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50 Greatest Pop-Punk Albums

From Blink-182 to the Buzzcocks, we count down the best of punk’s most lovable, lovelorn offshoot

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.

50 Best Pop Punk Albums All Time
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The Ramones, ‘Rocket to Russia’ (1977)

“[T]he band really wanted a hit, all of them – they wanted a hit bad,” engineer Ed Stasium told Music Radar. “So by the third album, Rocket To Russia, we started doing more overdubs, almost to soften the sound a little bit. I remember references to Steve Miller being made when we did a few of those songs.” Behind the chainsaw guitars, shredded blue jeans, breakneck tempos and disaffected idontwannas, the Ramones were always a pop band at heart, fans of vocal groups like the Shangri-Las, the Ronettes and the Crystals. And Rocket to Russia was maybe their most pop moment. It certainly was from the most quantifiable position, since it featured the only three of their songs to chart on the Billboard Hot 100: “Sheena Is a Punk Rocker,” “Rockaway Beach” and their cover of Bobby Freeman’s “Do You Wanna Dance?” “We came into our own on that record. We had a little higher budget, we were using really good recording studios,” Tommy Ramone told The Huffington Post in 2012. “By that time our playing was really tight. We thought we were just one step away from being successful, you know, so we had a lot of enthusiasm.” C.R.W.

50 Best Pop Punk Albums All Time
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Blink-182, ‘Enema of the State’ (1999)

Blink-182 offered a new generation all the hooks of teen-geared pop without the schmaltz – even rocking white Backstreet Boys–style jumpsuits in the video for standout Enema of the State single “All the Small Things.” Enema was the album that defined Blink-182’s winning formula: palm-muted power chords, nasal vocals, earworm choruses, the airtight drumming of then-new recruit Travis Barker and plenty of adolescent lyricism mixed with adult skepticism. The album’s unapologetic mixed messages – from R-rated tracks like “Dysentery Gary” and ode to immaturity “What’s My Age Again?” to the somber, suicide-themed “Adam’s Song” – clearly resonated, as the record would go on to sell more than 4 million copies in the U.S. alone. “Everyone who starts a band dreams of being successful,” Tom DeLonge told Rolling Stone in Blink’s 2000 cover story, “But never do you dream of this.” M.S.

50 Best Pop Punk Albums All Time
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Green Day, ‘Dookie’ (1994)

Naturally, a band named after a day spent smoking pot would perfect youth disillusionment, making mega-hits about masturbation (“Longview”), anxiety (“Basket Case”) and ditching suburbia (“Welcome to Paradise”) on their major-label debut. Green Day’s third LP is a pop-punk gut-punch, perfectly marrying tight melody with a get-bent mentality. After the grunge-dominated early Nineties, that irreverence was a breath of fresh air. “There was a lot of whining in rock at the time,” Billie Joe Armstrong told Rolling Stone 20 years after the album’s release. “By nature, we’re extroverts. So that’s what came across in our songs. We knew we were entering an arena of bands that we didn’t like.”

Despite its underdog spirit, Dookie was a massive success. It was the first pop-punk album that proved the “pop” part of the subgenre tag to be completely feasible, in part because Dookie was an album aimed squarely at teens: either literal ones, or those who never quite left that era of their lives behind. The LP spawned a brand new generation of punks, making the form feel younger and more accessible than ever. “I could care less if people think I’m insignificant because I’m 22 years old,” Armstrong told Rolling Stone in a 1995 interview. “That’s great. We caused a generation gap.” B.S.

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