When Is Pop Punk Just Pop?

17 December 2015, 12:37 | Updated: 28 November 2018, 12:02

five seconds of summer
James Wilson-Taylor

By James Wilson-Taylor

And why it's ok when it is.

You've probably noticed that at Pop-Buzz, we tend to cover a lot of pop punk. Whether it's a quiz made entirely of shirtless Brendons or the latest Paramore TV performance, we've got you covered. But lately we've been noticing a strange phenomenon in the Facebook comments under our posts...

It seems every fan has a different interpretation of what genre individual bands should fall into. Are MCR emo? Are FOB? Aren't 5SOS just a boyband? And so the angry debate rages on.

So what exactly constitutes pop punk? Granted, the style's origins lie with 70s acts such as the Buzzcocks combining punk riffs with big singalong vocal melodies, before Green Day and The Offspring revived the accessible yet heavy sound in the mid 90s. That harder sound is still very prominent today in bands like Neck Deep, The Wonder Years, A Day To Remember and New Year's Day.

But it was not until Enema Of The State in 1999 that the genre gained widespread mainstream popular appeal, largely due to the fact that this was, as much as anything else, a straightforward pop record - an album with more catchy hooks than Max Martin's wardrobe. Musically, Blink's breakthrough smash has far more in common with the pop acts of today than with the punkier pioneers that went before them.

You may think of 5SOS as just a boyband but listen and you'll find obvious influences of Blink, the band they would cover incessantly in their earliest days back in Oz. Plus how can a song like "Good Girls" or "Hey Everybody" be said to be any poppier than the output of New Found Glory, Good Charlotte, Sum 41, Simple Plan, Reel Big Fish, Sugarcult...the list goes on. 

It's pop punk guys - pop is in the name for a reason!

Pure pop music.

In the UK, Busted and McFly have suffered similar criticism and yet their (phenomenal) supergroup album McBusted saw them work with members of Blink, All Time Low and Weezer to create songs that can only be described as pop punk such as this excellent single written with Alex Gaskarth:

So is this just an argument about presentation and marketing? If All Time Low had released "Get Over It" as one of their own tunes, there would be no criticism of it being too pop or boyband-esque because that band are already well-established in the pop punk scene. Has 5SOS' association with One Direction, whilst making them huge stars, prohibited them from fully integrating themselves into this world? Odd that a genre renowned for welcoming all comers has fans insistent on drawing lines in the sand to dictate who can hang out with who. Surely there is room for everyone?

Pop-punk may not have the same strict definition it once did. But isn't the point of any genre to develop, adapt and span out into new areas? Imagine if hip-hop hadn't moved on from it's early 80s incarnation? Listen to Kendrick Lamar next to Run DMC - the blueprint is visible but what an incredible progression.

And whilst I'm not saying the poppier end of pop-punk has that level of cultural dynamism, the point still stands - if we restrict what is possible in a genre then it will refuse to grow, the well goes dry and the style becomes stagnant. Basically what I'm trying to say is this:

If you want to Defend Pop Punk, you gotta defend Pop too.