While the genre of pop punk has spanned multiple decades, the late 1990s and early 2000s wave was where the genre first gained widespread popularity. With pop punk making a resurgence that doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon, now seems like the perfect opportunity to take a look back at some of the classics of the golden days of pop punk.
Aliens Exist – blink-182
Most people today would associate Travis Barker with the likes of Willow Smith, Machine Gun Kelly, or, as the boyfriend of Kourtney Kardashian. For myself, and other fans of 90s/ 00s pop punk, he will always be known as the drummer of blink-182. The California-based trio ruled the pop punk scene during that era and are commonly seen as the driving force behind the mainstream popularity of the genre. In short, it would be criminal not to include them on this list. And it’s easy to see why their music was so popular then, and today. High-tempo drumbeats, fast-paced guitar riffs, and catchy melodies create the perfect backing tract for their wide range of lyrics, which explore themes of teenage angst, hilariously vulgar humour, and relationships. All these aspects come together in Aliens Exist, one of my personal favourite blink-182 songs, where the band explore their belief in aliens. As strange as the concept of the song seems, the goofy lyrics are balanced out by an intense, high-energy backing track, and unforgettable melody in the lyrics. All in all, Aliens Exist is one of the most quintessential blink-182 songs out there and deserves far more praise than it usually gets.
My Friends Over You – New Found Glory
Next up, we have My Friends Over You from New Found Glory’s 2002 album ‘Sticks and Stones’. The track encompasses all that you could possibly want from a punk pop song released during the early 2000s – a sick guitar breakdown, stereotypical lyrics about choosing friends over a girl, and those classic early-2000s whiny pop punk vocals. Admittedly, My Friends Over You isn’t the most impressive song lyrically, but listening to it you can see how New Found Glory influenced so many bands who came after them. They helped to make a genre as unconventional as pop punk mainstream, while keeping the integrity of what made their music unique intact.
Girl All the Bad Guys Want – Bowling For Soup
Bowling for Soup was (unknowingly) my first introduction to pop punk. For those of you who don’t know what I’m referring to, the theme tune to Phineas and Ferb was actually written and performed by Bowling for Soup – crazy right? But beyond writing songs about 100-day long summers, the band has some solid tunes which make the early 2000s pop punk scene what it was. In my opinion, no playlist about the genre is complete without one Bowling for Soup song present. Girl All the Bad Guys Want from their iconic album ‘Drunk Enough to Dance’ released 2002 is a perfect introduction to the band. Capitating and snappy guitar riffs which feature heavily across their discography make Girl All the Bad Guys Want a track which will force you onto your feet.
Just A Girl – No Doubt
No 90s angsty-teen rom-com would be complete without the inclusion of No Doubt’s Just A Girl on its soundtrack (I’m looking at you, Clueless), and for good reason. While many might not see it as pop punk, for me, the snappy and sarcastic lyrics which rebuff patronising female stereotypes set to a lively instrumental is exactly what makes it pop punk. Early pop punk was all about the struggles of being an adolescent and rejecting the status-quo, which Just A Girl does flawlessly to background of an awesome drum beat. The repetitions of “Oh, I’m just a girl” sarcastically rejects the stereotype of women needing to be protected by a male-driven society, and the legacy of this song proves how much this message has resonated with women over the years.
The Patron Saint of Liars and Fakes – Fall Out Boy
Fall Out Boy will always be known to me as part of the emo holy trinity (along with Panic! At the Disco, and My Chemical Romance). But their 2003 debut album ‘Take This To Your Grave’ is an essential component of the early 2000s pop punk scene. The album is heavy with savvy-smart lyrical content and even smarter song titles. The star of this album has to be lead singer Patrick Stump, who’s strong, soul-sounding vocals marked a divergence from the nasally, unpolished vocals of the 90s pop punk scene. The album, in my view, is a too often overlooked work by Fall Out Boy and contained some of their strongest tracks. The Patron Saint of Liars and Fakes always sticks out to me from this album, with its chorus demonstrating the sheer range of Stump’s R&B-inspired vocals, which are somehow complimented by a backing of pop punk guitar riffs. If you’re looking for another recommendation from this album, Grand Theft Autumn / Where Is Your Boy is equally as appealing and will satisfy any craving you have for classic FOB pop punk.
Sk8er Boi – Avril Lavigne
Some might be surprised to see Avril Lavigne on a list detailing the essential pop punk tracks of the late 90s and early 2000s, but for me at least, she was the first taste I had at pop punk music. The iconic track Sk8er Boi stands out to me as is undoubtably marked a noticeable departure from the bubblegum-pop heavy music charts of the early 2000s, and I think that is exactly why it is still such a popular track today. While the lyrics “He was a skater boy / She said see you later boy” won’t win Avril Lavigne any award for most original song writing anytime soon, this fast tempo track full of snappy guitar riffs guarantees that this song won’t be forgotten any time soon.
Longview – Green Day
Much like blink-182, Green Day were an essential part of the punk pop scene in the 90s. Their plethora of hits, such as Basket Case, American Idiot and too many others to count, have cemented their status as one of America’s greatest bands. But their breakthrough success really came with their 1994 album ‘Dookie’ where my personal favourite song Longview comes from. Here, the band’s lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong manages to verbalise everyday mundane activities and the feelings of boredom that come with sitting around all day. While the lyrics might be about being lazy, that’s the complete opposite of what this song is. Starting out with a mid-tempo bass line and relaxed drum beat, Longview builds to deliver a volatile chorus which seems to come out of nowhere. As the band’s debut single, Longview in my view is the perfect introduction for anyone who wants to start listening to Green Day and doesn’t know where to start.
Cute Without The ‘E’ (Cut From The Team) – Taking Back Sunday
Finally, we have possibly one of my favourite pop punk songs of all time, Cute Without The ‘E’ (Cut From The Team) from Taking Back Sunday’s 2002 debut album ‘Tell All Your Friends’. The track sums up feeling betrayed in a relationship to the background of soulful melody which builds throughout. Lyrically, the song is simple, yet their delivery by lead singer Adam Lazzara in such a powerful and emotive way was what really drew me to this song the first time I listened to it. The way the song builds from a simple, lone opening guitar riff, to a dynamic breakdown which seems to come out of nowhere is what makes this song truly special. In my view, this is one of those rare songs which is impossible to fault.
Listen to these songs, plus many more, on this playlist:
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