Earn This Mixtape: Pop-Punk

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This is the first in a hopefully-recurring feature where the writers of Earn This will choose some genre or theme, collectively pick twenty or so of their favorite songs under that umbrella, and write a few words about each song. If we’re motivated, we’ll even embed a Spotify playlist.

For our first entry, Dan and Grant each picked ten pop-punk songs. We were a little unsure where to draw the boundaries of “pop-punk” — Grant suggested we use “anything that wouldn’t sound out of place on the American Pie 2 soundtrack” as a starting point. We included some songs that others may call “emo” or “power pop” or something else instead of pop-punk. Oh well, it’s our list.

Here are our twenty picks:

  • Dirty Little Secret – All-American Rejects
    If this song doesn’t make you want to grab someone of whatever sex you’re attracted to, you might not have a pulse. — Grant
  • Hit or Miss – New Found Glory
    Songs like these work best when they tap into emotions with simple lines and tunes. New Found Glory brilliantly capture unrequited longing in their breakthrough single. “The needle on my record player has been wearing thin / This record has been playing since the day you’ve been with him” is a great opening line, and I’m a sucker for the in-love-with-a-best-friend trope. — Dan 
  • Anthem – Blink-182
    In some ways, it’s classic Blink—with all those phrases about being an irritated but hopeful kid—but more fun on the ears. — Grant 
  • Right Now – SR-71
    Baltimore-based SR-71 at their peak were some of the best of the era at blending quippy lyrics with soaring hooks and fantastic snotty vocals courtesy of Mitch Allan. Their signature song is a tirade against a “fake plastic submarine” girlfriend. — Dan 
  • She’s Got a Boyfriend Now – Boys Like Girls
    Manages to stay ahead of the pop-punk-emo curve by sounding fun, not mopey. — Grant 
  • Flavor of the Weak – American Hi-Fi
    I’ve always had a soft spot for American Hi-Fi, whose singer and songwriter Butch Jones wanted the band to be more Cheap Trick and Big Star than Green Day and Sum 41. Their breakthrough single blends his power-pop leanings with the pop-punk aesthetics that were the style du jour to create an instant classic track. — Dan 
  • Letterbomb – Green Day
    I knew nothing of this song until it blew the house down live. A deep cut off American Idiot that deserves more attention. Spectacular from the bridge to the end. — Grant 
  • Girl All the Bad Guys Want – Bowling for Soup
    Back before Bowling For Soup’s singles were just a list of pop culture references (e.g. 1985 and High School Never Ends), they wrote a funny, winning (and Grammy-nominated!) bit of longing for a bad girl. — Dan 
  • Kill – Jimmy Eat World
    This site’s authors willingly cheat a little bit here in order to include Jimmy’s all-time best song.  A grittier melody than typical for them, but the disturbingly accurate lyrics sell it. — Grant
  • Buddy Holly – Weezer
    Goofy and a tad racist (“your tongue is twisted / your eyes are slit / you need a guardian!”), Buddy Holly is still one of my favorite songs. Its offbeat lyrics about a romance between outcasts are unforgettable, and you’ll have trouble finding a catchier song. — Dan 
  • Want You Bad – The Offspring
    See description for Dirty Little Secret.  But rocks harder.  A perfect song. — Grant 
  • All the Small Things – Blink-182
    Tough call between this and Dammit as my favorite of Blink’s singles. I think this is the better song, barely, and it also has reminds me of sixth grade better than anything else in this world – which may or may not work in its favor. The word “commiserating” has never been better sung. — Dan 
  • Self-Esteem – The Offspring
    That perfect combination of ‘I like making fun of pushovers” and “Am I a pushover?’ — Grant 
  • Chap Stick, Chapped Lips, and Things Like Chemistry – Relient K
    What, you thought I could go more than two posts without mentioning Relient K? I decided to include the upbeat leadoff track from Two Lefts, probably my favorite RK album. — Dan 
  • Summer – Sum 41
    I’m not exactly sure why I love this song so much, except that it sounds like its title like few songs I know. — Grant 
  • Without You Here – Eve 6
    I’ve written, with Colton, extensively on Eve 6 previously, and considered including about seven of their songs here. This is perhaps their punkiest track, an “honest-to-goodness headbanger” as Colton put it. — Dan 
  • You’re So Last Summer – Taking Back Sunday
    A deserved classic in the genre, from a band closer to the punk end of the spectrum than pop. The renowned double-tracked vocals and fiery guitar attack sizzle as well as ever, and I always love the double meaning that results from dropping one word off the end of the chorus: “Maybe I should hate you for this / Never really did ever quite get that far / Maybe I should hate you for this / Never really did ever quite get that.” — Grant 
  • Mother Mary – Foxboro Hot Tubs
    Green Day used a nom de plume in ’08 for a breather from their recent operatic leanings. The whole Stop Drop and Roll!!! album is a blast, and “Mother Mary” specifically is the essence of punkish pop-rock. — Dan 
  • Ocean Avenue – Yellowcard
    On the off chance that a pretty girl played this song for you when you were 16, or 18, or anywhere close, you get it. If not, my condolences. — Grant 
  • The Boys of Summer- The Ataris
    Pop-punk covers of ’80s songs are a dime a dozen, but I actually prefer this version of The Boys of Summer. The Ataris’ emotional intensity suits the tune. — Dan

Here are our picks as a Spotify playlist:

So, what do you think of our picks? What bands or tracks are our most glaring omissions?

2 thoughts on “Earn This Mixtape: Pop-Punk

  1. “All the Small Things” strikes me the same way, just two years younger –
    “Oh my God, this song feels like I’m ten.”

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