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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
16

Green Day, ‘American Idiot’ (2004)

Pop-punk, in theory, was never meant to grow up, but with American Idiot, Green Day found a brilliant, political loophole. In direct response to George W. Bush’s presidency, the trio crafted an immersive, urgent rock opera fueled by rage and love, and told from the perspective of a dejected young Jesus of Suburbia itching to leave his deadbeat town. “We did everything we could to piss people off,” Billie Joe Armstrong told Rolling Stone in 2005. It was an ambitious, anti-pop-punk move for the band, to create sprawling nine-minute stadium-worthy songs filled with characters, plot development and a terrifying reflection of reality. But it worked: American Idiot was a big comeback moment for the former bratty upstarts. “I felt like I was too old to be angry anymore,” Armstrong continued. “It’s sexy to be an angry young man, but to be a bitter old bastard is another thing altogether.” B.S.

50 Best Pop Punk Albums All Time
15

Sum-41, ‘All Killer No Filler’ (2001)

Canadian pop-punkers Sum-41 emerged in a dense 2000s pop-punk marketplace, oversaturated but hungry for more. Their debut, All Killer No Filler, was an immediate success – due in large to their partnership with pop-punk producer extraordinaire Jerry Finn, but also to their respect for the genre and motivation to expand upon it. While the record drowns in its adolescent insecurity (“Motivation”) and a clichéd pop-punk desire to break out of one’s hometown (“Crazy Amanda Bunkface”), it also employed emo-pop hooks years before they became the norm (“Rhythms” and “Handle This.”) And like few other pop-punk acts, Sum-41 experimented with rap, as on teen-angst anthem “Fat Lip,” a rallying cry against conformity and societal pressure. “White rock bands got really lame – they have broken hearts and all that shit. But the hip-hop guys, like DMX, they’re badass with strip clubs and booze,” drummer Steve Jocz told Rolling Stone in 2001. “That’s what we want to be doing.” M.S.

50 Best Pop Punk Albums All Time
14

New Found Glory, ‘New Found Glory’ (2000)

New Found Glory’s self-titled second LP is exactly what you’d expect from a bunch of baby-faced punks who kept an altar to Britney Spears in their van. Yet diva-worship aside, these guys were no Mouseketeers. An export of the South Florida hardcore scene, the group took cues from neighboring punks Discount and even metalcore band Earth Crisis to brew combustible anthems such as the splashy opener “Better Off Dead” or crushed-up morsels of rock candy like lonely tour ballad “Dressed To Kill.” Their breakout single “Hit or Miss” would be the band’s lucky charm: legend goes that Drive-Thru Records signed the band after NFG tourmates Midtown played the song for co-owner Stephanie Reines in a blizzard. Made unforgettable by the piercing trill of frontman Jordan Pundik – “The needle on my record player has been wearing thin,” he sings. “This record has been playing since the day you’ve been with him!” – their pop melodrama was contagious. “It was one of those CDs that never found its way out of my CD player,” Mark Hoppus told Alternative Press in 2010. “New Found Glory just had something different and unique.” As guitarist Chad Gilbert told Chorus.fm, “When New Found Glory started, our genre didn’t really exist. There was Blink and West Coast punk that was big, but that was a different style. [NFG] and Saves the Day were blending more emotional lyrics with punk/hardcore-influenced stuff. When we started writing songs, it just came out. We didn’t overthink it. Is this punk? Is this not? Is this whatever?” This genre-shifting, yet super accessible formula ensured New Found Glory‘s position on the Billboard 200 for 21 weeks, and continued to pay off big-time on their 2002 major-label debut, Sticks and Stones. S.E.

50 Best Pop Punk Albums All Time
13

The Offspring, ‘Smash’ (1994)

While Green Day were the poster boys of the Nineties punk boom, the Offspring were integral in giving the genre an added mainstream boost. In 1994, the Orange County band’s third LP, Smash, broke the Billboard Top Five and became the biggest-selling independent album to date. The band racked up mega-hit singles – the quirky, gang-violence–themed “Come Out and Play”; the sardonic loser’s anthem “Self-Esteem” – without toning down their signature hard-edged crunch. Of course, the band’s pop appeal came with a price: Punk purists cried foul when they broke big and signed to Columbia following the release of Smash. “Isn’t it ironic?” frontman Dexter Holland reflected to Rolling Stone on the album’s 20th anniversary. “You start a punk band because you feel like you’re being ostracized. Then your punk band gets big and you get ostracized again.” B.S.

50 Best Pop Punk Albums All Time
12

Jawbreaker, ’24 Hour Revenge Therapy’ (1994)

Home to luminaries like Green Day and Rancid, the Bay Area was the epicenter of underground punk in the early-to-mid-Nineties – and no band evoked the spirit of that time and place better than Jawbreaker. Their third album, 24 Hour Revenge Therapy, captures the sense of rebellion that united different punk factions throughout Jawbreaker’s adoptive hometown. Although formed at NYU, the trio made the ambitious move to California in 1987, where they were embraced as fiercely as any band born in Oakland. Listeners didn’t need to know the scene politics of beloved nonprofit venue 924 Gilman Street to relate to the streetwise grit and melodic euphoria of timeless punk fight song “Boxcar” or the redemptive, surging “Condition Oakland,” which, as singer-guitarist Blake Schwarzenbach told Pitchfork, encapsulated the album. “It addressed those ideas of loneliness and struggling to be an artist in a kind of rough environment,” he said. “It has a lot of immediate truth to it.” L.G.

11

NOFX, ‘Punk in Drublic’ (1994)

NOFX’s fifth LP best displays the mix of crass wit and songwriting chops that have made them pop-punk mainstays for well over three decades. “To me, that was our best album,” guitarist El Hefe told the Associated Press in 2014. “I had no idea that it was going to sell that big. Gold? That was probably the furthest thing from our mind. I thought, ‘Wow, this is great, but okay, it’s punk music, and how much money can you really make in the punk scene?’ From there, it was like the rollercoaster just took off.” Driven by frontman Fat Mike’s grating sneer and Hefe’s flamboyant shred, the album juggles hard-hitting punk, silly ska and tightly crafted rock songs about busking and fighting Nazis. The Muffs’ Kim Shattuck makes a cameo in “Lori Meyers,” a labor song for the girl-next-door turned sex worker. Punk in Drublic‘s gritty melodicism in songs like “Linoleum” and “Dig” gives the record a timeless quality; their button-pushing anti-PC stance, not so much. But if at its heart, much of pop-punk is cringe-inducing, this scuzzy manifesto – an inspiration to scores of bands, from Blink-182 to Lagwagon – is canon. M.S.

50 Best Pop Punk Albums All Time
10

Misfits, ‘Walk Among Us’ (1982)

For some, hardcore was about social commentary or emotional release, but Misfits frontman Glenn Danzig was just looking to have a good time. “More people are into the band now, but we’re still misunderstood, especially by the political punks,” the New Jersey–born singer told the Flesh and Blood zine in 1983. “They’re looking at the music as ‘what can punk rock do to further my political beliefs?’ and we’re looking at it as ‘yeah, let’s have fun.'” If that was the band’s objective, Danzig & Co. never achieved it more fully than on Walk Among Us, an album that mashed together aggro three-chord riffs, bubblegum-pop hooks (complete with “whoa-oh” sing-alongs), and lyrics packed with B-horror-movie imagery and stomach-churning violence. The songs’ frantic tempos and loutish backing vocals couldn’t obscure Danzig’s extraordinarily supple, Elvis-indebted pipes, which gave even Walk‘s most antisocial moments – “Skulls” (“Hack the heads off little girls/And put ’em on my wall”), “Astro Zombies” (“And your face drops in a pile of flesh/And then your heart, heart pounds/Till it pumps in death”), “Hatebreeders” (“Murder one inborn into your every cell/It’s in your blood and you can’t shake it”) – a timeless teen-idol appeal. Pop-punk’s heyday was still a decade off when the Misfits broke up in ’83, but the band’s influence looms large: No self-respecting band in the genre is without a Walk Among Us cover or three in its repertoire. “We can play almost every Misfits song,” Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba told the Dallas Observer. “I love The Misfits, but it’s not brain surgery.” H.S.

50 Best Pop Punk Albums All Time
9

Paramore, ‘Riot!’ (2007)

Though the majority of pop-punk fans are female (51 percent of Warped Tour attendees are women), the genre has always been a whiney boy’s world, a scene often preoccupied with villainizing an unrequited crush. But the emergence of Paramore helped tip the scales: Frontwoman Hayley Williams’ four-octave soprano pushed the boundaries of what a pop-punk performance could sound like. Similarly, lead single “Misery Business,” a boyfriend-stealing anthem of arena-size proportions, flipped the genre’s gender script on its head. Riot! remains a touchstone of its time, not just because it brought a much-needed new feminine energy to pop-punk, but because its songs were simply better than most of what Paramore’s contemporaries were churning out – and just as bitter. “There was an excitement around it that we knew was different from anything we’d experienced up until then,” Williams told Track 7 of Riot!, “It was a lightning in a bottle moment in time.” M.S.

50 Best Pop Punk Albums All Time
8

Blink-182, ‘Dude Ranch’ (1997)

In 1997, pop-punk fans were largely allergic to the idea of major-label deals, but Blink-182 believed in their mass-market potential before the rest of the world did. They signed to MCA and got to work on their sophomore LP, Dude Ranch, still honoring the same DIY spirit that drove their early releases. Bassist Mark Hoppus wrote “Dammit,” the loser’s anthem that would launch the album, after playing around on an acoustic guitar that was missing two strings. Still, the record’s juvenile overtones often concealed real poignancy: “Dick Lips” is an empathetic ode to a teen fuckup (“Remember I’m a kid/I know not what I did”), while “Josie” is a sweet song about a considerate, burrito-retrieving girlfriend. The album’s disarming combo of humor and raw pop smarts helped Dude Ranch go platinum, paving the way for Blink’s future megastardom. But the band never lost the wide-eyed attitude on display here. “The biggest compliment of all is a kid saying we opened up his eyes to a new style of music,” Hoppus would later tell Rolling Stone. “We’re kind of like Fisher-Price: My First Punk Band.” M.S.

Generation X, 'Generation X' (1978)
7

Generation X, ‘Generation X’ (1978)

Though he made his biggest commercial mark in the Eighties, some of Billy Idol’s finest work can be found on the self-titled 1978 debut of London punks Generation X. Packed with zippy chord progressions, instantly catchy choruses and gobs of streetwise attitude – the patented Idol sneer was already in full effect – songs like “Ready Steady Go,” “Youth Youth Youth,” “One Hundred Punks” and the dramatic “Kiss Me Deadly” were generally considered too poppy and shallow to be taken seriously at the time, but they’ve aged remarkably well. “We were trying to communicate our experiences in a romantic but still realistic way, instead of just shouting grievances, as was the fashion at the time,” Idol wrote in his 2015 autobiography, Dancing With Myself. “This new direction pulled us away from the old punk, allowing us to maintain its aggression and attitude while advancing musically by exploring other, more complicated emotions and feelings.” The approach also left its mark on numerous pop-punk practitioners to come; as Billie Joe Armstrong put it back in 1994, when Rolling Stone asked him about being an icon for twentysomethings, “The only thing I know about Generation X is that I really liked their first record a lot.” D.E.

50 Best Pop Punk Albums All Time
6

Buzzcocks, ‘Singles Going Steady’ (1979)

Buzzcocks formed the same year Paul McCartney sang “Silly Love Songs” and broke up two years before Johnny Rotten declared, “Love is two minutes, 52 seconds of squishing noises.” In that time, they explored the common ground between poppy romance and punky aggression with a series of short, lustful bursts of melodic tension (and, incidentally, one of their greatest-ever songs, “What Do I Get?” lasts 2:52, for maximum squishiness). Although the Mancunian crew – which formed after seeing a Sex Pistols gig – released a number of brilliant long-players, none of their albums topped the compilation Singles Going Steady, which traces the origins of pop-punk one 45 at a time and has influenced artists as diverse as the Offspring and Fine Young Cannibals. Beginning with 1977’s confessional, hilarious “Orgasm Addict” (“Butchers’ assistants and bellhops/You’ve had them all here and there”), they’d mastered pinning quirky hooks to electrifying guitar. After original frontman Howard DeVoto split to form Magazine, guitarist Pete Shelley took over and wrote one catchy, devastating, sexually ambiguous confused-love song after another: “Ever Fallen in Love … (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve),” “What Do I Get?” “Promises.” Lyrically, the songs bemoaned how happiness is always just out of reach (literally, in the case of the downright funky “Why Can’t I Touch It?”). Musically, they were a marriage of the Kinks’ and David Bowie’s melodiousness with the bludgeon of Ramones. “To me it was just like the stuff I’d grown up with in the Sixties, like With the Beatles,” Shelley said in 2015 of his early songs. “We wanted to be intelligent, but not intellectual. We wanted to be entertaining, but not entertainers.” K.G.

50 Best Pop Punk Albums All Time
5

Fall Out Boy, ‘Take This to Your Grave’ (2003)

The 2000s saw Green Day and Blink-182 growing up and pop-punk becoming omnipresent, soundtracking teen flicks and filling arenas. Fall Out Boy’s debut ushered in a whole new, genre-blurring scene, in which heavy riffs and a screamo aesthetic mingled with old-fashioned teen heartbreak. The album is full of yearning, as Patrick Stump inquires where a girl’s boy is tonight, hoping he’s a gentleman (“Grand Theft Autumn/Where Is Your Boy”) and looks to the future while celebrating friendship and the freedom of the weekend (“Saturday”). The album, which began as a demo, helped secure Fall Out Boy’s future even before their sophomore LP would take them to unimaginable heights of rock success. “Up to that point in the band’s history, we were merely something to do before we were forced to give in to the pressures of real life,” singer Patrick Stump wrote in a blog post celebrating the album’s 10th anniversary. “We saw ourselves as a pretty cool excuse for a semester off of college.” B.S.

50 Best Pop Punk Albums All Time
4

Descendents, ‘Milo Goes to College’ (1982)

Think of Milo Goes to College as pop-punk’s Revenge of the Nerds–ian big bang. Descendents’ classic lineup came together in the late Seventies, when guitarist Frank Navetta and drummer Bill Stevenson, who bonded as teenage fishing buddies in Hermosa Beach, met up with thirtysomething local bass whiz Tony Lombardo. Bespectacled fan-turned-frontman Milo Aukerman gave the band not only its signature melodic brilliance but also its lovably dorky image. “I went through my first few years of high school trying not to be different and not get beat up, and then at some point a switch got flipped and I just said, ‘Fuck it, I don’t care. I’m just going to be the nerdiest, geekiest guy I can be,'” Aukerman recalled in 2016. That mindset soon found its way into early Descendents favorites like lovelorn anthem “Hope,” fishing-as-escape rallying cry “Catalina” and cool-kid takedown “I’m Not a Loser,” with Lombardo contributing ironic masterpiece “Suburban Home,” and its “I want to be stereotyped/I want to be classified” refrain. Though the band flaunted serious hardcore chops and shared bills with Black Flag, shameless goof-offs like “Weinerschnitzel” (a frantic fast-food order set to music) and “I Like Food” made it clear that they had no patience for stagy punk angst. True to their debut’s title, Aukerman actually would ditch the band to further his education – before returning in the mid-Nineties for the stellar Everything Sucks, and sticking around on-and-off ever since – but the trademark silly-sappy blend of Milo Goes to College would become the blueprint for pop-punk as we know it. “They were like this punk-rock Beach Boys,” Blink-182’s Mark Hoppus told SiriusXM of their forebears. “All the punk rock that I’d heard before that was really angry and political and screaming and not really my thing. … I really liked the melody and the harmony of the Descendents; you could sing along to it. It was stuff that I cared about, like food and friends and hanging out and girls and being pissed at your parents.” H.S.

50 Best Pop Punk Albums All Time
3

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
2

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
1

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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