|Stylistic origins||Punk rock, pop music, power pop, new wave, surf rock, bubblegum pop|
|Cultural origins||Mid-1970s, United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and other countries|
|Typical instruments||Vocals, electric guitar, bass, drums and occasional use of other instruments such as keyboards|
Pop punk (also known as punk-pop) is a fusion music genre that combines elements of punk rock with pop music to varying degrees. The music typically combines fast punk tempos, chord changes and loud guitars with pop-influenced melodies and lyrical themes.
Pop-influenced punk rock emerged in the mid 1970s with a music style that was stylistically similar to power pop. By the mid 1980s, several bands merged hardcore punk with pop music to create a new, faster pop punk sound. Pop punk in the United States began to grow in popularity locally in California in the mid to late 1980s with the formation of new bands such as Green Day and The Offspring. Pop punk particularly thrived in California, where independent record labels adopted a do it yourself (DIY) approach to releasing music. By the 1990s, a few pop punk bands started to sell millions of records and receive extensive radio and television airplay, such as Green Day. By 1994, pop punk was quickly growing in mainstream popularity. The late 1990s, exemplified by the 1999 release of Blink-182's Enema of the State, represented the genre's mainstream peak, although some pop punk bands scored successful album chartings in the 2000s. In the mid-2000s, emo pop, a fusion genre combining emo and pop punk, became popular. By the end of the first decade of the 2000s the pop punk sound of the 1990s had largely waned in mainstream popularity.
AllMusic describes pop punk as a strand of alternative rock that typically merges pop melodies with speedy punk rock tempos, chord changes and loud guitars. About.com has described second-wave pop punk bands as having "a radio friendly sheen to their music, but still maintaining much of the speed and attitude of classic punk rock".
According to webzine columnist Erik van Rheenen, lyrically, the "true spirit" of pop punk comprises songs "about expressions through friendship, love, hate, attitude, individuality and mind". The New York Times writes that the music of the pop punk band Green Day revolves around "classic pop problems like relationships and girl trouble and modern punk problems like alienation and confusion." Steve Klein of the band New Found Glory said of the lyrics on his band's second album: "A lot of those songs pertained to my early relationships, my first love, that entire time period. I was seventeen years old. Every record that we had is a timetable to my life. My wife can now look back and listen to my diaries as a teenager." Mark Hoppus of Blink-182 did not consider the songs on the band's fourth album, Take Off Your Pants and Jacket to be explicitly teenage-related songs. "The things that happen to you in high school are the same things that happen your entire life," said Hoppus. "You can fall in love at sixty; you can get rejected at eighty."
It is not clear when the term pop punk was first used, but pop-influenced punk rock had been around since the mid to late 1970s. Protopunk and power pop bands of the late 1960s and early 1970s helped lay the groundwork for the pop punk sound, which emerged at the onset of punk rock around 1974 with the Ramones. With their love of the Beach Boys and late 1960s bubblegum pop, the Ramones paved the way to what became known as pop punk. The Ramones' loud and fast melodic minimalism differentiated them from other bands in New York City's budding art rock scene, but pop punk was not considered a separate subgenre until later. An early use of the term pop punk appeared in a 1977 New York Times article, "Cabaret: Tom Petty's Pop Punk Rock Evokes Sounds of 60s".
In the late 1970s, UK bands such as Buzzcocks and The Undertones combined pop-style tunes and lyrical themes with punk rock's speed and chaotic edge. The Buzzcocks' 1979 compilation album Singles Going Steady has been called "the blueprint for punk rock bands preferring tuneful tales of lost love and longing to rage against the machine." The music of other UK bands, such as Generation X, 999 and The Jam, featured poppy melodies as well as lyrics that sometimes dealt with relatively light themes such as teenage romance. Many UK mod revival bands of the late 1970s and early 1980s also displayed pop punk characteristics.
The US band Bad Religion, formed in 1979, also helped to lay the groundwork for contemporary pop punk. Bad Religion and some of the other leading bands in Southern California's hardcore punk scene emphasized a more melodic approach than was typical of their peers. According to music journalist Ben Myers, Bad Religion "layered their pissed off, politicized sound with the smoothest of harmonies". Meyers wrote that Descendents "wrote almost surfy, Beach Boys–inspired songs about girls and food and being young(ish)". Their positive yet sarcastic approach began to separate them from the more serious hardcore scene. The Descendents' 1982 debut LP Milo Goes to College provided the template for the United States' take on the more melodic strains of first wave punk. In addition to the California scene, the band Hüsker Dü, formed in 1979, would later be described by second wave bands such as Green Day as one of their biggest influences. Music writer Michael Azerrad asserted in his book Our Band Could Be Your Life (2001) that "Hüsker Dü played a huge role in convincing the underground that melody and punk rock weren't antithetical." In the 1980s, the term pop punk was used in publications such as Maximum RocknRoll to describe bands similar to Social Distortion, Agent Orange, and T.S.O.L.. Bands such as The Vandals and Guttermouth also contributed to the development of pop punk by creating a style that blended pop melodies with humorous and offensive lyrics.
Pop punk in the United States began to grow in popularity in the mid to late 1980s, especially in California, but the genre was not yet considered commercially viable by major US record labels. Bands such as Bad Religion, Descendents, and The Vandals began to inspire the formation of bands like The Offspring (1986) and the more melodic Green Day (1987), although it would take a number of years for these new bands to achieve mainstream popularity. Many pop punk bands espoused a do it yourself (DIY) approach to their music, and a number of independent record labels emerged during this period, often run by band members who wanted to release their own music and that of their friends. During this period several independent labels were formed that would achieve much notoriety and commercial success in the 1990s, namely Epitaph Records (1987), Lookout Records (1987), and Fat Wreck Chords (1990).
Popular acceptance (1994–1998)
In 1993, California's Green Day and Bad Religion were both signed to major labels, and by 1994, pop punk was quickly growing in mainstream popularity. Many pop punk bands originated from the California punk scene of the late 1980s, and several of those bands, especially Green Day and The Offspring, helped revive interest in punk rock in the 1990s.
Green Day arose from the San Francisco Bay Area and 924 Gilman Street punk scenes. After building an underground following, the band signed to Reprise Records and released their major-label debut album, Dookie, in 1994. That June, Green Day's "Longview" reached number one on Billboard 's Modern Rock Tracks chart and became a top 40 airplay hit, possibly the first American punk song to do so. One month later, The Offspring's "Come Out and Play" followed suit, helping The Offspring's album Smash achieve 6x Platinum and become the highest selling independent record of all time.
MTV and radio stations such as Los Angeles' KROQ-FM played a major role in the genre's mainstream success. KROQ's steady airplay of a remix of Face to Face's song "Disconnected" led the band to re-record the track for their 1994 album Big Choice, which sold over 100,000 copies. Meanwhile, Bad Religion's album Stranger Than Fiction was certified gold. Other California punk bands on the independent label Epitaph Records, run by Bad Religion guitarist Brett Gurewitz, also began achieving mainstream popularity. In 1994, Epitaph released Let's Go by Rancid, Punk in Drublic by NOFX and Smash by The Offspring, each eventually certifying gold or better.
Dookie sold four million copies by the year's end and spawned several radio singles that received extensive MTV rotation, three of which peaked at number one on the Modern Rock Tracks chart. Green Day headlined Lollapalooza and Woodstock 1994 and were nominated for four Grammy Awards. Green Day's enormous commercial success paved the way for other North American pop punk bands in the following decade.
In the aftermath of the 1994 punk breakthrough, bands such as Rancid and Face to Face were the subject of major-label bidding wars and lucrative deals. The Australian bands Frenzal Rhomb and Bodyjar established followings in Japan.
Many ska punk bands in the third wave of ska fused ska with pop punk. Rancid's 1995 album ...And Out Come the Wolves, became the first record in this ska revival to be certified gold. Sublime's self-titled 1996 album was certified platinum early in 1997.
The Warped Tour and the mall chain store Hot Topic brought punk even further into the US mainstream. With punk rock's renewed visibility came concerns among some in the punk subculture that the music was being co-opted by the mainstream. Some punk rock fans criticized Green Day for "selling out" and rejected their music as too soft, pop-oriented and not legitimate punk rock. They argued that by signing to major labels and appearing on MTV, bands like Green Day were buying into a system that punk was created to challenge.
By early 1998, the punk revival had commercially stalled, but not for long. That November, The Offspring's Americana on the major label Columbia Records debuted at number two on the album chart and achieved 5x Platinum in the US. A bootleg MP3 of its first single, "Pretty Fly (for a White Guy)", was uploaded to the Internet and was illegally downloaded 22 million times.
Mainstream peak (1999–2005)
Pop punk's commercial success generally peaked with the 1999 release of Blink-182's Enema of the State, which sold 15 million copies worldwide. Blink-182's status was cemented by constant rotation on MTV. The band Lit enjoyed chart success with the single "My Own Worst Enemy", which spent 11 weeks on the top of the modern rock charts. New Found Glory gained commercial success with the 2000 release of their self-titled second album. Jimmy Eat World gained commercial success with their breakthrough album Bleed American. Blink-182 had continued success in 2001 with Take Off Your Pants and Jacket, which sold 14 million copies worldwide. Sum 41's major label debut, All Killer No Filler, went multi-platinum. New Found Glory's album Sticks and Stones debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard 200.
Drive-Thru Records had a large role in the mainstream peak of pop punk. Such bands as New Found Glory, The Starting Line, Home Grown, Allister, The Early November and The Movielife got their start on Drive-Thru, along with many other similar sounding bands.
Simple Plan experienced commercial success in 2002 with No Pads, No Helmets...Just Balls, and Good Charlotte found similar success with The Young and the Hopeless. Sum 41's "Still Waiting" peaked at No. 1 on the rock charts. Pop punk bands such as MxPx, American Hi-Fi and Bowling for Soup achieved relatively high-charting hits on industry charts in the early 2000s. Solo artist Avril Lavigne, who has been referred to as the "pop punk princess", found commercial success in 2002, with her punk-influenced pop sound.
In 2004, Good Charlotte released The Chronicles of Life and Death, lead by the lead single Predictable". Sum 41 had similar success with Chuck, which landed at No. 10 on the Billboard 200. Simple Plan's "Welcome to My Life" was a top ten hit on the pop charts, while New Found Glory's "All Downhill from Here" peaked similarly on the rock charts. By then, Green Day's fame was fading, mainly due to the popularity of acts such as Blink-182 and Sum 41, so the band retreated to the studio, which resulted in worldwide success in 2004 with American Idiot, a politically charged rock opera that sold 14 million records.
Continuation and hybridization (2005–2009)
Emo pop, a fusion genre combining emo and pop punk, became popular in the mid-2000s, with the record label Fueled by Ramen releasing platinum albums from bands including Fall Out Boy, Panic! at the Disco, Red Jumpsuit Apparatus and Paramore. Devon Maloney of MTV News wrote: "While many pop punk fans adamantly deny any association between their favorite acts and those labeled “emo,” crossover bands who melded the two have gradually put both genres in the same scene-boat." Fall Out Boy released their breakthrough record From Under the Cork Tree in 2005, selling 3 million worldwide and spawning two top ten singles which received heavy MTV rotation. With it they advanced to playing in arenas. Although the band had been a staple of the Chicago hardcore scene, where they mixed pop sensibilities with hardcore punk, they are widely considered a pop punk and emo pop act.
The All-American Rejects found success with Move Along (2005), which inspired three top 15 singles. Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy signed Panic! at the Disco to his record label, Decaydance, and the band scored a hit single, "I Write Sins, Not Tragedies", which won them a 2006 MTV Video Music Award for Video of the Year. Avril Lavigne had success with the single "Girlfriend", which peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and became the top-selling song of 2007, making it the most successful pop punk single of the decade. Her platinum album, The Best Damn Thing, sold around 7 million copies worldwide, making it the top-selling pop punk album of 2007 and the second most successful pop punk album of the decade after Green Day's American Idiot. Sum 41's Underclass Hero peaked in the top 10 that year, and Good Charlotte found success with Good Morning Revival. The All-American Rejects returned with "Gives You Hell" in 2008, which went four-times multi-platinum and charted highly. Simple Plan's When I'm Gone received airplay that year as well.
Several pop punk bands took different directions in the late 2000s, with Panic! at the Disco crafting the Beatles-inspired, baroque pop-styled record Pretty. Odd. (2008) and Fall Out Boy experimenting with glam rock, blues rock and R&B on Folie a Deux (2008), both of which created fan confusion and backlash.
Decline and revival (2009–present)
Pop punk generally waned in mainstream popularity by the end of the first decade of the 2000s. While Blink-182 and Green Day continue to headline arenas and sell out their concerts, others, such as New Found Glory and Yellowcard, have seen attendance decrease steadily. Devon Maloney of MTV News writes that "Pop punk and emo bands don’t headline Coachella or Bonnaroo; they rarely, if ever, are even billed on mainstream festival stages," and notes that it has similarly disappeared from the press. The only magazines that feature pop punk bands are niche publications like Alternative Press (AP) and the occasional teen magazine, while influential pop punk magazine AMP ceased publication in 2013.
Several pop punk bands have embarked on anniversary tours, playing some of their most popular albums in full. While some members of these bands have had mixed feelings about these performances, quite often these tours sell as well as or better than the first time around. Many pop punk bands have folded; "once essentially child stars, their members are now adult musicians hoping to move beyond the teen trappings that gave them careers." However, the genre has experienced somewhat of a "minor renaissance."
In 2013, Fall Out Boy and Paramore, "two bands who rocketed into the mainstream at the height (or perhaps at the tail end) of emo and pop punk’s second wave," had two number one albums—Save Rock and Roll and Paramore—side by side on the Billboard 200. Their popularity provoked conversations about the state of the genre; Maloney writes that these records "could hardly be considered pop punk at this point."
Club promoters in the United Kingdom have created nights based around lasting appreciation of the genre, including Pop Punk Ain't Dead in Brighton, Hello Bastards in Leeds, Say It Ain't So in London and What's My Age Again?, a night celebrating "pop-punk, youthful abandon and teenage riot".
Pop punk bands that achieve minimal mainstream success have seen a return to grassroots form, "the micro-operation style that yielded the results that caught the mainstream’s attention in the first place." Kelen Capener of the band The Story So Far said:
I think pop-punk is a zombie. ... It hushed down for a bit but then it got brought back to life in an almost undead fashion. ... Back then it was mainstream, you would see it on MTV and things like that. Now, it's different, it's got a fighting chance and it’s crawling its way back up. It started out with a pretty selective crowd but now it's opening up to more and more people.
The Warped Tour still attracts hundreds of thousands of attendees each year; the 2012 tour attracted 556,000 festival-goers, its third-best attendance. Bobby Olivier of The Star-Ledger wrote: "The genre, like an awkward high school kid, continues to reinvent itself and Warped is pop-punk’s prom."
New Found Glory has continued to tour on the Warped Tour, and had their own Pop Punks Not Dead Tour, a reworking of an "old, defiant punk rock battle cry." Chad Gilbert, the band's guitarist, wrote in an op-ed for Alternative Press entitled "Why Pop-Punk's Not Dead—And Why It Still Matters Today": "This isn't a dead genre, and just because there isn't a song on the radio to clarify that shouldn't matter. ... Pop-punk means something to a lot of people and to me, having success as a band in our genre is about longevity, touring a lot and staying true to your fans. It's about us putting our lives on a plate for our fans to take what they want and not jeopardizing our integrity for any reason." However, the genre has fallen out of mainstream radio success, with rock bands and guitars becoming rare on dance-focused pop radio.
In 2015, All Time Low's Future Hearts brought the band a career best Billboard 200 No. 2 charting with a 75,000 debut. The album also was No. 1 in traditional album sales in both the US and the UK.
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- The Mod Pop Punk Archives – includes information about early pop punk bands
- Punk pop – article about pop punk music
- The Buzzcocks, Founders of Pop Punk – article about the Buzzcock's role in developing pop punk genre