We’re in the home stretch! The final week of Pop-Punk May Madness begins tomorrow. By Friday, we’ll know the top pop-punk song of all-time, as decided by you, the voters. We’ll start with 16 of the best songs the genre has to offer, cutting the field in half by the day until we have a champion. (Here, you can see a full updated bracket of the songs that remain).
Starting Monday, you’ll be able to vote on our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for your favorites across the four regions. Voting for all regions will take place each day as we advance the rounds: Sweet Sixteen on Monday, Elite Eight on Tuesday, Fanatic’s Four on Wednesday, and championship matchup on Thursday. We’ll tally the votes and announce the grand champion on Friday.
Before the final week of voting begins, our staff takes a look at each matchup in the current round, then ponders which songs have what it takes to go all the way.
Previewing the Sweet 16: Power Chord Paradise
(1) Blink-182’s “All the Small Things” vs. (4) Paramore’s “Misery Business”
Tim: “All the Small Things” isn’t only a pop-punk song, it’s a pop song. Sure, Paramore had waded more into pop territory on their recent albums, but their pop-punk clout goes as far as Riot! could take them. That peak was “Misery Business,” a song that gets all 20-somethings to sing along, though Hayley Williams finds the band has outgrown its lyrical content. Blink-182’s best-known hit is straight-up candy, and nothing will ever change its legacy status within both pop-punk and ‘90s culture. It helps that the chorus of “na na nas” never gets old.
Ashleigh: It’s impossible to compare these two songs, and what Blink and Paramore did for pop-punk is undeniable. While “Misery Business” is no longer being performed by the band, it’s one of those songs that fans can’t help but love. Hell, even Machine Gun Kelly and Blink’s very own Travis Barker covered it. However, I think that “All the Small Things” is that song that people can easily sing to and not have to think about the deeper context behind the lyrics, and that makes it a fan favorite.
(3) Lit’s “My Own Worst Enemy” vs. (7) Blink-182’s “First Date”
Adit: I knew that “First Date” had the legs to put up a good run here, and my hunch has stood up well throughout the bracket. Some fans may have outgrown the song, but as one of most iconic hits from one of the genre’s most iconic bands, it’s hard to root against it. Lit has a strong enough legacy in the scene too, and this song is one of the definitive tracks of its era, within pop-punk and beyond. That legacy, combined with the band’s fans coming out to vote last week, will give it a solid chance of running away with this battle.
Jessica: In the true erratic, lighthearted (but lovable) fashion of Blink-182, “First Date” perfectly captures the full-blown anxiety of meeting someone on a first date — and does pop-punk really get more tender than that? However, though Lit’s success wasn’t as evenly distributed as Blink’s, “My Own Worst Enemy” does have a legacy of its own, as exhibited by a notable fanbase showing up to carry them to victory. It’s kind of a “one-hit wonder” for Lit versus “one of many hits” for Blink, both of which are equally deserving of the prize.
Previewing the Sweet 16: Catchy Chorus Central
(1) Jimmy Eat World’s “The Middle” vs. (4) All Time Low’s “Dear Maria, Count Me In”
Adit: This is one of the tighter battles of signature songs in this round of the bracket, as both bands are in the highest echelon of the genre’s pantheon. These hits cemented the legacy of both bands well before the bulk of their career had begun to run its course, making this a purely emotional dogfight. My head tells me that “The Middle” has the Top 40 clout and legacy to send it past the finish line here, as the song’s hook has proven essential to the story of pop-punk (and pop music altogether) in the early 2000s.
Jess: The energy of both of these tracks is iconic enough to maintain their staying power. Yet throughout these matchups, we’ve seen quite the engagement from committed fans of the late ’90s and early 2000s bands; thus, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Jimmy Eat World outdo All Time Low on this one. Despite “Dear Maria” marking an all-time high for ATL (and getting my personal vote on this round), “The Middle” is a timeless anthem and deserves to be treated as such.
(2) Good Charlotte’s “The Anthem” vs. (3) Sum 41’s “In Too Deep”
Tim: Both of these songs excellently straddle the lines of pop and punk, flaunting punk energy and vocal edge while maintaining massive hooks and basic chord structures. Early 2000s pop-punk doesn’t get much better than “The Anthem” and “In Too Deep,” and they remain Good Charlotte and Sum 41’s biggest hits nearly 20 years and lots of headlining tours later. Personally, I like “In Too Deep” in this matchup. While “The Anthem” may have exposure to wider audiences than “In Too Deep,” the latter has plenty of cultural notoriety of its own, on top of a succulent singalong that better represents the genre than any Good Charlotte song can.
Ashleigh: It’s no surprise that the top four seeds from this section made it this far. “In Too Deep” and “The Anthem” are powerhouses in their own right, and that makes them tough competition. Choosing between Good Charlotte and Sum 41 is like asking to pick between your two favorite meals: it’s nearly impossible. But I think it can be argued that both of these songs are about staying true to oneself and not letting anyone make decisions for you. My sneaking suspicion is that “In Too Deep” is going to win this one, but I wouldn’t put it past GC fans to push this one to the next round.
Previewing the Sweet 16: Wishful Thinking Way
(1) Fall Out Boy’s “Sugar, We’re Goin’ Down” vs. (12) Allister’s “Somewhere on Fullerton”
Tim: How far can “Somewhere on Fullerton” go? It’s made it far past the streets of Chicago and into the pop-punk consciousness as a very important song that unfortunately gets overshadowed by bigger bands and bigger hits. One of those hits is “Sugar, We’re Goin’ Down.” It’s Fall Out Boy’s shining moment as keen songwriters, delivering sophisticated lyrics in a super accessible way. Allister hasn’t faced competition nearly this steep thus far, but with a dedicated fanbase that puts “Fullerton” up with the best of the genre, don’t be surprised if they give FOB a run for their money.
Jess: We’ve encountered a special scenario with Allister fans showing their love for a lesser-know pop-punk banger that definitely deserves the attention. But can it realistically hold a candle to Fall Out Boy’s most impactful hit? “Sugar, We’re Goin’ Down” boasts a suspenseful song structure that’s pretty impossible to get sick of. “Somewhere on Fullerton” might be more accessible to those with a more traditional view of pop-punk, whereas “Sugar” went on to capture a much wider audience.
(2) Blink-182’s “What’s My Age Again?” vs. (6) The All-American Rejects “Move Along”
Adit: Blink-182 is well-represented at this stage of the bracket, while The All-American Rejects lost one half of their dynamic duo of tracks in a close battle with The Starting Line. There is an argument to be made about Reject fans showing up for “Move Along” as their last rep in the bracket, but it’s hard to see that bet being strong enough to beat out one of the greats. Blink’s momentum, as expected, is very legitimate here, and makes “What’s My Age Again?” hard to beat.
Ashleigh: I’ll admit, I am slightly surprised “Move Along” made it this far. Never underestimate the power of the AAR. “Move Along” is absolutely one of those songs that defined a generation and instilled a power within. But “What’s My Age Again” is still that anthem for those not sure exactly how to grow up — or those who just don’t want to. As someone nearing 30, Blink hits a bit deeper on that sentiment of facing your reality and living in your fantasy, which is why I will always love them and this song.
Previewing the Sweet 16: Hopeless Romantic Hub
(1) Green Day’s “Basket Case” vs. (4) The Starting Line’s “The Best of Me”
Tim: The Starting Line squeaked out a victory over The All-American Rejects’ “Dirty Little Secret,” proving that influence can surpass airplay any day of the week. In that regard, Green Day may prove too much for “The Best of Me,” as “Basket Case” boasts both qualities. Without this song, would Fall Out Boy, New Found Glory, or even Avril Lavigne have made it into our bracket? Before getting lost in “what if”s, let’s also look at this reality: “Basket Case” continues to sit alongside timeless classics “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “Everlong” as one of the most enduring songs of its era. “The Best of Me” is a special song but not that special.
Jess: Green Day is unmatched in the pop-punk world, as is their breakout record, Dookie, and the lyrics of “Basket Case.” It’s a playful way to address the feeling of being imprisoned by your own thoughts and anxieties (“Sometimes I give myself the creeps; sometimes my mind plays tricks on me”). Although The Starting Line cranked out a catchier tune with “The Best of Me” in terms of its melody — featuring a more impressive vocal range than Billie Joe Armstrong might be able to achieve — Green Day showcased all they had to offer as a punk band with “Basket Case.”
(2) Yellowcard’s “Ocean Avenue” vs. (6) New Found Glory’s “My Friends Over You”
Adit: This is a classic fight between songs that casual and serious fans can both stand behind. It’s easy to argue that “Ocean Avenue” has transcended the pop-punk scene, making it a safe bet to hold its own against a band whose success is intricately tied to the support of the genre. New Found Glory’s legacy has been built by its deep catalog and dedicated fans, but it’s fair to guess that casual Yellowcard fans may tilt the favor here.
Ashleigh: It’s the battle between love and friendship in this matchup. While these two songs couldn’t be more different, the thing they have in common is the enthusiasm behind them (that and the fact both bands from Florida, an influential breeding ground for the pop-punk scene). NFG’s ultimate “f you” song has gotten them this far, but Yellowcard’s lovesong might just take the cake with this one. “Ocean Avenue” is one of the strongest and most popular songs in this bracket, which makes it a true competitor.
What four songs will make it to the Fanatic’s Four?
Tim: Though not top two seeds, it’s pretty obvious “My Own Worst Enemy” and “Somewhere on Fullerton” have a leg up on every other song. Both artists’ fanbases came out in droves to vote for these two songs last week. With some more push from the artists, they could certainly topple more lower seeds (especially “Sugar, We’re Goin’ Down,” which squeaked out a victory over “Dammit” last week). In the bottom regions, the one seeds are exceptionally strong. “The Middle” and “Basket Case” thrive off their popularity not merely as pop-punk songs, but as rock songs with multigenerational recognition and support.
Adit: Lit fans have come out in support of their band’s signature song, but it’s hard to see “All the Small Things” lose its way as the signature pop-punk song. “The Middle” is deserving of a good run, but the weird cohort of Good Charlotte fans that exists always has a way of giving the band clout in unexpected places. Allister and its fans have been on the frontlines to bring “Somewhere on Fullerton” the championship, and I think they will remain successful. I also think the purely emotional attachment that fans have to “Ocean Avenue” will overcome any objective legacy that “Basket Case” has in its hands.
Jess: I’m actually not sure how much I foresee “Somewhere on Fullerton” making it to the Fanatic’s Four (and at the same time, it seems that Allister fans are up for the challenge). It would feel wrong to not see “Sugar, We’re Goin’ Down” make it through, along with “Ocean Avenue” and “All the Small Things.” And seeing as Lit lovers have piled onto the voting, “My Own Worst Enemy” could very well earn its spot among the final matchups. Even considering the lasting legacy of Green Day in comparison to some of these other artists, Adit has a point: People’s emotional attachments to and nostalgia surrounding certain songs will likely prevail over simply respect for a band’s iconic nature.
Ashleigh: There are a lot of fandoms behind these bands that make it a toss-up between all of these. There are two incredibly strong Blink Songs that are driving forces in this bracket, which is why I won’t be surprised to see “All the Small Things” and “What’s My Age Again” make it to the Fanatic’s Four. My other votes go for “The Middle” and “Ocean Avenue.” These songs are legendary and hone feelings that are difficult to express in words alone. Jimmy Eat World and Yellowcard have their unique styles that are immediately identifiable and comforting, which is why “The Middle” and “Ocean Avenue” have been fan favorites for nearly 20 years.
What song will win the championship?
Tim: If we’re voting based on impact on pop-punk, “Basket Case” should win. If we’re voting based on the genre’s cultural peak, “All the Small Things” should win. Those two songs would make for one intriguing championship. But we have to trust past voting trends to predict future results. Looking at how the polling has gone so far, “Somewhere on Fullerton” and “What’s My Age Again?” have completely obliterated their opponents. If this continues, whichever track wins this Elite Eight battle may win the whole thing. Bottom line: It depends on who votes!
Adit: My music brain tells me “All the Small Things” is next to impossible to topple, but I have seen the fight that Allister fans have put up, and it’s hard to see them let up now, as their band continues to shock the system. That being said, “Somewhere on Fullerton” is an absolute bop that represents the Drive-Thru Class of 2002 incredibly well, giving a dub to one of the most important pop-punk labels out there.
Jess: Considering both overall cultural impact and current voting trends, “What’s My Age Again” has a good chance of winning this thing. For seasoned Blink-182 fans, it seems like this track is more of a go-to classic than “All the Small Things,” which is frankly overplayed and arguably a bit cheesy. The former encapsulates more of what the band can do musically, while the latter is purely a recognizable singalong. As much as Fall Out Boy or Green Day have proven their popularity in the scene, Blink is simply the quintessential pop-punk band. And if somehow “Somewhere on Fullerton” takes the championship somehow, well, I’ll happily pour one out for Allister, too.
Ashleigh: My Blink-182-loving heart would be happy with either “All the Small Things” or “What’s My Age Again,” but there have been some great upsets in this bracket. Still, I have a gut feeling that “The Middle” may step up to the call and win it all.
Which one-seed do you think has the best chance to go all the way?
Tim: “The Middle” is the odd-man-out among the four one seeds, as Jimmy Eat World maintains a stronger legacy within emo than pop-punk. Whether this will throw off voters is uncertain, but what is certain is that three songs more synonymous with the genre still stand in the Catchy Chorus Central region. “Sugar, We’re Goin’ Down” faces difficult competition from “Somewhere on Fullerton,” while “Basket Case” has “Ocean Avenue” in its way. So, based on remaining opponents, “All the Small Things” has the clearest path.
Adit: “All the Small Things” made more pop-punk fans than almost any other song ever, so it is hard to root against it to win it all. “Basket Case” may have a strong argument too, but “Ocean Avenue” fans are widespread and passionate about the song, even the ones who didn’t specifically follow the career of Yellowcard (and their elite stretch in the 2010s).
Jess: If “Sugar, We’re Goin’ Down” can pull off a victory over “Somewhere on Fullerton,” I have faith that it has the strengths to make it all the way. That said, it doesn’t have quite the lasting legacy as “All the Small Things” or “The Middle” — one of which will likely to move the farthest along in the bracket.
Ashleigh: As I mentioned before, I think “The Middle” is the powerhouse to beat. However, I can also see Yellowcard overtaking all remaining competitors. Those first chords of “Ocean Avenue” make you feel some sort of way, and that has carried this song’s popularity since 2003 (that, and the violin in pop-punk, because that is genius).
What upsets (if any) are you forecasting in the remaining rounds?
Tim: “Somewhere on Fullerton” is the obvious upset pick as the lone double-digit seed left in the bracket. But we’ve talked about this underappreciated anthem enough. I was shocked that “Move Along” defeated “Thnks fr th Mmrs,” and this tells me that this All-American Rejects hit is just as beloved now as it was in 2005 (and that it has a dedicated following that could send it over the top). Don’t be surprised if New Found Glory’s “My Friends Over You” pulls another upset or two, as any song that can upset My Chemical Romance is a force to be reckoned with.
Adit: Aside from Allister, “First Date” has proven as resilient as ever throughout the bracket, allowing it to put up a good fight against Lit. All Time Low has a strong fan base too, and could give “Dear Maria, Count Me In” the legs to beat out “The Middle” and any other track that stands in its way.
Jess: It has been surprising to see “Move Along” live up to its name, moving along to surpass some bigger bands and titles. I’m not totally confident in The All-American Rejects’ probability of beating “What’s My Age Again?” but as demonstrated by the Allister upsets, anything can happen. More realistically, “First Date” has a great shot at bumping “My Own Worst Enemy” off the bracket, as both tracks have received a lot of recognition and love.
Ashleigh: I would love to see the Starting Line come out of the Hopeless Romantic Hub region. “The Best of Me” is an underrated song that still packs a punch. Allister has been amazing to watch in this bracket, and I love an underdog story. “Somewhere on Fullerton” has great potential to take down Fall Out Boy, which I’d love to see happen (sorry not sorry).