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10 non-rock artists who could totally play Download Festival

Rina Sawayama, Run The Jewels and Denzel Curry
(Image credit: Run The Jewels: Timothy Saccenti)

Unlike some dedicated rock and metal fests, Download Festival has a little bit of previous when it comes to booking non-rock bands on its lineups. While it serves as the successor to 80s/90s rock and metal mega-festival Monsters Of Rock, appearances by the likes of The Prodigy (2006, 2009 and 2012), Pendulum (2008 and 2009), Chase & Status (2012) and even rapper Lethal Bizzle in 2008 has shown that, even if rarely, there's room on the bill for heavier artists outside of rock's immediate remit. 

With alternative music becoming an increasingly broad spectrum under which more artists than ever now lie, there's never been a better time for the UK's biggest rock festival to consider booking something a bit different for future lineups. With that in mind, here are ten artists not of the rock world that we think would go down a storm at Donington.

Eminem

If there's ever been a rapper who has embraced metal's lifelong tradition of courting controversy and scaring the shit out of the mainstream, it's Eminem. Given that these days he's very much part of the hip hop establishment and is more likely to be seen collaborating with Ed Sheeran than doing anything particularly exciting or cutting edge on a musical level, the likelihood of him blindsiding everyone and turning up to a festival like Download is minimal. Still, moan as some might, the temptation to head over to Download's main stage for an Em headline set and rap along to the likes of The Real Slim Shady and Lose Yourself would surely be too much for even the most hardened cynic.


Run The Jewels

For a more modern but suitably heavy hip hop option, how the hell have Run The Jewels not been booked for Download yet? Killer Mike and El-P bring one of the most vibrant, compelling and straight-up fun live shows in music right now, and if you want rock cred, they have it in spades. They've already supported the likes of Bring Me The Horizon and Queens Of The Stone Age at major outdoor UK rock shows, have collaborated with Rage Against The Machine legend Zack De La Rocha on numerous occasions and have played on bills headlined by Metallica, Foos and more in the States. Someone book this shit!


Rina Sawayama

Those who listened to Rina Sawayama's excellent 2020 album Sawayama already know that the British alt-pop star utilises a ton of rock and metal influences in her sound, rarely more than on the nu metal bounce of STFU!. Her live shows are quickly becoming must-see events, and judging by her set at Coachella last month, she'd be more than capable of whipping up a few pits at Donington. Plus, she can play that awesome cover of Enter Sandman she did for Metallica's Blacklist project.


Denzel Curry

Denzel Curry is one of hip hop's most acclaimed modern names, with 2018's Ta13oo album serving as one of the genre's finest achievements in recent years. Live, he's a revelation, causing pandemonium on Glastonbury's Truth Stage when he rocked up there for a late-night, 30-minute set in 2019. He has plenty of heavier, trap-driven tracks and the kind of raw, punk energy that'd bring the required drive to spark bedlam at Download; even those unfamiliar with his work would struggle not to be moved by seeing him do this thing on a stage. Trust us on that.


Danny Elfman

Even if we hadn't seen Danny Elfman's Coachella set, we'd probably still have included him on this list. How many Download-goers do you think grew up watching the likes of The Nightmare Before Christmas and Edward Scissorhands and adoring those soundtracks? Now that we know that Danny also turns his live shows into a full-on heavy metal extravaganza, this one is an absolute no-brainer.


Clipping

Mixing rap, industrial, noise and whatever the hell else they fancy trying to make a racket out of (one track on 2019's masterful, horror-themed opus There Existed An Addiction To Blood is literally 18 minutes of a piano burning) , experimental hip hop trio Clipping are unlike any other artists currently going within their or any genre. Frontman Daveed Diggs is one of the most fluid and expressive MCs anywhere in the world today, and the pure, abrasive energy of bangers like Inside Out would go down a treat at Download. 


The Chemical Brothers

The Prodigy, Pendulum and Chase & Status have shown that electronic music can have a place at Download, and while few can match the insanity of a Prodigy show, The Chemical Brothers have enough veteran cred and heavy-hitting anthems to go down a storm should they ever hit a stage at Donington. Their live shows remain highlights of any festival they play, and the idea of a few dozen pits opening up to Hey Boy, Hey Girl makes this theoretical booking feel like an easy win.


Public Enemy

Speaking of veteran names that we reckon would smash it at Download, who'd argue with a Public Enemy booking? One of the single most vital, aggressive and energetic groups in the history of hip hip, Chuck D et al's metal status is sealed forever courtesy of that Anthrax mash-up. And yes, we'd absolutely back booking both bands on the same day so that a proper version of Bring The Noise can happen and we get a moment of pure, unadulterated, 90s rap metal heaven.


Grimes

Her relationship with billionaire bell end Elon Musk may have grabbed more headlines than her music in recent years, but the fact remains that Grimes has been something of a trailblazer in the multi-platform, genre-mashing approach to music that many young singer-songwriters in the alt scene are employing today. She also puts on a delightfully weird live show and has produced some great music - the throbbing, militaristic bass of Violence or intergalactic thrum of Flesh Without Blood would doubtless get heads bobbing at Donington.


Justice

While they might not pack the chaotic aura of a Prodigy or a Pendulum, Justice certainly still sit on the heavier, more propulsive end of the house spectrum, and they've never failed to disappoint when playing the likes of Reading, Leeds and Glastonbury. We may no longer have Daft Punk with us, but Justice do a fine job of carrying the torch - and they'd certainly get people moving.

Merlin stepped into his role as Executive Editor of Louder in early 2022, following over ten years working at Metal Hammer. While there, he served as Online Editor and Deputy Editor, before being promoted to Editor in 2016. Before joining Metal Hammer, Merlin worked as Associate Editor at Terrorizer Magazine and has previously written for the likes of Classic Rock, Rock Sound, eFestivals and others. Across his career he has interviewed legends including Ozzy Osbourne, Lemmy, Metallica, Iron Maiden (including getting a trip on Ed Force One courtesy of Bruce Dickinson), Guns N' Roses, KISS, Slipknot, System Of A Down and Meat Loaf. He is also probably responsible for 90% of all nu metal-related content making it onto the site.