The 20 most underrated pop-punk albums from the last two decades
At this point, you could practically write a textbook on the art of creating a pop-punk song. Ever since people discovered Green Day’s Dookie and the masses fell in love with “All The Small Things” on MTV, the genre has blossomed.
Pop punk’s big break didn’t mean the genre got locked into a formula, either. The style has continued to evolve and grow. A new legion of artists have joined pioneers such as blink-182, Avril Lavigne and Good Charlotte. And styles like hip-hop, metal and electronic music have continued to blend with punk's three-chord roots. Now, artists such as Meet Me @ The Altar, LILHUDDY and KennyHoopla are breathing fresh life into pop punk.
It’s easy to look back on the classics and the big hits. But one downside of pop punk’s vitality is some of the genre’s best moments are overlooked. There are tons of albums that never got quite the hype they deserved. For that reason, here are 20 of the most underrated pop-punk albums.
Fall Out Boy – Folie A Deux
After the glow of Infinity On High, Fall Out Boy could have easily just decided to go out on a high note. Even when being looked at as the black sheep of their catalog, Folie A Deux has some of the greatest songs that Pete Wentz would ever write, including classics such as “I Don’t Care” and “20 Dollar Nose Bleed.” While this would be the last record that we’d receive from FOB for a long time, Folie A Deux was proof that it wasn’t because they were out of ideas.
Zebrahead – Broadcast To The World
Zebrahead is a band that consistently defies musical expectations. Pop punk might feel like too specific of a niche for a band that casually strays into the realm of hip hop, ska and hard rock with ease. But on 2006's Broadcast To The World, the band show their mastery of tuneful choruses and artfully crafted songs. And what song better captures the fun and energy of a pop-punk anthem than, well... "Anthem"?
93PUNX – 93PUNX
It’s not every day that you see someone on Vic Mensa’s level prove he’s a master of multiple genres with a punk-rock album. Given his skills as a musician, though, it almost makes too much sense. Hearing him lose his mind over punk beats makes for some of the hardest music of his career. This record certainly pushes the limits of pop punk, but it perfectly mixes the songwriting chops of the genre with an energy that would make Sex Pistols proud.
NOFX – First Ditch Effort
If you’ve ever listened to Me First And The Gimme Gimmes, you know someone like Fat Mike has a strong musical sense of humor. But when he does want to hunker down and talk about something serious, he can really tug on your heartstrings on an album like this. As he grapples with his struggles with addictions, you can feel his determination to stay sober every step of the way. For anyone who’s ever seen the pain of addiction, there’s a whole lot to unpack on this one.
POORSTACY – The Breakfast Club
It’s hard to talk about pop-punk history while ignoring genres like emo and hip hop. Enter POORSTACY, who has already proven himself a master of the above and more. Fluidly blending elements of anything he seems to feel like using, POORSTACY has showcased pop punk’s ability to evolve. While his new album leans on deep concepts and horror punk imagery, his debut record captured all of the atmosphere and emotional depths of emo rap while revealing his complete mastery of punk-rock energetics.
Potty Mouth – SNAFU
As big as the ‘80s nostalgia trip has been in the past few years, throwing it back to the ‘90s like Potty Mouth's SNAFU is more than welcome. From the sounds of this record, this is the kind of music that artists like Liz Phair would have made back in the day. It possesses the same type of snotty attitude that you’d get from a band like Bikini Kill. While not exactly riot grrrl energy on every track, it’s still as catchy as ever from a punk’s perspective.
Waterparks – Entertainment
Like everyone else, it’s easy to collectively lose your minds at how much Waterparks have been blowing up ever since Double Dare. The new record is amazing as well, yet Entertainment falls in a unique spot between them. Though there are definitely some bangers on here, the best parts of this album come at the end, which go into either full alternative-rock territory or electronic affairs like “Crybaby.” Down the line, we might be talking about this record the same way we talk about blink-182’s Untitled record.
blink-182 – Neighborhoods
Speaking of blink-182, a lot of fans weren’t sure what to expect when Neighborhoods first came out. Though this does have traces of Angels & Airwaves buried in there, hearing these pop-punk titans back together again is amazing to watch. They may not have had the best time putting this record together, but if that meant giving us songs such as “Ghost On The Dance Floor,” the effort was well worth it.
Simple Plan – Simple Plan
One of the cardinal sins that you can make as a pop-punk band is to grow up. No matter how long you last, you’re going to arrive at adulthood at some point. And when Simple Plan made that leap, it had the potential to best their classic stuff, with Dave Fortman’s production sounding amazing. Once you get this record into your rotation, chances are you’re going to be singing along with these songs just as much as stuff like “Welcome To My Life” and “I’m Just A Kid.”
The All-American Rejects – The All-American Rejects
The debut album is always a tricky beast for bands, as they try to put everything great about them into one package. Though All-American Rejects would flirt with perfection on their next record, this is no slouch at all. Tyson Ritter flexed his pipes and showed us all how to write a singalong chorus that you can belt out at the top of your lungs. Also, any album that includes a song like “Swing, Swing” deserves to be among the best of pop punk.
Avril Lavigne – Head Above Water
If you were to take a look at all the pop-punk artists who managed to stay true throughout their careers, Avril Lavigne would have to be close to the top of your list. Outside of a few shake-ups she’s taken in her career, Head Above Water still has all the tropes that made her the pop-punk princess back in the 2000s. You can see her growing as a songwriter here as well, with tracks such as “Birdie” capturing that same angst as “Complicated.” There are a few twists and turns on this record, but if you know Avril, you know writing good tunes ain’t that hard for her.
Pale Waves – Who Am I?
Remember when we were talking about the greatness of Lavigne’s early work? It turns out that Pale Waves also had the idea to stick to their roots to hit us with a blast from the past on Who Am I? Just as the album art would lead you to believe, this is the best kind of nostalgia trip, taking bits and pieces from the ‘00s and bringing them into a modern context. Proof again that while the times are changing, pop punk has still got the same power it’s always had.
Sum 41 – Chuck
With years of hindsight, you forget how important this Sum 41 record was for pop punk. Even though it might have been weird to see the band who brought you “Fat Lip” going into hard-rock mode, this is what broadened the playing field for pop punk. Bands such as PUP have taken their cues and gotten a lot more aggro with their music. You can still call this a pop-punk record, but where else are you going to find something like “Some Say” set alongside a Metallica tribute like “The Bitter End”?
Good Charlotte – Generation RX
You’re always taking a bit of a gamble as a pop-punk band when you decide to talk about real issues. If Green Day have taught us anything, it’s that that gamble is rewarding when it does work, and Good Charlotte were more than up to the challenge. After blasting through songs such as “The Anthem” back in the day, this short slice of reality hits hard. Broaching difficult topics like seeing friends pass away at the hands of addiction, this album can really make you tear up. Still anchored to the pop-punk sound they helped define, this album is proof that the genre was always capable of tackling the heaviest of real-world issues.
The Menzingers – Hello Exile
Pop punk has always had a few different flavors to it, but none of them were meant to be as heartbreaking as the Menzingers' Hello Exile. As far as punk is concerned, this is the kind of music that Bruce Springsteen would have written if he grew up listening to Alkaline Trio. There’s definitely a cynical attitude, but the choruses behind songs such as “Anna” and “I Can’t Stop Drinking” feel more in line with classic rock than blink-182. It’s catchy in all the right places and chaotic when it wants to be, but it’s also got heart, and that’s the most important thing.
Doll Skin – Manic Pixie Dream Girl
From the first few songs of Doll Skin's Manic Pixie Dream Girl, this is what P!nk would sound like if she had a bit more grit in her delivery, with a bit of Foo Fighters thrown in for good measure. The emphasis is still on the punk side of things, though, and this is an absolute blast from the moment you press play. If you listen to this more than once, you’ll know that “Shut Up (You Miss Me)” not becoming a radio hit is a crime.
Spanish Love Songs – Brave Faces Everyone
The past few years have certainly made things more difficult, but knowing that Spanish Love Songs have the same kind of pain is cathartic. Even though the title of this record captures everything succinctly, their unique brand of emo rock and pop punk is a picture of what it’s like being in your mid-20s and not knowing where to go from there. Things might not be OK 24/7, but as long as you put on a brave face, it might all work out in the end.
Paramore – All We Know Falling
Over the years, Paramore have continued to transform with each release. Their songwriting chops were on display from the beginning, and All We Know Is Falling has the same kind of power that we know and love today. From the minute she opened her mouth to sing, we had a superstar on our hands with Hayley Williams. While she’s never had to prove a thing to us, she’s singing like she wants the world to know what she’s truly capable of.
Green Day – Warning
And now we come to the most high-profile band on the list, with Green Day just coming off of a long exhausting career in the late ‘90s. With the new decade dawning, though, they had a lot more to offer, showing off their folk-rock chops on this one. Billie Joe Armstrong especially shows why he belongs in the big leagues as a songwriter with “Minority.” It wasn’t your traditional pop punk by any stretch, but this was just testing the waters for everything that was to come.
Panic At The Disco – Pretty. Odd.
When you’ve become one of the biggest acts in the scene, you don’t really want to mess with the formula too much. Instead of just the traditional emo hangups, Panic At The Disco removed the punctuation from their name and made an old-school folk-rock record inspired by artists such as the Beatles and Crosby, Stills & Nash. In so doing, the band revealed the true scope of their influences and their artistry.