Pop punk is a sub genre of alternative rock, which typically merges pop melodies with speedy punk tempos, chord changes, and loud guitars. Contemporary pop punk bands have a radio friendly sheen to their music, but still maintain much of the speed and attitude of classic punk rock. 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 appeared in a 1977 ‘New York Times’ article, ‘Cabaret: Tom Petty’s Pop Punk Rock Evokes Sounds of 60s.’ In the mid-1990s, the California pop punk bands Green Day and The Offspring, who were later followed by Blink-182, would all achieve worldwide commercial success. From the mid-1990s onwards, some bands associated with the genre have been described as happy punk, faux-punk, mall punk, pseudo-punk,or bubblegum punk.
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. Their 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. The music of the Buzzcocks, Generation X, 999, and The Jam featured catchy melodies, as well as lyrics that sometimes dealt with relatively light themes such as teenage romance. Bad Religion, who started in 1979, were another band that helped lay the groundwork for contemporary pop punk. Many mod revival bands of the late 1970s and early 1980s also displayed pop punk leanings.
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. A few bands, such as Descendents, Screeching Weasel, and The Vandals, began to combine hardcore with pop music to create a new, faster pop punk sound. Their positive yet sarcastic approach began to separate them from the more serious hardcore scene. In the 1980s, the term pop punk was used in publications such as ‘Maximum RocknRoll’ to describe bands similar to Social Distortion, Agent Orange, and T.S.O.L.
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 were about to achieve mainstream success.
In 1994, Green Day released ‘Dookie,’ the band’s first album on a major record label, after starting out on the independent Lookout! Records in 1989. The first single, ‘Longview,’ instantly became a hit on ‘MTV’ and modern rock stations across North America and the United Kingdom. Following the success of their first single, Green Day released ‘Basket Case,’ which became an even bigger hit. Soon after, The Offspring released the album ‘Smash’ on the independent label Epitaph Records. The first single, ‘Come Out and Play,’ had a pop punk sound that differed from their earlier work, and it became popular. The album sold over 14 million copies worldwide, setting a record for most albums sold on an independent label.
The commercial success of ‘Dookie’ and ‘Smash’ attracted major label interest in punk, particularly Epitaph bands from Southern California, with Bad Religion, NOFX, and Rancid reportedly being offered lucrative contracts. Also during this period, Face to Face released their breakthrough album ‘Big Choice,’ featuring their only top 40 hit ‘Disconnected,’ which also became popular on the Los Angeles radio station KROQ. 1998 saw the MxPx debut major label release of ‘Slowly Going the Way of the Buffalo.’ In the early- to mid-1990s, ska punk achieved commercial success in the United States and several other countries. Bands such as Reel Big Fish, Goldfinger, Sublime, and Less Than Jake — shared many characteristics with pop punk.
In 1998, The Offspring released the album ‘Americana,’ which went platinum many times over, and produced hit singles such as ‘Pretty Fly (For a White Guy),’ and ‘The Kids Aren’t Alright.’ In 1999, Blink-182 released ‘Enema of the State,’ which sold over 15 million copies worldwide. The album had three hit singles, including the number 1 US Modern Rock single ‘All the Small Things’ and the number 2 singles ‘What’s My Age Again?’ and ‘Adam’s Song.’ Also in 1999, Lit released their second album, ‘A Place in the Sun,’ and spawned the single ‘My Own Worst Enemy.’
In 2000, The Offspring released their next album Conspiracy of One on Napster before they released it on Columbia Records, sacrificing album sales so their fans could hear their music for free. In 2001, Sum 41 released their major label debut ‘All Killer No Filler,’ which went multi-platinum and included the hit singles ‘Fat Lip,’ ‘In Too Deep,’ and ‘Motivation,’ all of which were featured prominently on TRL and modern rock charts. American Hi-Fi released their successful debut album which included the top ten hit ‘Flavor of the Weak.’ In 2002, Good Charlotte released their second album, ‘The Young and the Hopeless,’ which went triple platinum. Also in 2002, Simple Plan released their double platinum debut album ‘No Pads, No Helmets…Just Balls,’ and Face to Face released ‘How to Ruin Everything,’ which would be their final album before disbanding two years later. Also that year, Blink-182 co-headlined one of the biggest concert tours in pop punk history, the Pop Disaster Tour with Green Day.
In summer 2002, New Found Glory released their third album, ‘Sticks and Stones,’ which experienced a fair amount of mainstream success with singles such as ‘My Friends Over You.’ Sum 41 released their second album, ‘Does This Look Infected,’ in 2002, giving them a harder sound with the singles ‘Still Waiting,’ ‘Over My Head (Better Off Dead),’ and ‘The Hell Song.’ In 2003, The Ataris released their breakthrough album ‘So Long, Astoria,’ which included their first top 40 hit, a cover of ‘The Boys of Summer.’ Fall Out Boy’s 2003 album ‘Take This to Your Grave’ would eventually go Gold. Also that year, Yellowcard’s platinum ‘Ocean Avenue’ featured the hit single ‘Ocean Avenue.’
In 2004, New Found Glory released ‘Catalyst,’ which included the hit ‘All Downhill from Here,’ and Avril Lavigne released ‘Under My Skin,’ which was certified triple platinum. Also that year, Simple Plan released their second album ‘Still Not Getting Any….’ Its first single, ‘Welcome to My Life,’ reached number 1 on the Canadian Singles Chart and the Spanish Singles Chart. Green Day released the rock opera album ‘American Idiot’ in September. The singles ‘American Idiot,’ ‘Jesus of Suburbia,’ ‘Boulevard of Broken Dreams,’ ‘Holiday,’ and ‘Wake Me Up When September Ends’ received international airplay and MTV video rotation, and topped charts worldwide.
In 2005, MxPx released ‘Panic’ which featured the radio hits ‘Heard That Sound’ and ‘Wrecking Hotel Rooms.’ Fall Out Boy brought pop punk to the mainstream with the singles ‘Sugar We’re Goin Down’ and ‘Dance, Dance.’ Their album ‘From Under the Cork Tree’ was a mainstay on the album chart, and went double platinum. Panic! At The Disco’s ‘I Write Sins Not Tragedies’ was a similar crossover hit. The All-American Rejects’s single ‘Move Along’ also reached the top 10 of the Hot 100 and was certified platinum. In 2007, Fall Out Boy released their fourth album ‘Infinity on High’ which debuted at number 1 on the Billboard 200. It spawned hit singles ‘This Ain’t a Scene, It’s an Arms Race’ and ‘Thnks fr th Mmrs’ which both crossed over to Pop radio. Sum 41 released the album ‘Underclass Hero,’ which reached number 1 on the Top Canadian Albums chart. Around the same time, Avril Lavigne released the album ‘The Best Damn Thing,’ which reached number 1 on the Billboard 200 and other charts.
In 2009, Blink-182 reunited onstage for the first time since 2005, at the 51st Grammy Awards, announcing their reformation as a band. Also that year, Green Day released their rock opera album ’21st Century Breakdown’ to a more tepid audience than ‘American Idiot’ found. By the end of the decade, the pop punk scene was in decline, achieving little commercial success, while electronic music came intro prominence. The ‘Vans Warped Tour’ continues to attract a pop punk audience despite a major decline in the commercial success of the genre in the 2010s.
In the mid-late early 2000s, the the pop punk generated a new sub genre called easycore. Bands like A Day to Remember, Four Year Strong, and Set Your Goals fuse the catchiness of pop punk with the heaviness of hardcore by incorporating breakdowns, two-step beats, and pinch harmonics (an electric guitar riff). This new style, heavily influenced by pop punk bands like New Found Glory, Blink 182, and early Fall Out Boy, included hardcore and metalcore influences. The genre had some underground success when Set Your Goals released ‘Mutiny’ in 2006 and Four Year Strong released ‘Rise or Die Trying’ in 2007, but mainstream success didn’t come until A Day to Remember released ‘Homesick’ on Victory Records in 2009, which received frequent airplay on ‘MTV.’