Avril Lavigne The Friday Night Boys Paramore AFI genre-bending bands artists pop-punk
[Photos via Avril Lavigne/YouTube, The Friday Night Boys/Spotify, Paramore/YouTube, AFI/Spotify]

10 pop-punk artists who started out in a completely different genre

Lately, Machine Gun Kelly has been making waves in the pop-punk scene. His massive transition from hip-hop has brought the genre back to the mainstream spotlight, granting opportunities for other pop culture icons such as Halsey to try on a mid-2000s sound.

While MGK‘s Tickets To My Downfall has become a divisive subject in the existing pop-punk community, the rock-influenced rapper’s progression isn’t necessarily unique. In fact, a number of prominent pop-punk artists had roots in different genres prior to their success in the scene. Here are 10 other artists who made the jump to pop punk.

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Avril Lavigne

It’s hard to picture Avril Lavigne as anything but the pop-punk princess who graced us with “Complicated.” But prior to recording Let Go, her talent was oriented toward country and folk music. In fact, she was actually signed to Arista Records under the assumption that she’d continue in that direction. Fortunately for all of us, though, she pushed for a departure toward punk rock, which ultimately earned her commercial success virtually overnight.

The Friday Night Boys

The Friday Night Boys may have created neon-leaning pop-punk music through and through, but they started with a much different intention. Vocalist Andrew Goldstein, who was formerly part of a prog-rock outfit, wanted to pursue pop. Fortunately, his background, paired with the influences of fellow band members, led to the infusion of genres that characterize the group.


MOD SUN’s genre transition in his current project is relatively recent as the rapper released his debut pop-punk song “Karma” in October. However, this is less a diversion than it is a return to his early alt roots having played drums with Four Letter Lie and Scary Kids Scaring Kids. The artist has spoken about his affinity toward the early scene and memories of singing with Patrick Stump circa 2003.

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Those who were around in the early days of the scene may remember Yellowcard‘s hardcore days. If you don’t, go stream Where We Stand in its entirety. Though light-sounding in comparison to many hardcore outfits of the time, it’s a stark contrast to their pop-punk masterpiece, Ocean AvenueUltimately, it was the addition of Ryan Key on lead vocals that took the band in the direction that we know them for.

The Menzingers

The Menzingers have been scene favorites ever since the release of A Lesson In The Abuse Of Information Technology in 2007. Though they debuted as a pop-punk outfit, their sonic background is surprisingly diverse. While vocalist Greg Barnett had early roots in the genre, the rest of the band actually came from a ska group. If you listen carefully, you can hear traces of this influence in their early discography.

Billy Talent

Billy Talent emerged as a pop-punk forerunner with the 2003 release of their “debut,” self-titled album. As it turns out, though, it was really just the debut of what we know them as today. Prior, the band had been known as Pezz and possessed more distinct ska and hip-hop elements in their sound. You can listen to their 1999 album, Watoosh!, in full on YouTube.

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Hayley Williams 

It hurts to think that there’s an alternate reality out there where Paramore never came to be. What a bleak world that must be… Fortunately for our universe, Hayley Williams didn’t bow to the early wishes of Atlantic Records and embark on a career as a solo pop artist. While we don’t doubt that she would have killed it regardless, we’re thankful for the band’s continued influence on the scene.


AFI really only qualified as a pop-punk outfit for a short while, deviating from post-hardcore toward more pop-leaning sounds for Decemberunderground and Crash Love. These records felt like a huge shift next to Sing The Sorrow and The Art Of Drowning. However, they were worlds away from the band’s earlier discography, which centered on a DIY punk sound.

Steve Harwell

Shrek could have been a very different movie had Steve Harwell not gotten involved with Smash Mouth. Prior to the band’s formation, the frontman was a member of the rap group F.O.S. (Freedom Of Speech). They put out one single, “Big Black Boots,” with Scotti Bros. Records before Harwell made the jump to alternative rock, later becoming an “All Star.”

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Pete Wentz

Given Fall Out Boy‘s transcendence from pop punk to pop over the last decade, it may be surprising to learn that their iconic bassist actually came up in the hardcore scene. Pete Wentz spent the better part of the ’90s experimenting with various facets of the genre. Even during the early years of FOB, he fronted a metalcore band called Arma Angelus with Rise Against’s Tim McIlrath on bass You can stream their only album, Where Sleeplessness Is Rest From Nightmares, on YouTube.

Who are your favorite genre-diverging artists? Let us know in the comments below!