|Stylistic origins||Punk rock, pop music, power pop, surf rock, garage rock, sunshine pop, 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|
|List of pop punk bands – Skate punk – Ska punk – Alternative rock – Melodic hardcore|
Pop punk (also known as pop-punk, punk-pop or easycore) is a fusion music genre that combines elements of punk rock with pop music to varying degrees. Pop-influenced punk rock first emerged in the mid-1970s in multiple countries, and was stylistically similar to power pop. The Ramones are generally considered among the earliest bands to merge pop melodies with punk rock, and were followed by bands such as the Buzzcocks and Bad Religion. The music typically combines fast punk tempos, chord changes and loud guitars with pop-influenced melodies and lyrical themes.
By the early 1980s, several groups—most notably the Descendents, Screeching Weasel and The Vandals—merged hardcore punk with pop to create a new, faster pop punk sound. Regionally, pop punk thrived in California where independent labels adopted a do it yourself (DIY) approach to releasing their music. In the mid 1990s, Green Day and The Offspring rapidly brought mainstream acceptance to the genre, selling millions of records and receiving extensive radio and television airplay. Ska punk, which shared many characteristics with pop punk, also gained popularity with notable bands Sublime and No Doubt.
A "second wave" of pop punk was spearheaded by Blink-182 in the late 1990s, who became a worldwide phenomenon by the turn of the century and represented the genre's mainstream peak. Other second wave acts such as New Found Glory, Sum 41 and Good Charlotte scored successful album chartings in the early 2000s. Fall Out Boy rose to the forefront of both emo pop and pop punk shortly thereafter, but the genre generally waned in popularity by the late 2000s. The genre still retains a smaller but dedicated following, and the Vans Warped Tour and the mall chain store Hot Topic are closely associated with the genre.
Allmusic describes the genre as a strand of alternative rock, which typically merges pop melodies with speedy punk 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". Lyrically, the "true spirit" of the genre comprises songs "about expressions through friendship, love, hate, attitude, individuality and mind" according to webzine columnist Erik van Rheenen.
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. 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. With their love of the Beach Boys and late 1960s bubblegum pop, the Ramones paved the way to what became known as pop punk. In the late 1970s, UK bands such as Buzzcocks and The Undertones combined pop-style tunes and lyrical themes with punk's speed and chaotic edge. The Buzzcocks' compilation album Singles Going Steady (1979) 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 Deaf School, Generation X, 999, The Jam, The Rezillos, The Lurkers, The Undertones, The Shapes, and Toy Dolls featured poppy melodies as well as lyrics that sometimes dealt with relatively light themes such as teenage romance. The US band Bad Religion, who formed in 1979, were another band that helped to lay the groundwork for contemporary pop punk. Many mod revival bands of the late 1970s and early 1980s also displayed pop punk leanings. 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. 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".
By 1981, hardcore punk had emerged in the United States, with louder, faster music than punk bands. Vocal harmony, melodic instrumentation and 4/4 drumming were replaced with shouting, discordant instrumentation, and experimental rhythms, although hardcore bands like Husker Du and Bad Brains fused these traits while retaining a melodic approach to their sound. Some of the leading bands in Southern California's hardcore punk rock 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"; 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. Milo Goes to College (1982), the band's debut LP, provided the template for America's take on the more melodic strains of first wave punk. In the 1980s, the term pop punk was used in publications such as Maximum RocknRoll for bands similar to Social Distortion, Agent Orange, and T.S.O.L.. Bands such as The Vandals and Guttermouth developed a style blending pop melodies with humorous and offensive lyrics.
Pop punk in the United States underwent a resurgence in the early- to mid-1990s, although the genre was not commercially viable at that time. Many pop punk bands retained a do it yourself (DIY) approach to their music, and a number of independent record labels emerged during that period, often run by band members who wanted to release their own music and that of their friends. The independent labels SST/Cruz Records, Lookout! Records, Fat Wreck Chords and Epitaph Records, who grew out of this movement, later went on to achieve commercial success. Bands that fused punk with light-hearted pop melodies, such as The Queers and Screeching Weasel, began appearing around the country, in turn influencing bands like Green Day and The Offspring, who brought pop punk wide popularity and major record sales. Crimpshrine was a favorite of the 924 Gilman Street cognizanti; the band's lone studio album, Lame Gig Contest (1989), gained a manic following, despite being rejected by tastemaker label Lookout! Records. "If Crimpshrine were the band documenting the feelings and obsessions of the '80s Gilman scene, Jawbreaker were pop punk's Velvet Underground, the band that spawned 1,000 bands," wrote Nicholas Pell. Screeching Weasel, "probably the most divisive band on the scene this side of GG Allin and the Murder Junkies," traded in autobiographical tales, confessions of inadequacy, and pilloried punk's pretensions.
Popular acceptance (1994–1998)
By 1994, pop punk music was quickly growing in mainstream popularity and recognition. Many of these bands grew from the California punk scene of the 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. The record spawned several radio singles that received extensive MTV rotation. "Basket Case", "When I Come Around", and "Longview" each peaked at number one on the Modern Rock Tracks chart and led to Dookie selling four million copies by the year's end. Green Day headlined Lollapalooza and Woodstock 1994 and were nominated for four Grammy Awards. Some punk rock fans criticized the band for "selling out", considering Green Day's music too soft, pop-oriented and not legitimate punk rock.
Also in 1994, The Offspring found similar success in the indie release Smash, which went 6x Platinum in the US and produced the hit singles "Come Out and Play" and "Self-Esteem". Like Green Day, The Offspring were criticized by some in the punk scene for their mainstream commercial success, which they argue represents the antithesis of the traditional punk ethos.
By 1995, ska punk achieved commercial success in the United States and several other countries. Some ska punk music — by bands such as Reel Big Fish, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Goldfinger and Less Than Jake — shared many characteristics with pop punk, particularly in its accessibility, upbeat tone, and increased emphasis on melody in lieu of speed and aggression. The Long Beach band Sublime, in particular, was influential in reviving interest in the ska punk genre with their self-titled third record in 1996. Another ska punk band, No Doubt, from Anaheim, southern California, saw their 1995 album Tragic Kingdom rank very well in the charts in 1996.
Green Day eventually took a harder punk path with Insomniac in 1995 and ended up selling over 7 million records. In the aftermath of the 1994 punk breakthrough, bands such as Rancid (formed from ska punk band Operation Ivy) and Face to Face were the subject of major-label bidding wars and lucrative deals. Dookie and Tragic Kingdom have been certified diamond for shipping over 10 million units in the United States alone. The Offspring's Smash is the best-selling independent label album of all time, with over 12 million copies sold worldwide.
In 1997, San Diego-based Blink-182's single "Dammit" found gradual success on rock radio and signaled a change in the status quo that would come full circle in the subsequent two years. The Offspring returned in 1998 with Americana, which reached the top 10 worldwide and went multi-platinum with 9 million certified copies worldwide. The hit single "Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)" had high commercial success, including going 4x Platinum in Australia.
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, receiving multi-platinum status in the United States, Canada, Australia, Italy, New Zealand and platinum status in Europe and the United Kingdom. Blink-182's status was cemented by constant rotation on MTV andEnema of the State may have influenced second-wave pop punk bands such as New Found Glory. 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 popular exposure in 2000 with the release of their self-titled second album.
Blink-182 found continued success in 2001 with Take Off Your Pants and Jacket, which sold 14 million copies worldwide and secured the band's status as one of the biggest of the genre. Sum 41's major label debut, All Killer No Filler, went multi-platinum and spawned the singles Total Request Live hits "Fat Lip" and "In Too Deep". New Found Glory's album Sticks and Stones debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard 200.
2002 saw Drive-Thru Records steadily build up a roster primarily of pop punk bands, such as The Starting Line, Saves the Day, The Movielife and Something Corporate. Simple Plan rose to the forefront in 2002 with No Pads, No Helmets...Just Balls, and Good Charlotte found similar success in The Young and the Hopeless. 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.
Radio hits in 2003 included The Ataris' cover of "The Boys of Summer" and Yellowcard's "Ocean Avenue", both commonplace on top 40 playlists. Blink-182's fifth studio album blink-182 sold millions. The singles "Feeling This" and "I Miss You" charted high. The album was a change of course for Blink-182, as their music had matured and darkened. In 2004, 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.
Since their 1994 breakthrough, 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 14,000,000 records. Singles that topped charts worldwide included "Holiday", "American Idiot", "Boulevard of Broken Dreams", "Wake Me Up When September Ends" and "Jesus of Suburbia".
Continued success (2005–2008)
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. "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," said Devon Maloney of MTV News. Fall Out Boy released their breakthrough record From Under the Cork Tree in 2005, spawning top ten singles "Sugar, We're Goin Down" and "Dance, Dance". The band had previously been a staple of the Chicago hardcore punk scene, where they mixed pop sensibilities with hardcore punk. Nevertheless, Fall Out Boy are widely considered a pop punk and emo pop act.
Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy signed Panic! at the Disco to his record label, Decaydance, and the band scored "I Write Sins, Not Tragedies" as a hit single, which popularized the band and won them an MTV Video Music Award for Video of the Year. The All-American Rejects found success with Move Along (2005), which inspired three top-15 singles: "Dirty Little Secret", "Move Along", and "It Ends Tonight". My Chemical Romance had similar chart success in 2006 with The Black Parade. Avril Lavigne had similar 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 became the top-selling pop punk album of 2007, selling around 7 million copies worldwide, making it the second most successful pop punk album of the decade after Green Day's American Idiot.
The All-American Rejects returned with "Gives You Hell" in 2008, which went four-times multi-platinum and charted highly. 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 and R&B on Folie a Deux (2008), both of which created fan confusion and backlash.
All Time Low's third studio album Nothing Personal debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard 200 in 2009 and received some mainstream success, with singles like Weightless and Damned If I Do Ya (Damned If I Don't) gaining radio and television airplay.
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." S
Jeff Klingman of The L Magazine wrote: "There's a new wave of bands emerging, young kids who've been deeply shaped by a formative love of late-90s pop-punk." In 2013, The Village Voice columnist Maria Sherman wrote: "There's a pretty obvious resurgence of pop-punk happening these days, those who were in their 20s playing music inspired by their teens: boy slackers Japandroids and intelligent songstress Waxahatchee come to mind, as well as indie couple Wavves and Best Coast."
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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