Pop-punk (also known as punk-pop) is a rock music genre that combines the textures and fast tempos of punk rock with the melodies and chord progressions of power pop. It is defined for its emphasis on traditional pop songcraft and adolescent and anti-suburbia themes, and is distinguished from other punk-variant genres by drawing more heavily from 1960s pop rock and the music of bands such as the Beatles, the Kinks, and the Beach Boys.
|Other names||Punk pop|
|Cultural origins||Late 1970s, United States and United Kingdom|
|Neon pop punk|
Pop-punk has evolved throughout its history, absorbing elements from new wave, college rock, ska, rap, emo, and boy bands, and is sometimes viewed interchangeably with power pop and skate punk. The genre emerged in the late 1970s with groups such as the Ramones, the Undertones, Buzzcocks, Bad Religion, and the Descendents, followed in the 1980s and early 1990s by a host of bands signed to Lookout! Records, including Screeching Weasel, the Queers, and the Mr. T Experience. In the mid-to-late 1990s, pop-punk reached widespread popularity with bands like Green Day, the Offspring and Blink-182. The genre was further popularized by the Warped Tour.
After the 2000s, pop-punk acts were largely indistinguishable from artists tagged as "emo", to the extent that emo crossover acts such as Fall Out Boy and Paramore popularized a punk-pop style dubbed emo pop. By the 2010s, pop-punk's mainstream popularity had waned, with rock bands and guitar-centric music becoming rare on dance-focused pop radio.
Definition and characteristicsEdit
Punk-pop is variously described as a punk subgenre a variation of punk, a form of pop music, and a genre antithetical to punk in a similar manner as post-punk. It has evolved stylistically throughout its history, absorbing elements from new wave, college rock, ska, rap, emo, and boy bands. Writers at The A.V. Club described pop-punk as a punk subgenre that has "essentially been around as long as punk itself" with roots in the "classic pop of The Beatles, The Kinks, and The Beach Boys, often pitting sweet harmonies against bratty, rowdy riffs." According to Ryan Cooper of About.com, "pop punk is a style that owes more to The Beatles and '60s pop rock than other sub-genres of punk".
There is considerable overlap between power pop and pop punk, and the two styles are often conflated. Web publication Revolver acknowledged that while pop punk and power pop are often presented interchangeably, "the core concept is simple — melodic songs packaged with a punk slant." In Brian Cogan's The Encyclopedia of Punk Music and Culture (2006) pop-punk is characterized as "a catchy, faster version of power pop." AllMusic defines "pop punk" as "a post-grunge strand of alternative rock" that combines the textures and fast tempos of punk rock with the "melodies and chord changes" of power pop. In the 1990s, there was overlap between pop-punk and skate punk. Music journalist Ben Myers wrote that the two terms were synonymous.
Rock writer Greg Shaw, who wrote extensively about power pop and took credit for codifying the genre in the 1970s, originally defined power pop itself as a hybrid style of punk and pop. Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong, who described power pop as "the greatest music on Earth that no one likes", opined that the "pop-punk" term was an oxymoron: "You're either punk or you're not." Writing in Shake Some Action: The Ultimate Guide to Power Pop (2007), actor Robbie Rist felt that much of the genre merely consisted of pop bands who "add the 'punk' moniker so the kids will think they are pissing off their parents."
—Vice writer Jason Heller
Rolling Stone, in an article about pop punk, wrote that the term was a retroactive label for punk bands who had "always championed great songwriting alongside their anti-authoritarian stance. And punk's focus on speed, concision and three-chord simplicity is a natural fit with pop's core values." Vice's Jason Heller described "an open respect for the tradition and craft of pop songwriting" as a key characteristic of pop punk. Bill Lamb, also from About.com, writes that "punk-pop" is a variant of punk music that features "a hard and fast guitar and drums base but powered by pop melodies like much of 70's punk rock." Alter the Press! defines pop punk as "a genre that originates from mixing punk rock with pop sensibility".
Lyrically, pop punk often addresses adolescent themes of lust, drugs, and rebellion. Some pop punk lyrics focus on jokes and humor. The New Yorker's Amanda Petrush summarized that the "rawness" of punk-pop "lies not in the music" but by conveying the "spectrum of human experience, all that longing and self-doubt."
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Formative acts (1970s–1980s)Edit
Punk rock has always shared sensibilities with pop music, especially since the late 1970s. In his book Rock and Roll: A Social History (2018), author Paul Friedlander lists the following English artists as representative of the "new wave of pop-punk synthesis" that occurred in the late 1970s: Elvis Costello and the Attractions, the Police, the Jam, Billy Idol, Joe Jackson, the Pretenders, UB40, Madness, the Specials, the English Beat. Likewise, among American acts, Friedlander references Talking Heads, Blondie, the B-52s, the Motels, and Pere Ubu.
Heller said that the Ramones crafted a blueprint for pop-punk with their 1976 debut album, but 1978 was the year that the genre "came into its own". He noted that some bands "were unmistakably pop-punk bands by today's definition of the term, but in 1978, the distinction wasn't so clear. Plenty of punk groups of the era threw a token pop tune or two into their set—sometimes for ironic effect, other times earnestly." Heller also acknowledged that many "burgeoning pop-punk groups in 1978 bordered on power-pop, a parallel genre on the rise at the time. But power-pop began earlier, and it was a more American phenomenon".
Among the influential pop-punk bands of the late 1970s were Buzzcocks. An LA Weekly writer later referred to the band's 1979 compilation album Singles Going Steady as "the blueprint for punk rock bands preferring tuneful tales of lost love and longing to rage against the machine." Cooper similarly cited the album as one of punk's most influential and added that Buzzcocks' "pop overtones [led] them to be a primary influence on today's pop-punk bands.". Heller referred to the Undertones as "the most subversive band" of the genre during this period, particularly their 1978 single "Teenage Kicks", "one of the most striking and definitive pop-punk classics."
Bad Religion, formed in 1979, helped to lay the groundwork for the pop punk style that emerged in the 1990s. They 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 Myers, Bad Religion "layered their pissed off, politicized sound with the smoothest of harmonies". Myers added that another band, the 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.
Mainstream breakthrough (1990s)Edit
During the 1980s and early 1990s, pop punk bands such as Green Day, the Queers, The Mr. T Experience and Screeching Weasel emerged from the record label Lookout! Records with a sound indebted to Buzzcocks and the Undertones. In August 1992, early 1990s California punk rock and pop punk was noticed by the magazine Spin when the magazine published a story called "California Screamin' ", which is about the early 1990s underground punk rock scene in California, mentioning pop punk bands like Screeching Weasel and Green Day.
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 924 Gilman Street punk scene in Berkeley, California. After building an underground following, the band signed to Reprise Records and released their major-label debut album, Dookie, in 1994. 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's enormous commercial success paved the way for other North American pop punk bands in the following decade.
MTV and radio stations such as Los Angeles' KROQ-FM played a major role in the genre's mainstream success. The Warped Tour brought punk even further into the United States 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.
Second wave (1990s–2000s)Edit
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, pop punk band Blink-182 achieved mainstream success with Enema of the State (June 1999). In the description of journalist Matt Crane, the record initiated "a new wave of pop punk". He added, "At any given time in the late ’90s/early 2000s, it was not uncommon to see Blink-182 and Sum 41 on MTV. You couldn't escape it. Pop-punk was in, and it became the undisputed mainstream choice." Lamb described second-wave pop punk bands, led by Blink-182, as having "a radio friendly sheen to their music, but still maintaining much of the speed and attitude of classic punk rock". Saves the Day's Through Being Cool (November 1999) also paved the way for the new wave of pop punk, influencing bands such as Fall Out Boy, My Chemical Romance and Taking Back Sunday.
Although fans of the genre usually dispute her role in the movement, Avril Lavigne's 2002 album Let Go set a precedent for the success of female-fronted punk-pop acts. Journalist Nick Laugher wrote that it was "undeniable" that the record launched pop-punk into the mainstream, "blurring the lines with it and straight-up pop music, and making it more of a cultural movement than a genre. ... but a lot of 'pop punk purists' argue that it's not really a pop punk album. ... When this album came out, it got a lot of flak, and it all seems rather like nonsense as the years go by." Lavigne has been occasionally described as the genre's "queen". For her part, Lavigne preferred to describe her music as "pop rock", rather than punk.
According to Brooklyn Vegan's Andrew Sacher, after the success of "hugely popular" 2000s bands such as Fall Out Boy, Paramore, and My Chemical Romance, "the line between pop punk and emo look[ed] close to nonexistent." Several pop-punk bands took different directions in the late 2000s, with Panic! at the Disco crafting the Beatles-inspired, baroque-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. Folie a Deux sold worse than their preceding albums, a representation of the backlash from their fanbase as the group experimented with a musical style differing from their pop punk background.
Decline in mainstream popularity (2010s)Edit
Pop punk lost its mainstream popularity in the early 2010s, with rock bands and guitars becoming rare on dance-focused pop radio. Some acts, such as New Found Glory, have seen concert attendance numbers 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 and the occasional teen magazine, while influential pop punk magazine AMP ceased publication in 2013. The decline in mainstream popularity for the genre, coupled with the closure of many mid-size venues associated with it, has resulted in many venues and labels returning to the DIY ethic that first spawned the punk movement.[failed verification]
By 2012, pop punk bands that had achieved minimal mainstream success had seen a return to grassroots form, "the micro-operation style that yielded the results that caught the mainstream's attention in the first place." Chad Gilbert of New Found Glory 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."
– Kelen Capener of The Story So Far, 2012
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 groups that achieved mainstream success within the genre, 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 bands that peaked during the mid-2000s are now seen[by whom?] 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 opined that these records could not be viewed as pop punk.
Continued interest and resurgence (2010s-present)Edit
Between the late 2000s and early 2010s, a new wave of pop punk groups emerged. 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. 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." The Story So Far's What You Don't See (2013) "cemented their place at the top table of nu pop-punk".
As of 2013, the genre had experienced a resurgence. 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 UK have created nights based around lasting appreciation of the genre. 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 ... continues to reinvent itself and Warped is pop-punk's prom."
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 2016, Rolling Stone reported that pop-punk was "still one of the most predominant and popular rock genres". The magazine conducted a reader's poll for the "10 Best Pop-Punk Albums of All Time" that ultimately included Green Day (Dookie, American Idiot, Nimrod, ), Blink-182 (Enema of the State, Take Off Your Pants and Jacket, Dude Ranch), the Ramones (The Ramones), the Offspring (Smash), Jimmy Eat World (Bleed American), and Generation X (Valley of the Dolls).
In 2020, American musician Machine Gun Kelly released his fifth studio album Tickets To My Downfall, departing from his established rap sound into a more pop-punk direction. The album debuted at number 1 on the Billboard 200 chart, becoming the first rock album to top this chart since Tool's Fear Inoculum in September 2019.
Offshoots and subgenresEdit
Emo pop (or emo pop punk) is a subgenre of both emo and pop punk.[better source needed] It became popular in the mid-2000s, with record labels such as Fueled by Ramen releasing platinum albums from bands including Fall Out Boy, Panic! at the Disco, Red Jumpsuit Apparatus and Paramore. Maloney 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."
Easycore (less commonly known as popcore, dudecore, softcore, happy hardcore, and EZ) is characterized by its use of melodies commonly found in pop punk fused with breakdowns found in post-hardcore and hardcore punk. A number of groups also take influence from metal and make use of unclean vocals. The genre's roots come from early 2000s pop punk with New Found Glory being highly influential in its development, and naming the genre on a tour known as the "Easycore tour". The easycore sound later emerged in the mid-to-late 2000s and early 2010s through bands such as A Day to Remember and Four Year Strong.
Neon pop-punk is a form of pop-punk that emphasizes synthesizers. Alternative Press writer Tyler Sharp wrote that while this wasn't the first instance that "a band decided to put fuzzy keys over their chord progressions, but it was a time when that formula was perfected." Kika Chatterjee of Alternative Press added that the late 2000s "brought in glowing synths and poppy melodies that shifted the entire definition of [pop punk]", giving it the "neon" moniker. Sharp cited Forever the Sickest Kids' debut album Underdog Alma Mater (2008) as "a big moment" for the genre.
This section focuses too much on specific examples without explaining their importance to its main subject. (August 2020)
Pop punk, particularly mainstream pop punk, has been widely criticized by punk rocks pop-music influences and mainstream popularity.[page needed][verification needed] Many mainstream pop punk bands have been considered "sellouts" and "posers" by punk fans.
Green Day were accused of selling out since the release of Dookie for signing to a major label and becoming mainstream. John Lydon of the 1970s punk band the Sex Pistols criticized Green Day and said that Green Day are not a punk band. Lydon said: "Don't try and tell me Green Day are punk. They're not, they're plonk and they're bandwagoning on something they didn't come up with themselves. I think they are phony." Green Day guitarist and lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong said: "Sometimes I think we've become redundant because we're this big band now; we've made a lot of money—we're not punk rock anymore. But then I think about it and just say, 'You can take us out of a punk rock environment, but you can't take the punk rock out of us.'"
Blink-182 also received a lot of criticism from punk rock fans, being accused of selling out for their pop-music-inspired style of pop punk. Lydon called Blink-182 "bunch of silly boys ... an imitation of a comedy act." Former Blink-182 guitarist and singer Tom DeLonge responded to criticism, saying "I love all those criticisms, because fuck all those magazines! I hate with a passion Maximumrocknroll and all those zines that think they know what punk is supposed to be. I think it's so much more punk to piss people off than to conform to all those veganistic views."
In a November 2004 interview, Sum 41 rhythm guitarist and lead singer Deryck Whibley said: "We don't even consider ourselves punk. We're just a rock band. We want to do something different. We want to do our own thing. That's how music has always been to us." Sum 41's lead guitarist Dave Baksh reiterated Whibley's claims, stating "We just call ourselves rock... It's easier to say than punk, especially around all these fuckin' kids that think they know what punk is. Something that was based on not having any rules has probably one of the strictest fucking rule books in the world."
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