Simple Plan says Top 40 stars like Nelly help keep angsty pop-punk roots

TORONTO -- Montreal pop-punk rockers Simple Plan don't mind rattling their fans a little bit.

So when they paired with rapper Nelly for the single "I Don't Wanna Go to Bed" last fall, the uproar that followed in some circles was pure delight for the band.

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A few longtime fans questioned how Simple Plan could stray so far from their roots of teenage angst, while others proclaimed it one of their catchiest tracks.

"It's making a song more exciting and it's also getting people to talk," says lead singer Pierre Bouvier about recruiting the rapper best known for "Hot in Herre."

"With Nelly that was a left field thing for Simple Plan. It might even upset some people."

The band's new album, "Taking One for the Team," is their fifth studio record and -- along with "I Don't Wanna Go to Bed" -- includes another collaboration bound to rile up some listeners: "Singing in the Rain," a reggae-infused pairing with R. City, who are enjoying their own radio hit with "Locked Away" featuring Adam Levine.

Unusual collaborations keep Simple Plan interesting, Bouvier says, and it's an approach that has proven successful many times over.

Aside from safer partnerships with fellow alt-rock artists like Rivers Cuomo of Weezer and Joel Madden from Good Charlotte, Simple Plan has teamed up with a few others that raised eyebrows but brought major hits.

"Jet Lag" partnered them with British pop singer Natasha Bedingfield and the track shot into the Top 40 in 2011. A number of alternate versions released globally with French-Canadian singer Marie-Mai, and popular Chinese and Indonesian performers gave the song extra attention in other regions.

Hardly a year later, "Summer Paradise," with Toronto-raised rapper K'naan, reached the Top 5 in Australia. An alternative version of the single with Jamaican dancehall superstar Sean Paul drew comparable success in other countries.

The widespread popularity has given Simple Plan a solid fanbase around the world, but also posed a challenge to appease fans they won over with their debut, 2002's "No Pads, No Helmets ... Just Balls," which included the hits "I'm Just a Kid," and "Perfect."

The band says they do feel pressure to never stray too far from their original sound.

"You have a history that you can't forget and your fans are expecting certain things," says guitarist Jeff Stinco.

"Opinion Overload," the opening track of the new album, directly addresses the critics of Simple Plan's sound, but could easily double as a teen angst anthem.

"From the get-go the band has always been a little bit attacked, so to speak, from the more purist pop-punk scene of the Warped Tour or critics," Bouvier says.

"That keeps us rebellious, in a way."

While Simple Plan has now been together for 17 years and the band members are all well into their 30s, Bouvier says he still identifies with the lyrical themes of the band's early days. Bouvier says he still grapples with self-confidence issues and finding direction in life.

"I've got kids, and I feel sometimes that I'm being pushed around and told what to do in my business and my life," he says.

"The reason it sounds genuine is because it's our actual emotions."


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