Mind Equals Blown

Mind Equals Blown

Not Sad Anymore: How Pop-Punk Recaptured Its Spirit

Consider pop-punk defended. Not only by the New Jersey outfit who coined the term as their proverbial catchphrase, Man Overboard, but by a resurgence of top-flight bands who are bringing the tumultuous genre back to its personal scale and do-it-yourself ethics and roots.

At the beginning of the 2000’s, pop-punk didn’t need to be defended; it needed to be defined. Although credited as being the forefathers of the sound, The Ramones and Descendents put the emphasis on the punk in pop-punk, and were often less than palatable for mainstream audiences. But along came what could only be compared to the Justice League, which would heroically usher in the golden age of pop-punk.

Blink-182 would be Superman, the most recognizable of the bunch. Their ability to pen raunchy three-chord songs that were infectiously catchy and, for the most part, relatable for listeners, would make them the poster children of the group. Casting would follow with Green Day and their magnum opus Dookie, as one of the longstanding paragons of pop-punk, with songs that went by at superhuman speed like the Flash and rivaled Blink with a blatant disregard for conventional lyricism.

The Ataris would play the role of Batman, writing brooding, moody pop-punk songs that kicked as much ass as the Dark Knight himself. The Green Arrow? New Found Glory, with their sharpshooting guitar licks and Jordan Pundik’s direct, to the point lyricism. That leaves Sum 41 as Aquaman, because hailing from Canada, both are the only non-Americans of the all-star ensemble, but with angsty witticisms and buzzsaw-style guitar playing, they covered the territory outside of the other bands’ domain.

Along with a star-studded supporting cast including the youthfully energetic The Starting Line, the beach-bum mentality of Yellowcard as well as a list of bands far too lengthy to name, this Justice League of Pop-Punk catapulted the genre into the headphones of mainstream audiences. Spearheaded by the breakthrough success of singles like summer-dreaming “Ocean Avenue,” the riotous sing-along “All the Small Things,” and the charmingly apathetic “When I Come Around,” pop-punk had played itself into the forefront of listeners who had, at first, disregarded the genre altogether.

But, as New Found Glory stated in their debut album, nothing gold can stay. The Justice League of Pop-Punk slowly began to tear apart at the seams. Blink-182 called a hiatus in 2005.  The Starting Line hung up their instruments in 2007.  The Ataris nearly abandoned pop-punk altogether with their 2007 release Welcome the Night, and haven’t released an album since. Green Day slowly went the way of the rock opera.  Yellowcard took a break for the better part of three years. With most of the Justice League of Pop-Punk disbanded, its most spotlighted bands having flown the coop, what would become of the genre?

The decline of pop-punk had several-fold reasons for its departure from form. For one, pop-punk sold its proverbial soul to the metaphorical Top 40 devil, who, fittingly enough, came wearing thirty different hues of neon, shutter shades, skinny jeans, and spoke only in auto-tune. What was once a sound characterized by happy-go-lucky guitar riffs and carefree vocals became overshadowed by a superfluously placed importance on appearance and attitude, rather than on energy and sheer spirit.  This was embodied by bands like All Time LowForever the Sickest Kids, and Cobra Starship (which, as the superhero metaphor would go, would make Midtown your friendly neighborhood Spiderman, and frontman Gabe Saporta’s electro-punk mess his sinister, goopy alter-ego, Venom).

These bands and more, marching in brightly-clad legions, armed with auto-tune and images that would make preteen girls swoon over their posters, stretched the definition of the genre itself. They faked emotions in the way that Bernie Madoff faked being an honest businessman. They wrote songs that would aim for popularity and recognition, but tended to land in the muck of mediocrity that most of the overcrowded scene wallowed in. What happened to the songs about friends, fun, and girls that comprised the true spirit of pop-punk? The bands that served as the wall that separated the two waves of the glory days were far from supervillains, but were no superheroes either.

But as the decade came to an end, the genre felt something in it change, as if it had been biked by Logan Circle to see that the fountain had been turned on. Not only had most of the premier members of the original Justice League reclaimed their thrones and reunited (with Blink-182, The Ataris, and New Found Glory back in the studio, while Yellowcard and Sum 41 released When You’re Through Thinking, Say Yes and Screaming Bloody Murder, respectively), but a new wave of pop-punk heavyweights had arrived on the scene to challenge the veteran juggernauts for respect and airplay.

If the forerunners of the sound were the Justice League, this new crew of pop-punkers would be more than fitting as the Avengers of Pop-Punk (but might, as Man Overboard would suggest, be more fittingly titled as “The Defenders.”) Massachusetts-based Transit as the Hulk, featuring soaring vocals with the strength and conviction of eighty All Time Lows, and smashing guitar harmonies. The Wonder Years as Captain America, the easily relatable band that boosts the nation’s morale, especially with the profoundly optimistic opus that was The Upsides. Man Overboard would be the always-reliable Iron Man, a high-flying band with soaring melodies.

How did these bands breath new life into a genre that was badly in need of CPR? By replacing auto-tune with belted out positive lyrics, phasing out the heavy-handed production several bands leaned on as a crutch for a collectively raw, personal vibe. Instead of giving in to the dark side of the scene, they reignited the torch passed down by their predecessors.

It’s hard to come up with a conclusive list of the bands that took back the genre from its bleak, soulless state, but it would be hard to not mention This Time Next Year, The Dangerous Summer, Fireworks, and Valencia. With such an impressive list of superpowers that would rival the powers of both Marvel and DC combined, it’s safe to say that pop-punk will be in good, reliable hands for a long time.

Author: Erik van Rheenen View Staff Page for Erik van Rheenen
I’m a freshman Magazine Journalism major at Syracuse University, and I’m almost always running, bowling, listening to music, writing, or a combination of the four. Discovering new bands and going with best friends to live shows at low-key venues are my adrenaline rushes, along with, of course, watching the Tampa Bay Buccaneers light up the scoreboard.
Leave a comment


  • tl;dr – Awesome bands were around.
    Awesome bands weren’t around.Sad face.
    Awesome bands come back around!
    New awesome bands form! double happy face!

    I really felt this piece had a lot of potential, but was instead just about using a super hero metaphor.

    • Agreed. The idea of creating an article on how pop-punk came back is amazing. However, this article didn’t really do that.

  • Pingback: The State of the Genre | LatestMusicHeadlines.com

  • Haters gonna hate.

    Erik, I feel you did a great job and I appreciate the super hero references.

  • Testing this out! Lets hope it works now :)

  • dont forget bands like set your goals, four year strong, and even sadly a day to remember who started to repave the way for pop-punk to be cool again.

  • This was a terribly written article that just listed your favorite and least favorite bands from the past 10 years.

    Not to mention that you listed “Man Overboard” as having any positive impact on the scene. Which is definitely not true. Like them if you want, but if you want to say they’re taking “Pop Punk” in a positive direction, you’re naive and just a fanboy of the “Transit/Mano/Balance and Composure/Title Fight/Wonder Years/La Dispute/Touche Amoure” fanbase that has to like anything that is trendy.

    Get over yourself, and start writing more legitimate articles.

  • I agree with Matt. This article missed a lot of obvious, great bands. Where is Fall Out Boy? They were a huge pop punk influence. Although they began to drift away from a strictly pop punk sound in later albums, Take This to Your Grave and From Under the Cork Tree had tremendous impacts on all of pop punk.
    Also, All Time Low’s first album, Put Up or Shut Up, was phenomenally well done and a much better representation of pop punk than 99% of the cookie-cutter ‘easy-core’ bands that you hear today like Title Fight, Transit, With the Punches etc. You portray NFG and Blink as titans of pop punk, and rightly so. However, they were also the sole influences of Put Up or Shut Up. All Time Low grew out of pop punk and decided to pursue something else, but what band doesn’t change as time goes on?
    I know there is a strikingly obvious bubble-gum, neon t-shirts and skinny jeans scene for ATL, FTSK and Cobra Starship, but there is a scene for your “new crew of pop punkers” as well. They mosh hard to songs like ‘Dream Girl’ with their beards and tank tops. They support local bands and DIY because it’s not worth having unless you can take it yourself. The gang vocals, breakdowns and punk beats are just as typical of the genre as anything else. I’m not saying I don’t like Man Overboard. I love their music and The Upsides was an awesome album.
    Again, Matt got it dead on. You have a really narrow view of pop punk and the bands within the genre. You don’t know pop punk as well as I’m sure you think you do and that’s why this article comes off as just press for mid-level bands that you like. It’s so easy to see that you’re just a fanboy of this new Man Overboard/Wonder Years/Transit trend and as soon as you can see that it’s a trend just as much as anything else, maybe you’ll be able to write a half decent article on the different facets of pop punk and how it’s evolving.

    • fob didn’t really do much for the pop punk scene just because they got big doesn’t mean they influenced anything they were just blink 182 wanna be’s

  • I personally thought this was a great article. I think it’s true that the scene has regained some of the qualities that had made it so great. I think the super hero metaphor really helps get the points across in an interesting and entertaining way. I would agree that Fall Out Boy deserves to be mentioned, they were definitely a major driving force of pop punk but I guess maybe at the same time, depending on how you want to look at it, they sparked a lot bands wearing girl jeans and makeup and some of the qualities that he describe as the dark times of pop punk, so I can understand leaving them out. But fuck it, despite who was left out, I liked the article and everyone that he DID mentioned.

  • I agree with Alan and Matt, this article has too many holes. Where is Hit the Lights? This is a Stickup is one of the most solid pop-punk records I have ever had the pleasure of listening to, and it came out in 06, during this “decline of pop-punk” you speak of. Valencia released This Could Be A Possibility in 05, the same year blink broke up, and it is another good pop-punk album. And Rise or Die Trying by FYS came out in 07.
    Pop-punk never died. Or declined. They just faded out of the mainstream, replaced by different musical genres more interesting to the general amount of kids out there. Now some of the more pop-oriented pop-punk bands like ATL and FTSK are becoming popular again, and this article turns its nose up at them just because of how they look and how pop-accessible their lyrics are. I was disappointed as anyone that Nothing Personal and the subsequent ATL releases were not like Put Up or Shut Up, but it’s the way a band evolves. I will never be ashamed of liking All Time Low or FTSK when they first got started, even though I’m not a particular fan of their newer sound, they’re still good musicians.
    Alan’s comment about there being as much of a scene for the tough guy easycore bands as there is for the “bubblegum” pop-punk bands is spot on. Maybe they’re tougher looking dudes, but they’re still victims to the fashion and trends of the genre. When Dan and Alan from FYS or Soupy from The Wonder Years shaves their beards, so will a fair amount of their fans. After this trend of tough-guy pop-punk passes by, there will always be something new, because pop-punk, like any genre, changes with the times.

    • Hit The Lights SUCKS, Thats why he didn’t write about it.

      • agreed

  • “TakeThis To Your Grave” is probably one of the greatest pop-punk albums of the last decade. Also, you missed “Your Favorite Weapon”.

    • Oh my god finally someone thinks to mention Jesse, I was starting to think everyone forgot about Brand New. Also, Say Anything (earlier stuff), Manchester Orchestra/Andy Hull, Straylight Run/John Nolan, early Taking Back Sunday stuff…basically that whole scene. Like early 2000s shit from all of those people.

  • No mention of the movielife? When I think of pop-punk roots, I think of the movielife.

  • Pingback: [MP3] Man Overboard – “Driveway” « Last Stop, Wonderland

  • How about all you pussies stop being so negative?!?! Pop/Punk is on the rise again and all you have to say about this article is whether the article is to your liking or not. GROW UP.

    • Just because I like pop-punk doesn’t mean I have to like this article. Mediocre writing is mediocre writing no matter what the content is.

      I am glad pop-punk is on the rise. I am not glad this article does it such a disservice analytically.

  • I actually liked this article until I hit the comment section. I was thinking to myself “yeah this does all make sense” and then after reading the comments it turned into “yeah this guy missed a bunch of shit”

    Try again?

  • While I do agree this article failed to neglect some of the greats like Brand New’s “Your Favorite Weapon”, obviously he’s not going to write about every fucking album that came out in the last decade. Pop-punk is such a vague term nowadays so stop bitching because he didn’t throw YOUR favorite band a bone. Pop punk is supposed to be such a positive genre all about playing music that’s special to you, so shut the fuck up.

  • I think you should have mentioned Four Year Strong and Set Your Goals as well, Erik. Just realized neither were mentioned, and FYS is quite arguably the biggest pop-punk band in the scene.

  • Where are Four Year Strong, Taking Back Sunday and Set Your Goals? Taking Back Sunday was a highly influential band for a lot of pop-punk listeners in the last decade, they need to be mentioned. And FYS is blowing up, slowly but surely, and are far more popular and respected in MA than Transit. I liked your main point but a lot of the details are shitty and biased.

  • Because FYS isn\’t pop punk. They are scenecore. This article was really great for fans of true pop punk.

    • Joey from Transit?


      Anyway, I agree with this article. I was surprised to see so much hateful and nonconstructive criticism of this article…I guess that’s the internet for you. But I thought it did give justice to at least the general idea behind pop-punk and I thought the superhero analogies were pretty clever.

      I thought he did a good job of getting the feel for the brilliant new wave of pop punk hitting us that sounds so fucking great. I’m just so thankful for bands like Transit, Man Overboard, Handguns, With the Punches, Fireworks, and Wonder Years.

  • I know I might get some negative responses for saying this, Dylan, but Four Year Strong and Set Your Goals fall under the pseudo-genre of “easycore” for me. Yes, they’re pop-punk, but have more hardcore influences than most bands.

    I also just want to thank everyone who took the time to read and comment on my article, whether in a positive or negative light. I appreciate your thoughts, compliments, and criticisms regarding my ideas about pop-punk.

  • Not one mention of Saves the Day, this article is a joke.

  • Thank you so much for this great webite! It is very informative.


Leave a Comment


Connect with Facebook

*- required fields