Pop punk (also known as punk-pop) is a fusion music genre that combines elements of punk rock with elements of pop music. Pop punk typically combines fast punk rock tempos, power chord changes and loud, distorted electric 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 such as Dag Nasty, the Nip Drivers, T.S.O.L., Social Distortion, and the Descendents. Pop punk in the United States began to grow in popularity locally in California in the mid to late 1980s. Pop punk particularly thrived in California, where independent record labels adopted a do it yourself (DIY) approach to releasing music. By the mid 1990s, a few pop punk bands had 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 21st century, the pop punk sound of the 1990s had largely waned in mainstream popularity.
Pop punk typically merges upbeat pop melodies with catchy hooks, catchy choruses, harmonies, speedy tempos, punk rock power chord changes and loud, distorted electric 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 The A.V. Club, pop punk often pits "sweet harmonies against bratty, rowdy riffs". Lyrical topics that are common in pop punk include love, lust, drunkenness, adolescence, cartoonish violence and drugs. Some pop punk lyrics focus on jokes and humor. Some pop punk music features elements of power pop, emo or skate punk.
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. The Beatles, the Kinks and the Beach Boys all paved the way for pop punk. 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, English band Buzzcocks and Northern Irish band 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 American 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, in Minnesota. 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, The Nip Drivers 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 late 1980s especially in California due to bands like Dag Nasty and All, 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 (1984) and the more melodic Green Day (1987), although it would take a number of years for these new bands to achieve mainstream popularity. As these new bands came into the scene, the were exposed to criticism for not representing the punk image as it originated in the 1970's, specifically by John Lyndon, the frontman of 70's punk band, Sex Pistols. 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). During the 1980s and early 1990s, pop punk bands such as The Queers, The Mr. T Experience, Jawbreaker and Screeching Weasel emerged. Some of these bands, including Screeching Weasel, The Queers and The Mr. T Experience, were signed to the record label Lookout! Records, which also signed Green Day.
1994–98: Popular acceptance
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 punk rock and 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 (1994) 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 more.
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. Eve 6 released their debut self-titled album on RCA Records in April which peaked at number one on the 1998 Billboard Heatseekers and number 33 on the 1998 Billboard 200. The album was a big success, spawning many hit singles such as "Leech", "Open Road Song" and "Inside Out". In June, Southern California act Home Grown released their sophomore album Act Your Age on Geffen subsidiary Outpost Recordings. It was their first album to chart, peaking at number 24 on the 1998 Billboard Heatseekers. The band had garnered enough popularity to make appearances on the soundtrack for the 1998 stoner comedy Half Baked and the 1998 comedic-thriller Homegrown. Also in June, MxPx released Slowly Going the Way of the Buffalo on A&M Records which peaked at number 99 on the Billboard 200 and Unwritten Law released their self-titled LP which charted at number 16 on the 1998 Billboard Heatseekers and featured the hit single "Cailin". All three bands would appear on Blink-182's PooPoo PeePee Tour during select dates in 1998. In October, Zebrahead released their major label debut Waste of Mind on Columbia Records. The album peaked at number 34 on the Billboard Heatseekers. The album featured the song "Get Back" which reached number 32 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks. 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.
1999–2004: Mainstream peak
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. Blink-182's single "Feeling This" from their 2003 self titled album, "Blink-182", was the first song of theirs to get major radio play, introducing them to the world outside of the pop punk music scene.Lit had also enjoyed commercial success. Their 1999 album A Place in the Sun reached number one on the Billboard Heatseekers and number 31 on the Billboard 200 and spawned many hit singles. One song from the album, "My Own Worst Enemy", hit many high positions on the charts. It spent 36 weeks on US Alternative Songs chart peaking at number one, proving to be their biggest hit. Other albums singles like "Miserable" reached number 3 on the Modern Rock Chart and number 29 on the Mainstream Rock Chart and "Zip-lock", which hit number 11 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart and number 34 on the Mainstream Rock chart. New Found Glory's self-titled second album was a success that helped launch them into the mainstream. The album reached number one on the Billboard Heatseekers and number 107 on the Billboard 200 in 2000. Jimmy Eat World gained commercial success with their breakthrough album Bleed American (2001). 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 (2001), 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.
Good Charlotte found similar success with The Young and the Hopeless. Pop punk bands such as MxPx, American Hi-Fi, Relient K and Bowling for Soup achieved relatively high-charting hits on industry charts in the early 2000s. Canadian solo artist Avril Lavigne, referred to by some as the "pop punk princess", found commercial success in 2002, with her punk-influenced pop sound. Fellow Canadian artists Simple Plan experienced commercial success in 2002 with No Pads, No Helmets...Just Balls.
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 (2003), sold 2.2 million copies in the U.S.
In 2004, Good Charlotte released The Chronicles of Life and Death, led 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.
2005–09: Continuation and hybridization
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 (2007) peaked in the top 10 that year, and Good Charlotte found success with Good Morning Revival (2007). 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. As of 2013, Folie a Deux has sold approximately 500,000 copies in the United States, compared to their first hit album, From Under the Cork Tree, which has a total of 2.7 million record sales in the U.S. as of 2013, a representation of the backlash from their fanbase as the group experimented with a musical style differing from their pop rock background.
All Time Low's third studio album, Nothing Personal (2009), debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard 200 in 2009 and received some mainstream success, with singles gaining minor radio and television airplay.
2009–present: Decline in mainstream popularity
Pop punk generally waned in mainstream popularity by the late 2000s. The genre has fallen out of mainstream radio success, with rock bands and guitars becoming rare on dance-focused pop radio. 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 wrote 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.
The genre has experienced somewhat of a "minor renaissance." 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. 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". 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."
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." 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. Fall Out Boy along with other pop punk/punk rock bands that peaked during the early 2000s are now seen to be experimenting with the more pop side of the pop punk, in order to maintain their relevancy and keep the interest of their fanbase while gaining the appeal of the newer generations that may not relate as much to the punk themes of the 1970s. Their popularity provoked conversations about the state of the genre; Maloney writes that these records "could hardly be considered pop punk at this point."
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." 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."
A new wave of pop punk groups had sprung up sometime around 2010. Dave Beech of Clash noted that these groups were "[d]arker and more mature" than those previously, taking influence "and occasional indifference" from 1990s emo. On The Wonder Years' The Upsides (2010), vocalist Dan Campbell sung about "His early twenties soul-searching and tales of strife" which "resonated with a [new] generation, inspiring countless imitators in the process." This pushed Campbell to "the forefront of a new wave", and the album influencing a new wave of pop punk bands. The Story So Far's second album, What You Don't See (2013), "cemented their place at the top table of nu pop-punk". Rock Sound included The Wonder Years' The Greatest Generation on their best albums of 2013 list, calling it "the defining album of what may well have been the genre's best year for a decade." Kerrang! said the album "ripped up the pop-punk blueprint" pushing the genre to "new peaks of invention, both lyrically and musically." In early 2014, Welsh band Neck Deep released their debut album Wishful Thinking, which Rock Sound later called it "the greatest UK pop-punk record of all time." Also in 2014, Australian band 5 Seconds of Summer's self titled album debuted at number 1 on the Billboard 200 chart and in many other countries, prompting Alternative Press to describe the band as important to the marketing of the pop-punk scene.
In 2015, All Time Low's Future Hearts brought the band a career best Billboard 200 number 2 charting with 75,000 copies sold. The album had been described as pop rock and power pop, as well as pop punk. Neck Deep's second album Life's Not out to Get You (2015) hit number 8 on the UK charts and number 17 on the Billboard 200. Blink-182's seventh album California debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, becoming their second number one since Take Off Your Pants and Jacket in 2001. The first single from the album, "Bored to Death", reached the number one spot on Alternative Songs chart. JR Griffin of Rolling Stone "The group is aiming to recapture its "golden-age" vibe." Blink-182 later headlined a North American tour in 2016 and performed alongside other pop- punk bands, A Day to Remember, All Time Low, and The All-American Rejects.
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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 the pop punk genre
- The 5 great eras of pop-punk, from the ’70s to today – Alternative Press