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The Pop-Punk Music Scene

Updated on October 27, 2013

There are few genres of music that are as loud, fast, influential, and upbeat as pop-punk music, which can find it's roots in the American punk/hardcore and pop scenes. Just like many other genres, it's garnered itself a nice following and has built up a reputation over time since it's inception in the early 90s.

Though it's got a colorful and elaborate history, we can save a lot of time explaining just how the pop-punk music scene got started by offering you a highly condensed version

Brief History

In America during the 1980s, the hardcore punk music scene was in full swing. These bands were faster, harder, and much much louder than it's original punk predecessors. With messy distorted guitars, shouted and screamed vocals, and more of an emphasis on rhythm rather than melody, this scene never did become majorly mainstream, though it did spark the straight edge movement, introduced hardcore dancing (also known as slam dancing), and was a major influence on what would become known as pop-punk.

Later in the decade, bands such as Descendents, Bad Religion, and Screeching Weasel began to infuse hardcore-punk music with pop music, creating a more melodic, faster, and catchy genre which would be pop-punk. Quickly they began to build a small scene around them, with fans appreciating their more sarcastic and humorous approach to music.

In the 90s, pop-punk became more well known and was re-defined quite a bit. More bands focused on making their music even more upbeat and light-hearted, and most artists had a DIY approach when it came to their music. Blink-182, NOFX, Green Day, and The Offspring are some great examples that come to mind, and are often regarded as important bands in the early days of the scene.

Today, pop-punk is still a large music scene although it's undergone a few extra changes to incorporate even more catchy guitar riffs, melodic tunes, and a cleaner, more pop-ish sound. More and more bands have become part of the pop-punk genre because of this, creating a large pool artists that can be tied together through shared characteristics of their sound, even though they can also be very differrent.

Music Themes

There are many themes in pop-punk that are heavily focused on. Some themes had more prominence in the earlier years of the scene while others are more recent. These are some of the most often covered themes in pop-punk music.

  • Friendship/Togetherness
  • Growing Up
  • Love/Breakups
  • Being Positive
  • Politics/Social Issues
  • Depression
  • Defying Authority/Doing What You Want
  • Hate or Dislike for Another Person or Group

Many other themes are also covered such as death, drug use, and sex, although a lot less than the ones listed above. In terms of the last theme on the list, most pop-punk music involving it isn't about hating or not liking someone for no reason. There's often a reason behind it, such as a bad friendship or being lied to.

Can You Guess the Theme of This New Found Glory Song?

Prominent Bands

While there are hundreds and hundreds of bands that fall under the pop-punk category, there have been a specific handful that are prominent and the most well known and influential in the scene. These are just a small number of them.


Formed in Poway, California in 1992 and consisting of Mark Hoppus, Tom DeLonge, and Travis Barker, they're one of the most well known bands all around the world. One of the leading figures in pop-punk music, they helped redefine the genre as a whole in the early years. They're known for their toilet humor, sarcasm, and upbeat songs about basically refusing to grow up.

Dan "Soupy" Campbell of The Wonder Years
Dan "Soupy" Campbell of The Wonder Years | Source

New Found Glory

New Found Glory plays a major role in the pop-punk scene, especially today. Formed in Coral Springs, Florida in 1997, they have closer ties than most with hardcore punk bands such as BANE and H2O. They're credited with coining the term "easycore" which is another sub-genre of punk rock consisting of pop-punk bands that are heavily influenced by hardcore bands.

The Wonder Years

Possibly the most revered band of the scene at this current point in time for posi pop-punk, The Wonder Years got their start in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 2005. Most of their music focuses on themes such as depression, friendship/togetherness, and staying positive, playing what they call jokingly "realist pop-punk." Dan "Soupy" Campbell is the frontman and main lyricist for The Wonder Years and has become an important figure to fans of the genre.


Having been around for quite some time (1978) and even being one of the pioneers into the world of pop-punk, the Descendents are a highly influential band, especially on other pop-punk bands (such as The Wonder Years). They're not exactly a pop-punk band themselves, but merely a huge influence on the genre. Most of their music revolves around angst, growing up, and humor. They're well known for their song, "I'm the One."

As stated earlier, these are just a few big name pop-punk bands that play a huge role in the scene. Many others include Set Your Goals, Man Overboard, Sum 41, Four Year Strong, Screeching Weasel, Guttermouth, Brand New, and more. There are also bands who are often classified as more than one specific genre of music that fall into the pop-punk spectrum.

Example: Four Year Strong

Four Year Strong is well known for their deep roots in hardcore music and in many of their songs it's easy to hear the influence (double bass and shouts). Because of this, they're often categorized as pop-punk/easycore.

Their newest album, In Some Way, Shape, or Form (2012), strayed away from their usual sound that set them originally as a pop-punk/easycore band. Their synth player, Josh Lyford, left prior to play in the New England hardcore band called Foxfires.

Changing Sound and Related Scenes

Since the pop-punk genre is such a large one, many bands that fit into more than one category are constantly tweaking their sound, continuing to cause an expansion for what can be considered pop-punk music. While one album may very well fit into the category, others may not.

In recent years (2007-Now), many pop-punk bands have been paying more homage to their hardcore roots. Double bass, breakdowns, and occasional shouts/scream are frequent in these bands (A Day to Remember, Four Year Strong, Set Your Goals, etc.)

Most pop-punk bands have close ties to those in the the hardcore community, and it's not unnatural for musicians from either scene to switch over to the other. They're also quite connected with ska-punk bands as well, such as Rancid, since they gained notice around the same time.

Clothing Style

The pop-punk music subculture and it's fan enjoyed a very laid back style, ranging from their clothes to concerts. Shows weren't elaborate or over the top (most bands barely had the money for their own instruments), and neither were their clothes which often consisted of khaki Dickies shorts, jeans, cargo shorts, band t-shirts, polo shirts, and Vans shoes. Messy/dyed hair and piercings were also a large part of their style.

Nowadays, the style has evolved a bit. Dickies and cargo shorts aren't seen as much along with polo shirts, but Vans shoes and band t-shirts are still staples in style. Though messy and dyed hair might have fallen out of favor, piercings certainly haven't with many fans and musicians even gauging them. Tattoos have also seen a huge rise in favor with the scene.

Pop-punk style then (90s/early 00s) and now. Can you see the difference?
Pop-punk style then (90s/early 00s) and now. Can you see the difference?

Fans and the Scene

Creating their own subculture, most fans are teenagers and adults ranging from 21 to 30. (though older and younger people are often fans as well). Since the scene is closely tied to that of hardcore music and the straight edge movement, many are fans of hardcore music and are often even straight edge themselves.

Fans in the scene usually are more liberal and are active in/care about social issues. Though many are well adjusted individuals with a good head on their shoulders and a sense of originality, elitism can be an issue, them feeling as if they're above many others and different music scenes or subcultures, even though they understand that everyone is equal. This is usually more of an issue with teens and younger fans and isn't much of one with those who are older.

Friendship and the idea of being part of a group is of major importance to them, seeing as it's a recurring theme in their music (even more so in posi pop-punk). Straight edge or vegan/vegetarianism which is practiced by many in the scene is also an anchor point, and is usually the cause of elitism among fans.

However, the most important thing in pop-punk music and to its fans is the idea of staying true to yourself and always being real.

“Don’t be the “I knew them when they only had a 7 inch out” guy. That guy is an a**hole. As long as the band is still doing the same thing they’ve always done then it shouldn’t be an issue.”

-- Dan “Soupy” Campbell, The Wonder Years


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    • jburton11188 profile image


      8 years ago

      I'm really excited that Warped Tour brought back some great bands finally. Over the past couple of years I had really missed bands like NFG or Yellowcard and for them to both come out with new albums this year and go out on tour in the same year was just awesome. Mix that with a new Blink 182 album recently, I feel like I'm back in high school. You also have bands like Taking Back Sunday and The Starting Line who are doing shows to commemorate their first break out CD's, playing just songs off those albums for the fans, even if they're songs they don't normally play. I love that concept, I wish more people would do that. If NFG came out with a Sticks and Stones tour I'd go see them in a heartbeat.

      I really had felt like this genre was dying, I'm really glad to see it putting its feet up agains the wall and pushing back now.

    • Nick Hanlon profile image

      Nick Hanlon 

      8 years ago from Chiang Mai

      When was the first punk song made?The answer is 1965.The song is called Social End Product.The band is the Bluestars from New Zealand.Check it out on youtube.


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