Pop Punk: Willow, Olivia Rodrigo and the long and strange legacy of the genre


“Nobody likes you when you’re 23,” as Blink-182 used to sing on MTV – 23 summers ago. But all these years later, pop punk isn’t just grown up. In 2022, pop punk is back from the dead, more popular and influential than ever – suddenly it’s teenager of the year. It’s a massive resurgence for the musical style that has always fetishized the ideal of permanent adolescence, turning a bratty snicker into a way of life. But now pop punk is downright respectable. How the hell did this happen?

This is beautifully bizarre, since pop punk was never intended to have cultural significance. The whole artistic goal was to encourage listeners to take off their pants and jackets. But no one could have predicted the eerie legacy of this music, whether it’s Avril Lavigne making her comeback as the ultimate stage queen, or Travis Barker ascending to the showbiz throne of American drummer. . Olivia Rodrigo even covers Avril’s “Complicated” during her first tour – a real passing of the torch.

Pop punk became a pervasive musical language, especially as female audiences and performers claimed this voice as their own. No other pop noise does a perfect job of answering the timeless question “Where’s my fucking teenage dream?” There is Paramore, which inspires a whole generation. Willow teams up with Travis and Avril to release her teenage angst. Olivia scored an instant classic number one hit with “Good 4 U,” a sociopath-bashing rage that could pass for Paramore, X-Ray Spex, the Buzzcocks, Fastbacks, or countless other beloved bands. Across America, scene moms are raiding their closets for this fall’s When We Were Young festival, featuring a slew of pop-punk and emo legends – a festival that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago .

Machine Gun Kelly is quite a story in itself, dropping his new guitar madman General public sale and getting engaged to Megan Fox with a ring covered in thorns that causes pain if you try to take it off. (Such a pop-punk thing to do.) People love to argue over whether it’s “real” pop punk or not, a debate that would have seemed absurd at the time – who ever thought this genre would have any purists? But controversy is part of the appeal. “I read a headline that said the age of the rock star was dead,” MGK announced at the American Music Awards. “Looks pretty alive to me!”

Pop punk hit a peak of cultural saturation in the early 2000s. When I think of that time, I always think of the night I went to see a Knicks game with Sum 41 – their label boss didn’t use his pitchside seats that night. These spiky-haired Canadian dudes didn’t exactly match the rest of the crowd, but they raised their eyebrows and made people smile – everywhere we went. The elderly security guard waved and said, “Hey, how old is he already?” (Bad group, man, but you get points for trying.)

The story goes back to the Ramones, who helped define punk rock by shouting “1-2-3-4!” set in the sweaty, drugged days of mid-70s CBGB. But it’s important to keep in mind that they were always inspired by bubblegum teen pop in the first place, as the ultimate boy band of the 1970s, the Bay City Rollers. When the Ramones wrote “Blitzkrieg Bop,” their role model was the Rollers, who had kids around the world singing “SATUR! DAYTIME! Night!” The Ramones happily admitted with that “Hey, ho, let’s go” that they were trying to copy the Rollers – and they honestly believed they were writing a number one pop hit. But they saw themselves as a boy band from the And let the record show that Avril scored her first number one hit with “Girlfriend,” a self-conscious homage to the Ramones’ classic “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend.”

When Aussie bands 5 Seconds of Summer made their huge breakthrough in 2014, they definitely pushed the boundaries between boy bands and pop punk. They rocked stadiums in their Green Day and Nirvana t-shirts, playing pop-punk guitar riffs under a “Mixtape ’94” banner, on an opening tour for One Direction. I chatted with them backstage at a stadium show that summer – we were all drinking chocolate milk. The 5SoS guys laughed hysterically at the idea of ​​”purists”, who wanted to question whether they were “real” or not. “It’s funny when you confuse people,” drummer Ashton Irwin told me. “I’ll watch online and see a 30-year-old guy say, ‘That’s not rock! Bullet for My Valentine for life!’ But his daughter probably likes our group. And she’s going to start her own band.

These words have proven to be prophetic, as one of the main reasons for the revival is that pop punk is a language that the girls of pop claim to express themselves, making the music more diverse and inclusive than ever. Paramore came to define the genre more than anyone, and every time Hayley Williams took the stage to sing, she left behind budding new rockers. At this point, everyone is now trying to deal with Hayley’s unfinished misery.

Arguments rage over what is “authentic” or “original” in pop punk, whether it’s young artists like Jxdn copying the sound or Blink-182’s Vegas residency. On some levels, it’s comical to think about this genre, literally every genre, having gatekeepers and authenticity cops. Now we live in a world where artists can be accused of degrading and belittling the artistic dignity of All-American Rejects. But that’s part of pop-punk history, as it continues to evolve and mutate into the future. No one would have guessed that this music would age so well, becoming more prominent and influential over the years. But I guess it’s growing.

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