In Defense of Cheesy Pop-Punk

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The turn of the century certainly brought about its fair share of change. New president. New technology. And with regard to music, a new movement.

Pop-punk wasn’t exactly a new phenomenon in the early-mid 2000s. Bands like Green Day, Blink-182, Jimmy Eat World, and – to an extent – The Offspring had long before established themselves as arena-filling masters of infusing up-tempo punk with pop-friendly melodies. But whereas pop-punk had previously been limited to a few successful bands, the early-mid 2000s bore an outright explosion of the genre.

Many decried the pop-punk boom of the early 21st Century as a stain on pop culture. Certain punk enthusiasts labeled the boom a cash-grabbing fad that produced little to no music of consequence. These folks certainly have a point – some of the pop-punk produced at the turn of the century was pretty damn terrible.

These folks are also wrong, in that the pop-punk wave of the previous decade produced plenty of quality tunes. It may not have all been deep and introspective – though some of it certainly fit that bill – but it was fun, and all these years later, much of it still holds up.

With Yellowcard – among the leaders of the early-mid 2000s pop-punk explosion – headlining House of Blues on October 9, let’s take a look back at some highlights of the era.

Am I biased because my now 12-year-old son routinely danced to this song – and only this song – as a toddler? Somewhat. Of course, we could have gone with any number of catchy hits from one of the leaders of last decade’s pop-punk boom. “Dirty Little Secret.” “Move Along.” “It Ends Tonight.” During their heyday, the All-American Rejects were the masters of producing radio-friendly, arena-flavored pop-rock.

Is Fall Out Boy a particularly insightful band? Not especially. Is Fall Out Boy a good band? Most certainly. Like Blink-182 before them, Fall Out Boy’s talent was often obscured by lightweight, juvenile material. However, like Blink, Fall Out Boy knew – and still knows – how to craft a hit. More than a decade after its released, “Dance, Dance” holds up as a catchy single that was very much symbolic of its era.

Houston’s own Fenix TX (originally known as Riverfenix) had a decent little run around the turn of the century. They even had the backing of Blink-182 co-frontman Mark Hoppus, who discovered the band and put them on tour with Blink. He also appeared in the video for “All My Fault,” by far the band’s best and most noteworthy single. The band is back at it, having just released CRE-EP – Fenix TX’s first new album in 15 years.

This was no fad; My Chemical Romance was a badass band. As much is evident from MCR’s major label debut – Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge – and its follow-up – 2006’s concept record masterpiece, The Black Parade. The band produced a number of hit singles before busting up in 2013, “Helena” among the most notable. The track, a tribute to frontman Gerard Way’s late grandmother, is about as perfect a pop-rock single as you’ll find.

New Found Glory is a band best enjoyed in doses, mostly because lead singer Jordan Pundik’s voice – of the nasally, high-pitched variety – can safely be described as an acquired taste. That said, the band has produced its share of hit singles, most notably “My Friend’s Over You.” The songwriting is the opposite of deep – “You were everything I wanted/But I just can’t finish what I started” – but the hooks are just so damn infectious. This was a common theme during this era.

Sugarcult never rose to a Fall Out Boy or My Chemical Romance level, but every music boom needs its supporting players, and these guys did it well. That includes their best single, the catchy-as-hell “Memory.” Seriously, try getting it out of your head after it inevitably gets stuck there.

Any number of Sum 41 singles – “Still Waiting,” “Pieces,” “Walking Disaster” – could have made this list (not “Fat Lip” though; that song is awful). But “The Hell Song” gets the nod for the same reason many others found their way to this list; the chorus is about as infectious as anything you’ll find from this era. Sum 41 is actually back at it again with the upcoming 13 Voices (due October 7) and a North American tour that kicks off October 5 (no Texas dates, unfortunately, for you Sum 41 diehards).

Despite their commercial prime being a decade ago, these guys are still at it and doing surprisingly well – each of their last six albums has debuted inside the Billboard Top 30 (a self-titled effort just dropped last week). Plus, Yellowcard’s set at House of Blues will draw well, thanks in part to hits like this. “Only One” has everything you could want from a mid-2000s pop-rock hit. Under five minutes? Check. Catchy chorus? Check. Melodramatic love song? Oh, you damn right. 

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