There was a time, long ago, when boisterous high-school humour and songs about girls at rock shows powered a formidable chart takeover. For a time in the early 2000s, pop-punk dominated MTV2 and and rock radio airplay. But by the end of the decade, even the genre's elder statesmen, Blink-182, had turned their back on it, and were seven years into an indefinite hiatus. Pop punk was firmly out of vogue.
But it's only ever a matter of time until these things come around again. When Machine Gun Kelly’s Tickets To My Downfall topped the Billboard Chart in the autumn of 2020, it was the first rock album in over a year to do so. More importantly, it was an unapologetic love letter to the snotty, buoyant pop-punk that the 2000s all but left behind. For those who had never quite divested from the genre, it felt like definitive proof that pop-punk still might have a seat at the table.
But there’s a lot more to the pop-punk scene right now than early 00s nostalgia. A new generation of musicians have taken the cornerstones of community, angst and energy, stripped away the misogyny and dick jokes, and are driving the genre forward.
Here’s a list of ten new artists leading the charge.
1. Meet Me @ The Altar
Championed by everyone from All Time Low, Green Day and Halsey, it’s no surprise that Meet Me @ The Altar are being heralded as the future of the scene. Now signed to Fueled by Ramen (the home of Paramore, Twenty One Pilots and Panic! At The Disco) the band pulls heavily from the bubbling optimism of the early 00s where it felt like bands like Blink 182 could genuinely take over the world. Never cynical and always exciting, their sugary take on the genre feels like a genuine breath of fresh air.
Travis Barker has worked with an awful lot of artists across every genre, but JXDN is the first person he’s signed to his own label, DTA Records. With a similar image to Machine Gun Kelly, but blending that retro punk outlook with touches of Soundcloud rap, Jxdn has more in common with Juice WRLD than New Found Glory. Brooding, emotional but never backing down from a hooky chorus, it’s a very modern take on punk-infused pop
Driven by tangible fury, Baltimore’s Pinkshift have tapped into the same angst that gave My Chemical Romance’s Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge such a fiery sense of purpose. Refusing to simply copy what’s come before though, Pinkshift’s snarling mix of pop-punk energy and 00s post-hardcore aggression never feels nostalgic. Instead, the band provides the perfect soundtrack to a world trying to tear itself apart. Scream along and it’ll all feel better.
A rough and ready explosion of energy, NOAHFINNCE has only released a handful of tracks but has already been snapped up by Hopeless Records (Neck Deep, Taking Back Sunday, Sum 41). Scrappy and urgent, his debut single on the legendary label is a hyperactive introduction to an artist who isn’t afraid of fitting in or speaking their mind. With the door now kicked down, get ready to see NOAHFINNCE make himself at home.
With albums named after songs by The Wonder Years, and taking influence from the twinkling emo of Modern Baseball, Proper. deal in poignant, relatable lyrics. Vocalist Erik Garlington tackles race, privilege, sexuality and freedom atop cinematic indie-pop, as Proper. make music to help you navigate this new dystopia. Still, they always make sure to leave a glimmering nugget of hope at the heart of their moving emo-punk. Which is nice of ‘em.
6. Yours Truly
Aussie pop-punkers Yours Truly came out the gate armed with uptempo anthems of escapism, but with their debut album Self Care, the band explored feelings of anxiety, uncertainty and imposter syndrome over driving pop-punk. A record that is both comforting comfort and relatable, it sees the band growing up but losing none of their fire.
Blending huge choruses with heavy breakdowns, there’s more than a hint of A Day To Remember to Action/Adventure’s pummelling pop-punk. But rather than more of the same, the Chicago-based band bring something unique to the genre: ferocious but with a rare lyrical agility, the group wield an understandable fury but use it to create, not destroy. Barricades is a powerful, 59-second track that wastes no time in tackling the inequality of the scene while Tuck Everlasting clings onto hope.
8. Hot Milk
Bursting onto the scene with a bunch of sugar-coated pop-punk anthems, the Mancunian mob have really started to play in recent months. California’s Burning is a glitching nu-metal influenced rager, Glass Spiders is a soaring pop banger while June Gloom is driven by relatable arena ambition, leaving the door wide open for whatever comes next. Despite this colourful experimentation, every track is driven by Hot Milk’s signature enthusiasm, making them impossible to ignore.
Growing up, De’Wayne felt obliged to make hip-hop music because of how he looked. But after teaming up with emo rockers Chase Atlantic and touring with Waterparks, he’s really started to embrace his rockstar dreams. Last year’s fierce and flamboyant National Anthem took influence from The 1975, Nine Inch Nails, Radiohead, Prince and everything in-between while recent release I Know Something is a fearless punk-pop anthem that’s urgent and vital. He’s an artist who isn’t going to let anything stand in his way.
10. Magnolia Park
Bringing glitching synths to their pop-punk attack, Magnolia Park feel like the mid-point between pre and post hiatus Fall Out Boy. Despite their absolutely massive sound aiming straight for the world's stadiums, their introspective, soul-baring lyrics are given space to shine and the whole thing feels grand, powerful but personal. Get ready to lose yourself in their neon-tinged world.