These are the 25 most influential songs of pop punk
Pop punk’s deep history is highlighted by these 25 songs that shaped the genre.September 23, 2020
Pop punk is often associated with the turn of the century when power chords, skateboarders and forever-young tunes on MTV ruled the scene. More recently, there’s the puzzling association of the genre with pizza that has turned into a giant inside joke.
But the music dates back decades, with staying power that outlasted most predictions. When New Found Glory embarked on their Pop Punk’s Not Dead tour in 2011, they probably didn’t realize the genre had so much life left.
There’s so much more to its history than just the TRL or Warped Tour eras, though. So we’ve compiled them, the 25 most influential pop-punk songs. Now, we’ve tried to give each era fair representation. Yes, a bulk of the big hits came in the late ’90s and early 2000s. But other songs, which may be a smidge less popular or pop punk, helped the genre survive while fans tuned their ears elsewhere get a little more credit on this list.
The Ramones – “Blitzkrieg Bop”
The evidence is anecdotal, but most show enthusiasts will agree few songs are covered more frequently by scene favorites than the Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop.” The song helped launch not only the band but a roaring New York punk scene that eventually spilled across the country. Featuring the “Hey, hos” and bubbly guitar riffs that made the band radio accessible, “Blitzkrieg Bop” serves as an early blueprint for how to package punk for pop culture.
Buzzcocks – “Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve?)”
Buzzcocks lived somewhere between Paul McCartney and the Sex Pistols. The pop punk we think of piggybacked off ’80s punk and emo, but it’s the Buzzcocks they mirror stylistically. Their songs were short, combining pop storytelling with a punk attitude. Buzzcocks were more polished and less political than the era’s punks with plenty of sappy, romantic songs. Yet, they still pushed punk aggression with more than a touch of adolescent humor (see: “Orgasm Addict”). It’s a tried-and-true recipe for success.
Descendents – “Suburban Home”
If pop punk was conceived when the Ramones first performed “Blitzkrieg Bop” at a belligerent New York club, it was truly born six years later when Descendents released Milo Goes To College. The 22-minute sprint has been copied by bands for decades. Almost all the greats name-check this album. It’s both lyrically thoughtful and mundane, depending on the song. “Suburban Home” was the hit, fast and choppy without ever losing its bounce. Alternative rock would likely sound very different without Descendents’ most recognizable work.
Bad Religion – “Suffer”
Pop punk failed to gain steam following Milo Goes To College. The hardcore scene owned the ’80s until Bad Religion sanded the edges with their third album, Suffer. “The record changed everything,” NOFX’s Fat Mike describes. He notes it “really changed the course of NOFX from being a hardcore band to a melodic hardcore band.” The album’s title track turned out to be its most popular, with its harmonized chorus and melodic singing foreshadowing a changing tide in the genre.
Jawbreaker – “Want”
The punk, pop-punk, emo and post-hardcore scenes often run together. You can, in large part, thank the legendary Jawbreaker for that. Expanding on the flash-in-a-pan D.C. emo scene, the charismatic New Yorkers helped freeze the public’s eye on punk rock in the early ’90s when grunge owned the alternative stage. Their 1990 album, Unfun, is a beloved classic with its DNA still in countless bands. But “Want,” the opening track, was the first hit. It was Jawbreaker’s foot in the door.
Pennywise – “Bro Hymn”
Like Bad Religion, Pennywise edge closer to the punk side of the pop-punk spectrum. But the band who performed at the first Warped Tour, later closing out the last, built on Suffer’s success with their debut self-titled album in 1991. Its highlight was “Bro Hymn” a soaring tune that offers the “whoahs” and substance often not found in traditional punk tracks. It’s also the last song ever performed on the final cross-country Warped Tour, in case you ever qualify for Jeopardy!.
Green Day – “Longview”
Shortly before Jawbreaker hit pay dirt by touring with Nirvana in 1993, a young Billie Joe Armstrong crafted Green Day’s “Longview,” named after the Washington city with a population of less than 40,000 people, debuting it in 1992. Ironically, a song about boredom launched the careers of one of music’s most entertaining trios. “Longeview” became the first single off Dookie, the highest-selling pop-punk album of all time. Ah, the beginning of something special.
MxPx – “Chick Magnet”
The first big wave of pop punk crashed ashore the music world in the mid-’90s. MxPx highlighted the era with the single “Chick Magnet,” a clear predecessor to New Found Glory, Simple Plan and others. The song’s bouncy guitar work and chunky bassline meshed with Mike Herrera’s nasally vocals makes it stop one on the road trip to 2000s pop punk. The band are often duplicated but never truly replicated. MxPx still churn out top-notch tunes 25 years later.
No Doubt – “Just A Girl”
The importance of No Doubt’s breakthrough song is obvious but worth noting—a band with a frontwoman with a song about women’s empowerment finally made it. Women certainly influenced punk decades before Gwen Stefani. But there was something about “Just A Girl” that temporarily broke the misogyny, softening a music scene that rarely encouraged women to step into the spotlight. So much work still needs to be done to make pop punk more conducive to women. But No Doubt unquestionably paved the way for Paramore, We Are The In Crowd, Hey Monday and others with dynamite gals behind the mic.
blink-182 – “All The Small Things”
blink-182’s global hit served as a musical gateway drug for so many of us. It peaked at sixth on the Billboard Hot 100, blink’s highest spot ever. It’s the most popular tune on an album that was the band’s best-selling. Your older sibling probably slipped you a copy of Enema Of The State like it was contraband, or maybe you heard it at a middle school dance. Maybe your parents were wild enough to buy you the album? Thank them now. They did well.
Lit – “My Own Worst Enemy”
While giants such as Creed, Limp Bizkit and blink-182 dropped hit after hit, no alternative-rock song earned more radio airplay in 1999 than Lit’s “My Own Worst Enemy.” It cracked the soundtracks of movies and video games, a pop-punk battering ram smashing living room doors across the country. Lit didn’t enjoy the staying power of their peers. But “My Own Worst Enemy” still holds up. It’s been featured in popular comedies such as Parks And Recreation, Central Intelligence and Hulu’s PEN15. And, of course, still lives on alternative radio airwaves across the country.
Jimmy Eat World – “The Middle”
At the crossroads of the pop-punk explosion and the ever-present emo scene was Jimmy Eat World’s “The Middle.” The band’s masterful 1999 album, Clarity, drew praise from scene peers—Dashboard Confessional’s Chris Carrabba counts himself as a huge fan, and the band even performed the album’s songs at Tom DeLonge’s wedding reception. But “The Middle” took over teens’ speakers, serving as a jumping-off point for future bands.
Sum 41 – “Fat Lip”
Appropriately titled, “Fat Lip” was Sum 41’s jab to the scene’s jaw. The more devilish version of blink-182 mirrored many of their peers but with an added edge. While other bands banked on basic melodies and high-pitched male singers, Sum 41 excelled because of Deryck Whibley’s harsh vocals and the more advanced guitar work of Dave Baksh. Both are present on “Fat Lip.” The song erupted up the 2001 summer charts, likely attracting the mohawked punk purists who may have been turned off by the blinks and Good Charlottes of the genre.
The Starting Line – “Best Of Me”
While “emo”-leaning bands such as Taking Back Sunday, Dashboard Confessional and Saves The Day rode the fast track to stardom, the Starting Line hugged their pop-punk roots. “Best Of Me” features an ungodly catchy hook, and you probably know the chorus by heart. But it’s the song’s, and for that matter the band’s, accessibility that makes it so influential. “Best Of Me” is very coverable, and young bands could envision themselves in the Starting Line’s shoes—a bunch of rebellious suburban kids with some talent and loads of passion for music. Bands such as Green Day or Jimmy Eat World reached almost unattainable success. But the Starting Line were a star to shoot for.
Good Charlotte – “Lifestyles Of The Rich & Famous”
Unlike “Little Things” or “The Anthem,” “Lifestyles Of The Rich & Famous” felt tailored to the normies. It was a simple, repetitive, overly polished track made for radio. And pop culture ate it up. It sprung up the Billboard Hot 100, found its way on popular TV shows and spent so much time on MTV, it should have paid rent. Good Charlotte’s hit is endeared by many, and it attracted a new crowd to pop punk.
Fall Out Boy – “Sugar, We’re Goin Down”
It’s hard to make it in music. It’s even harder to be innovative and make it in music. “Sugar, We’re Goin Down” is a lyrically abstract masterpiece that gave subsequent bands an excuse to write creatively. Fall Out Boy’s 2003 album, Take This To Your Grave, expanded on the great work of their predecessors. But it did little to move the needle outside of simply being great pop-punk record. “Sugar, We’re Goin Down” was a game-changer.
Motion City Soundtrack – “Everything Is Alright”
The Minneapolis natives put their own spin on pop punk with the popular “Everything Is Alright.” Justin Pierre sounded unlike his peers in the best way possible. And it was rare for a pop-punk song to get real on issues such as social anxiety or depression. Contemporary bands never shy from the topic, but early 2000s groups seemed to concern themselves more with lost loves and escaping hometowns. Motion City Soundtrack are often covered by younger, scene favorites. Cleary their legacy lives on.
Paramore – “Crushcrushcrush”
Paramore’s third single “Crushcrushcrush” proved the band weren’t a one-or-two-hit wonder. The tune earned shiny medals at the major award shows, topping most of the charts. Lyrically, it’s the catchiest song on their breakthrough album, with the memorable chorus “Nothing compares to a quiet evening alone/Just the one, two of us/Who’s counting on/That never happens, I guess I’m dreaming again/Let’s be more than this.” The barrier for entry is steep for women in rock. “Crushcrushcrush” shot Paramore over the top.
Mayday Parade – “Jersey”
It wasn’t Mayday Parade’s most popular work. But “Jersey” served as an anthem to New Jersey’s massive pop-punk/emo scene in the late 2000s. It was a direct nod the kids in the suburban capital of America who had little to do but jam out in their Middlesex County basements.
All Time Low – “Dear Maria, Count Me In”
While Fall Out Boy starred in music videos with Kim Kardashian and synth-pop bands such as Metro Station were blowing up, All Time Low found success with good old-fashioned pop punk. “Dear Maria, Count Me In” kicks like a kangaroo on Red Bull, featuring the perfectly pitched vocals of Alex Gaskarth. They always seemed just a touch more polished than his predecessors’. All Time Low joined bands such as Mayday Parade, We The Kings and the Maine to form a new era of pop punk that still lives today.
Hey Monday – “Homecoming”
The moment Cassadee Pope belted the first verse in “Torn” on The Voice, we knew she had the competition in the bag. And it’s not just because her blind audition was perfection. Hey Monday’s first album, Hold On Tight, owned the scene in 2008. Their signature song, “Homecoming,” was one of the few pop-punk/emo songs to excel in alternative music after a decade of genre dominance. The track also launched one of the more successful solo careers we’ve seen from a scene band.
The Wonder Years – “Came Out Swinging”
While pop punk rode backseat to easycore and indie rock in the early 2010s, the Wonder Years pressed the scene forward. Their 2011 breakthrough album, Suburbia I’ve Given You All And Now I’m Nothing, turned heads with its manic opening track, “Came Out Swinging.” Marked by driving guitars and those token pop-punk gang vocals, TWY gave a voice to a new generation of fans who were searching for a place to call home.
The Story So Far – “Clairvoyant”
The Story So Far helped birth “sad boi punk” with their heartfelt work in the early 2010s. “Clairvoyant” set the standard for bands such as Real Friends and Trophy Eyes, who would soon follow suit. Parker Cannon’s throwback vocals often mimic the glorious gravelliness of early punks. Their sound never seems too clean. The Story So Far are more Jawbreaker than they are Good Charlotte. It’s almost as if pop punk has come full circle.
Knuckle Puck – “Untitled”
Pop punk hit a climax in 2015. Nestled in the middle was Knuckle Puck, who released their popular debut album, Copacetic. There isn’t a skippable track on the record, with “Untitled” being the most popular. And now a handful of young pop-punk bands are trying to copy the Chicago native’s successful formula. When asking up-and-coming scene bands about “influential pop-punk songs,” “Untitled” is often namechecked, and for good reason.
Neck Deep – “In Bloom”
Before Machine Gun Kelly found pop-punk Jesus, Neck Deep’s “In Bloom” felt like it would go down as the genre’s last big hit. It’s somber yet bouncy, bleak yet hopeful. Fans latched on quickly, helping it become Neck Deep’s most-streamed track. But it’s the flowery music video that’s most memorable and often imitated. Notably, Real Friends and WSTR tried to duplicate the colorful look in their own productions.