore. The original has this very discordant club feel to it. It’s catchy in an earwormy way but also very dreary. The beat to the cover, while actually probably a better beat, doesn’t quite fit with the songs tone as well. Klop’s beat is more exciting than the beat of the original but it’s less cohesive I guess is what I’m trying to say. All in all the song DOES come off more interesting in the cover though.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Cam-O-Flage – Be Prepared
Vocalist: Osiris Green
Producer: Cam3

Fuck. I should have known someone would cover a Disney song but ya’ll chose one of my favorite Disney villain songs. This was a pretty straight forward cover but I’m okay with that. I thought this track was fun. I particularly enjoyed the vocal delivery on the hyena sections and in “you won’t get a sniff without me.” The beat is a decent rework of the original. I don’t think the beat in this version rises into the “Be Prepared” quite as well as the original does (it’s entirely possible that that’s just a sort of left over fetishization of the original from childhood tho). This rendition is very fun but maybe a little too similar to be one of my very favorites of the round.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Custom Prize Joker – World’s Worst Drum Programmer
Vocalist: Memory Fades
Producer: Untested Methods

This is one of the few songs in the round that is probably better than the original. And that’s neither to say that Shael Riley is bad or that this is my favorite song of the round. Toybox was an album that I heard when I needed to hear it in terms of getting into the scene and some of it holds up but most of it doesn’t hold up all that well… for me at least. I was a much bigger fan of Ultimate Songs From the Pit and while Toybox was an album I used to really enjoy it was never so important to me as to call it a nerdcore classic. So, yeah, I do think this improves upon the original, at very least in terms of instrumental which was made more interesting by Untested Methods. And I like Matt’s singing voice a lot, always have. All that said, I’m not actually a huge fan of the original song and this version doesn’t actually change enough to make me really care. It’s a slight improvement on okay.

Rating: 6 out of 10

Dappersaurus – Danger Zone (Dapper Bastard Mix)
Vocals: An Hobbes
Producer: 2-Ton-21

Oh man, you guys are going to start thinking I hate you if this keeps up but, yeah, I wasn’t a fan of this track. I have absolutely no reverence for the song Danger Zone but the thing that I do enjoy about it is how over the top and cheesy it is and that’s the exact thing you removed from the song in this version. It doesn’t sound bad or anything, it’s just kind of boring. Also the transition into the rap verse near the tail end is really clunky and it becomes pretty jarring. I guess I’m not a huge fan of Danger Zone anyway so I probably wouldn’t have been a big fan of most covers of it but I also don’t think that slowing it down did it any favors.

Rating: 3 out of 10

Disstopia – It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)
Vocalist: MC 117
Producer: Flexstyle

This song was 100% set up to succeed with me. You picked a song that I am intimately familiar with and also am relatively indifferent towards and you translated it into a style of music that I adore. After I listened to all the songs for the first time this is THE song that kept itself in my mind. I adore this. This embodied everything this challenge was supposed to be in my opinion. You both through beat and vocals made this goofy alternative song sound like and feel like an early to mid-90s rap song. I just really love it. This is perfect.

Rating: 10 out of 10

Fated Rebellion – Stronger Than You
Vocalist: Lady J
Producer: Benjamin Banger

I had to delete my first review of this and start again because my first go around was just screaming. I’m SO HAPPY that somebody did this. Steven Universe is the best cartoon on television hands down period. This was by all intents and purposes VERY similar to the original but in this instance I do not care I’m just REALLY glad that someone did this song and did it well.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Flying Fortress – Living in America (House United Mix)
Vocalist: Illgill
Producer: Nameless

This song wasn’t going to be my thing at any point. I was never a huge fan of James Brown in the first place but the best thing about James Brown is the energy in which he belts all his lyrics. This has taken energy out of the finished product leaving much to be desired, plus you had that effect on the vocals that makes everything sound out of tune. Everything about the cover was just kind of sapped of energy which when referring to James Brown doesn’t leave a whole lot left for me to enjoy.

Rating: 2 out of 10

GO TO BREAD – Rock Lobster
Vocalist: Dynamo Dash
Producer: Rukyss Duhki

God I hate this song… not your cover… I mean like the original. It gets very annoying for me very quickly and the cover isn’t much different. I actually started out really liking the cover. I thought the reworking of the beat better was better than the original beat and I liked Dynamo’s vocal delivery on it. However, it carried all my problems with the original with it and this version also gets real old for me real quick. Its more interesting to me than the original and it is kind of a new version of it but it still very much just feels like the original version again in practice.

Rating: 3 out of 10

Helephino – Red Right Hand
Vocalist – Adam Selene
Producer – Navi

So… let’s briefly talk about Nick Cave. I have always wanted to be more into Nick Cave. I tried to get into Nick Cave around the same time I tried to get into Tom Waits when I was much younger. I got neither and said maybe I’d try both out sometime in the future and see if they clicked with me more. I at some point retried and really got into Tom Waits but I mostly forgot about Nick Cave. I really enjoyed this song when I looked it up a while ago after finding out it’s the song Adam was going to do tho. And I really dig this cover too. Adam’s vocal performance is very similar to Nick Cave’s on the original but the instrumental adds some extra energy to the song that I think improves the feel. It’s possible that how similar it is to the original would bother me more if I were more familiar with the original but as it stands now I dig it.

Rating: 8 out of 10

JC’ed For Less – The Hurricane
Vocalist: Broken Pixels
Producer: DJ Seedless

I’m gonna be real as hell with you for a second. I respect Bob Dylan as a songwriter massively, but I do not like to listen to Bob Dylan. That’s why I think that Bob Dylan covers can be great. Take his song writing talent and apply it to a higher energy performance and you have gold. That’s what made “All Along the Watchtower” so memerable. This is not the Jimi Hendrix cover of “All Along the Watchtower” tho. Instead of using the cover to fix the problems with the original this version just kind of brings the problems along with it. The big issue with the original is that it’s a very long song with no chorus that tells a continuous story. The story itself is definitely a compelling one but it does get monotonous after a while and all of that accompanies this version too. A change up in the flow or beat at some point would have helped out a lot. You definitely did the challenge. You took a Bob Dylan song and turned it into a rap song, but it did lose something in that transformation.

Rating: 4 out of 10

Magical Beer Squad – I Am The Best
Vocalist: Twil Distilled
Producer: B-Type

I actually dig this. Twil’s strength has always been in down and dirty Ke$ha style pop songs like this. I don’t really know what to say about the original, I have never heard the song before nor have I ever heard of the group that performs it. From what I understand the cover is mostly a beat by beat translation of the original? Either way it works well and plays up Twil’s strengths as a pop singer. The beat is fun, and the song is mixed very well.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Ohm-I 1-Up – No Mo No Mo Caz Pokemon Go
Vocalist: Ohm-I
Producer: 1-Up

I went into this fully expecting to hate it. The phrase “nerdcore song about Pokemon Go” feels about as appealing to me as a swift kick in the balls. I do like “Hit the Road Jack” as a song tho. Keeping that in mind, I ended up enjoying this more than I thought I would. I consistently really liked all of Ohm-I’s vocal performances in every section of the song. I will say this feels less like a cover of “Hit the Road Jack” and more like a song about a man that gets dumped for playing too much Pokemon Go that aggressively samples “Hit the Road Jack.” Even the song’s subject matter is a little more compelling than I originally thought when I saw it was going to be a song about Pokemon Go. It tells a pretty entertaining story about this relationship failing because of a man’s Pokemon Go addiction. Sonically, I love everything about the track including the “My Favorite Things” interlude, it has a great instrumental that stays interesting. So, I’m not sure if this exactly fits the criteria but it’s probably one of my favorite songs of the round regardless.

Rating: 10 out of 10

Orzhovian Rhythm – Gay Bar
Vocalist: Rhythm Bastard
Producer: Small Code

This is pretty fucking terrible. “Gay Bar” by Electric Six is a song that I thought was really funny when I was 12 and literally no other time in my life. I remember it was a favorite for old Naruto AMVs and I think was used in a couple AMV Hells. I have no reverence for it and no connection to it. This is the worst song of the round. It’s completely irredeemable in every way. The beat sounds like the intro to a Homestar Runner sketch where Strongbad lets The Cheat make the music and whoever the rapper is refuses to even pretend they would know how to stay on a beat ever. It would be compellingly terrible if I could stand listening to it for more than 10 seconds at a time without wanting to die.

Rating: 1 out of 10

P4strami – We Will All Go Together When We Go
Vocalist: C0splay
Producer: Zilla Persona

God damn I love Tom Lehreh. I was going to be mean to C0splay this round cause he called me out for not being candid enough last round but he had to go and cover Tom Lehreh. For real, the dark comedy of Tom Lehreh plays really well with C0splay’s vocal styles. Lehreh’s music also lends itself well to rap music as has been proven in past. I think that this is a fantastic embodiment of the challenge. The reworking of the beat feels updated and also works very well with the darkly comedic tone of the song that is masterfully adapted into a rap song here. The whole song really feels like its own unique thing while embracing everything that was great about the original.

Rating: 10 out of 10

RACrow – Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t
Vocalist: Rhyme Artist
Producer: Angry Crow

Man, this is just great song choice in action right here. This song is instantly recognizable and relatively easily adaptable. And, holy shit, you guys NAILED the lounge feel with the mixing on this song. In the last round I had a criticism of your song that said something like it sounded like I was watching an open mic live performance where someone was performing with an iPod going in the background. This song has a similar feel to it in that if feels like a live lounge performance but in this case it very much works to the songs benefit. It’s even complete with its own bit of stage banter.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Saints of San Secuestro – Pokemon Theme Song
Vocalist: Yugen
Producer: Max James

I figured that someone was gonna do this. It’s hard to screw up the Pokémon theme song as an entry and this was okay. My strained love of Pokémon both hurt and helped this in different areas. I actually really liked the reworking of the instrumental, I thought it was interesting but that might just be because I’ll like anything that has the general foundation of the Pokémon theme. However, the original hurt this version in the vocal delivery. In the original every single line is delivered with the passion of a Saturday morning cartoon theme song because that’s what it is… and this version did not bring that same level of passion. If you’re not gonna shout every syllable to PO-KE-MON then get right the fuck out of my face.

Rating: 4 out of 10

SWA – Comfortably Numb
Vocalist: Rafe
Producer: Shmizzat

Well… covering “Comfortably Numb” is bold… I’ll give you that. It is possibly the most popular song from one of the most influential albums of all time. It also doesn’t have a great track record for good covers. First of all, either the Pokémon song blew my eardrums out and I’ll never be able to hear anything normal again or this song is mixed poorly, so I hope it’s the latter one. I actually don’t hate the idea of turning “Comfortably Numb” into a ska song (which is what I think you tried to do here)… I mean I don’t immediately reject the idea itself. I don’t think it’s done super well here tho. Maybe it would have sounded better if it was mixed better? I dunno all I know is the first few times I listened to it I didn’t think “oh this is a completely different style of music reworking of Comfortably Numb” it was “man, this vocal delivery does not work for this song.” The abrupt change to Propagandhi’s “Ska Sucks” at the end made very little sense to me thematically outside of establishing that it was supposed to be a ska song but it was the only part of the song that kind of made sense to me sonically and it was still mixed poorly.

Rating: 2 out of 10

SWERV – Hands in the Sky 2016
Vocalist: Josh Krow
Producer: Chuck Dastardly

I had never heard the original song before. Sonically, I think this is fantastic. I love the late emo, growl heavy, almost screamo sound. I think the vocal delivery on this is 100% great and the beat really works with the song. Thematically I’m a little unsure. The song is about police brutality and the murder of unarmed black people by police. It’s definitely well intentioned and it sounds great. This is hard to explain exactly but I’m a bit unsure about the part where you’re screaming about the police threats in regards to the person. I realize it’s supposed to be a quote of the police officer but I think it’s kind of a grey area as to its general appropriateness of using it as your breakdown. I’m not gonna claim that I have the definitive answer on that or anything (I’m obviously a white dude too) but it’s something that I wasn’t entirely sure about and if anyone else has anything to add to that of feels I’m off base there feel free to let me know. All in all I did enjoy this though.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Team Fat Smith – I Write Smiths, Not Tragedies
Vocalist: Smithy
Producer: Mr Fat White

Oh boy, I mentioned this on facebook but A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out is one of my favorite albums of all time. I fucking adore it and “I Write Sins Not Tragedies” is one of my all-time favorite songs. All in all I’m not sure if you doing a cover of Panic! At the Disco helped you get a higher score or stopped you from getting a lower score. Let me tell you what I mean. Apparently, and this is an assumption I’m making from the two songs that I’ve heard from this group, Mr Fat White likes to have an EDM-ish club element to his beats. I don’t care for that very much at all (that’s my personal thing and probably something ya’ll are gonna consistently run into in these reviews). However, this beat still has the underlying sound of the “I Write Sins Not Tragedies” beat so I still very much enjoyed it. The vocal performance on this song is fine. Would I call it exceptional? Probably not but it’s singing Panic! At the Disco and I’m happy listening to anyone sing Panic! At the Disco from my friends in the car to a karaoke rendition of this song at a bar. Basically what I’m saying is this probably wasn’t amazing but it made me happy and I sang along to it so it gets a pass.

Rating: 5 out of 10

Team StarboRob – Want You Gone
Vocalist: Starby
Producer: DJ Roborob

“Want You Gone” is a song that is in the upper rings of songs written for video games. I haven’t heard it in a minute since I played Portal 2… fuck I guess it came out 5 years ago? This rendition is pretty straightforward but that doesn’t mean bad at all. Starby as GLADOS is kind of a revelation especially with whatever it was that Rob did to her voice that I knew at some point but have since forgotten… I wanna say a vocoder was involved? This isn’t one of my favorites of the round but it’s a nice cover of a semi-nostalgic video game song that I haven’t heard in a while.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Tha Go Hamurai – Weeaboo
Vocalist: Ish1da
Producer: Scotty Wu

This one is an interesting rendition. It’s basically “let’s take that nonsense song ‘Loser’ by Beck and play it straight” and it kind of works. “Loser” is one of those songs that I feel like I’ve always known but I have no strong connection too. If I heard that song every day for a week I’d be fine and if I never heard that song again I’d be fine. I neither like nor dislike the song, I nothing it. That being said, there is something compelling about how Ish delivers the lines on this cover. The beat is obviously significantly less aggressive than the beat of the original which works better for the type of song that it’s being turned into. There is one major issue with this song and it’s a pretty glaring one and that’s the hook. The hook comes in with just this shrill whine to it… and sure that’s a thing in the original too but the whole song in the original is odd enough to make it less jarring. In this one it just kind of jumps in and makes everything terrible for a little bit before promptly leaving like me at a party. It makes the whole song very difficult to listen too.

Rating: 6 out of 10

E.L. & Solo Act – En Fattiglapps Rapsodi
Vocalist: Vincent El
Producer: Shawn Solo

Saturday. 7pm Pacific Time. I see a post on the NCHH group about how Shawn and Vincent are going to do a song that “everyone says you shouldn’t cover.” “No.” I think to myself “Please.” I comment “if it’s Bohemian Rhapsody I’m going to lose my shit” and sit in silence for a few minutes until I see that Shawn Solo has innocuously liked the comment. In that moment I knew that this was going to happen and the fate was sealed by the conformation facebook message I received.

Ahem… Bohemian Rhapsody is a song that I used to really enjoy and then I heard it a million times and now I can barely listen to it. There’s only so many times you can watch a bunch of drunken people at a house party recite one song before you just can’t do it with that song anymore and Bohemian Rhapsody is that song. Okay, in all fairness this is definitely one of the most interesting entries. This entry not only completely switched the musical style but also the language making sure that it was completely unidentifiable to everyone as Bohemian Rhapsody, which I personally appreciate. It’s definitely interesting and it deserves high marks for the amount of creativity and effort that went into it. It’s a well put together song too with enough change ups in the beat so it never gets too boring even though I don’t understand what’s being said. I don’t know if it’s a personal favorite tho. It’s super impressive but it’s not catchy enough in beat or flow to carry my enjoyment through not being able to understand the words so it’s not something I’d probably just listen too on my own much.

Rating: 8 out of 10

The Only Black Man In Nerdcore – I Want To Pay You Back (For Loving Me)
Vocalist: Jollimus the cheater
Producer: N/A

Well this is like an actual song so I guess I have to talk about it even if it’s a DQ. Uhhh… well the original version of the song posted sounds exactly how I thought it would (I had never heard it before). I find that type of hit from that era of music mostly pretty boring with a few exceptions and this wasn’t one of them. The cover was pretty much Jollimus singing over the track creating an off-putting two vocal… harmony isn’t the right word. It’s like they were competing over whom you would hear on the track more clearly and both losing? I dunno. It didn’t make the track any more exciting for me, I’ll tell you that.

Rating: 1 out of 10

West Coast Finest – High By The Beach
Vocalist: Shubzilla
Producer: Bill Beats

This might be a surprise to people but I’m actually not that familiar with Lana Del Rey. I know like half of the people I know say that she’s absolutely fantastic and half say she’s boring as all fuck but I thought this song was pretty decent. I really dig this cover too. The song and the cover were pretty similar but Shubz and Lana definitely have different vocal styles with Lana vocals fluidly riding the instrumentals and Shubz vocals clearly cutting through them. It creates an interesting effect in the cover where the hook is very hypnotic and lulls you into a music trance then the verse vocals and the sample in the middle cut through it. I dig it.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Huge thanks to Stiborge, be sure to check out his Round Two Review. Lead Image by Ally Desu for VPC IV.
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Will Harrison

About the author | Will Harrison

Founder of The Unheard Nerd. A husband and father of two girls, Will is a fan of Nerdcore Hip-Hop, a comics fiend, a podcast host and champion of independent nerd culture. | Follow will on twitter: @TheUnheardNerd

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