In a 2016 tweet, Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong declared war on pop-punk. “I’ve always hated the phrase,” he explained later in Kerrang! “I think it’s a contradiction in terms. Either you’re punk, or you’re not.”
But in one way or another, that contradiction – the idea of a staunchly underground art form with serious mainstream appeal – has been there all along. From hooky Seventies aces (The Buzzcocks, The Undertones) to Eighties hardcore heroes (Misfits, Descendents), Nineties hitmakers (Green Day, Blink-182) and beyond, punk bands have always championed great songwriting alongside their anti-authoritarian stance. And punk’s focus on speed, concision and three-chord simplicity is a natural fit with pop’s core values.
Over the years, what we now know as pop-punk has transformed rapidly, evolving with the times and the trends. As New Wave and college rock, followed by ska, rap, emo and even boy-band aesthetics have made their way into the mix, one feature has remained constant: Pop-punk is for the teens – or at least the young at heart. It’s inherently bratty, angsty-ridden, self-deprecating and generationally divisive. It’s also tender and romantic, thriving on nostalgic, swooning scenes of first loves, life-changing kisses and tragic heartbreaks. It is the OC, the One Tree Hill, the teen soap opera of contemporary rock. The early music of standout acts like Blink-182, Simple Plan, Sum-41 and, yes, even Green Day, was always about arrested development, a stubborn desire to never grow up. And fans returning to these classic albums 10, 15, 20 years on can feel like maybe they never did – a state of “What’s My Age Again?” bliss.
“The whole spectrum of human experience, all that longing and self-doubt, is perfectly sketched out in those formative years,” The New Yorker‘s Amanda Petrusich wrote in 2016 of the potency of adolescent emotion, while reflecting on Blink-182’s comeback. “That’s where pop-punk lives. Its rawness lies not in the music but in the heady newness of those feelings.”
In celebration of this durable, fiercely beloved movement, we count down the 50 best pop-punk albums so far. From the Buzzcocks to 5 Seconds of Summer, here is punk’s new canon.