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The Enduring Appeal of Pop-Punk

Panic! at the Disco just earned their first No. 1 album of their career. Blink-182 finished recording their ninth studio album and Warped Tour is entering its third decade on the road. It may be 2016, but like it or not the oft-maligned genre, much like the angst-y teenagers it appeals to, isn't going anywhere.

Sonically defined by its fast tempos, loud guitars and simple chord progressions, the genre emerged as an accessible offshoot of 70s punk subculture. The less offensive and more melodic variation grew in prominence in the 80s in southern California. That scene which included bands like Bad Religion, The Descendents and The Vandals, eventually set the stage for more commercially viable acts like Green Day and The Offspring. Their rise ushered in a post-grunge rock era defined by a snotty teenage sensibility continuing throughout the 90s and early 2000s peaking with pop-punk poster boys Blink-182.


As is the cyclical nature of all genres, pop-punk has waned and splintered since its pre-millennium heyday. However it's still very much alive. Pop-punk (and its many ska and emo permutations) may no longer manifest itself in the form of number one hits or mainstream magazine covers, but beyond acolytes of 90s nostalgia clamoring for the new Blink album, there's still a hungry, new market excited about the music. Vans' Warped Tour, the genre's primary festival, is especially popular among young people -- over ninety percent of last year's attendees were between the ages of 15 and 25. And with nearly a million followers on Twitter and two million on Facebook, the festival has a greater social media following than Coachella and Bonnaroo combined. Beyond summer tours, pop-punk's influence can be heard on mainstream radio stations, embedded in the melodies and melodrama of bands as disparate and chart-topping as Fall Out Boy, Paramore and even 5 Seconds of Summer.

Hence a new generation is latching on to the sound. Local scenes continue to flourish in basements across suburban California and New Jersey. Niche publications like Alternative Press and Kerrang! regularly cover the genre and Hot Topic still makes a killing selling Misfits records and Ramones' t-shirts. It's less culturally dominant, for sure, but no less existent.

But why? Teenagers. What other genre is such a direct analogue to its audience? By being unapologetically brash, whiny and impetuous, pop-punk mirrors its target demo, and in the most commercial way possible, commodifying themes of angst, alienation and sexual frustration through catchy songs, juvenile humor and underdog "rise-of-the-loser" narratives. (Wheatus' "Teenage Dirtbag" is the ultimate example, P!ATD's "Victorious" is the latest".)

And of course, it's easy to replicate. Requiring little technical ability, it's almost as simple for a kid to play as it is for them to buy into. Three chords build the foundation for an anthem, as any Green Day song can attest.


While these days it might seem easier to pick up a laptop instead of guitar, the instrument remains a symbol of traditional masculinity, another central component of the genre's appeal. Just look at Blink-182's Enema of the State, easily regarded as the genre's most successful album, at least in a commercial sense. The title and cover alone present a one-two punch of toilet humor and sexual fantasies embraceable by white middle-class males everywhere, from jocks to skaters to geeks and on. By aligning yourself with pop-punk, you're aligning yourself with a dominant dude-bro ideology that masquerades as subculture.

Because of its facade of rebellion, pop-punk can make you seem cool without being judged, the rarest of adolescent commodities. It appeals to an audience eager to buy into its seemingly subversive message, but because its aesthetic is so tame, melodic and commonplace, they can do so without alienating anyone. This juxtaposition makes it the kind of music you play to piss off your parents, even though your parents probably bought you the album in the first place. And its enduring appeal allows the cycle to continue for generations to come.

Top Tracks Based on Last.fm Users

  1. Paramore - Misery Business (9.2 Million Scrobbles, 907,000 Listeners)
  2. Blink 182 - All The Small Things (7.6 Million Scrobbles, 1.1 Million Listeners)
  3. Green Day - Basket Case (6 Million Scrobbles, 1 Million Listeners)
  4. Fall Out Boy - Thnks fr th Mmrs (4.8 Million Scrobbles, 616,400 Listeners)
  5. Simple Plan - Welcome to My Life (2.5 Million Scrobbles, 469,000 Listeners)


Intermediate - Lesser Known User Faves


  1. NOFX - Linoleum (1.3 Million Scrobbles, 236, Listeners)
  2. Saves the Day - At Your Funeral (987,300 Scrobbles, 165,000 Listerners)
  3. The Descendents - Suburban Home (598,300 Scrobbles, 116,800 Listeners)
  4. The Bouncing Souls - True Believers (464,400 Scrobbles, 90,500 Listeners)
  5. The Vandals - My Girlfriend's Dead (174,900 Scrobbles, 35,600 Listeners)

Deep Cuts


  1. The Ergs! - It's Never Going to Be the Same Again (81,400 Scrobbles, 13,500 Listeners)
  2. Off With Their Heads - Fuck This, I'm Out (79,900 Scrobbles, 15,300 Listeners)
  3. The Mr. T Experience - Even Hitler Had a Girlfriend (37,000 Scrobbles, 10,700 Listeners)
  4. Weston - Teenage Love Affair (5,752 Scrobbles, 1,462 Listeners)
  5. Sicko - Hipster Boyfriend (4,418 Scrobbles, 1,274 Listeners)





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