Pop-punk’s not dead: five best pop-punk albums of 2022


State Champs is one of the biggest names in pop-punk, playing international festivals like Download in Spain. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Andrew Ulstad, Columnist

Pop-punk had its heyday in the early 2000s with hits from Blink-182’s “The Rock Show” in 2001, Good Charlotte’s “The Anthem” and Simple Plan’s “Perfect,” both in 2002. For those who are thinking, “wait, that’s just alternative rock,” well, you’re not wrong. Pop-punk is a subgenre of rock that can share some common characteristics with many other genres.

The common threads that tie pop-punk songs together lie in the messages of each song. While not a hard and fast rule, most tracks include messages about love, lamenting a rough living condition, hopes for the future and the general vibe of “f*ck you and the world, my friends and I will make our own way.”

In my mind, the best pop-punk music does at least one of two things: makes you move (pop) and makes you think (punk). With all that in mind, here are the 5 best pop-punk albums of last year.

Number 5: “Growing Up” by The Linda Lindas

The Linda Lindas’ debut album perfectly epitomizes the eclectic nature of pop-punk with a little bit of everything. Want a protest-punk song about boomers in power? Listen to “Fine.” A Spanish language song asking how many times “people are people” has to be said? That’s “Cuantas Veces.” How about something with heavy Joan Jett vibes; Check out “Why.”

What’s even more impressive is how the disparate sounds of ‘80s punk, ‘60s pop and current power pop blend together to create a cohesive listening experience created by the group of teenagers. 

Best song: “Growing Up” 

This song takes ‘my friends mean the world,’ to the next level. It’s a call to action: don’t take everything on alone. Your friends are there to be leaned on, just as you should be for them. While not explicitly stated in the lyrics, the rest of the album makes me believe that one could consider this song a ‘call to action’ for a generation.

Best lyric from any song: From “Fine”

“You know we’re dying but you say that we’re cured. You keep on going, you think it’s fine.” I want this played on loop in front of so many government offices.

Number 4: “f.e.a.r.” by Sand Atlantic

This is the most pop-influenced album on the list. With a little bit of autotune, plenty of electric drum beats and a heavy dose of cynicism, there are so many catchy tunes on this record. I had “Pity Party” and “Dumb” stuck in my head for a week when they first came out. If you’re new to pop-punk and looking for something that’s easy to listen to, “f.e.a.r.” is a great introduction to the sounds the genre has to offer.

Best song: “Pity Party (featuring Royal & the Serpent)” 

Everyone has that person in their life. The one who has a different crisis every week, and treats every single one like it’s the end of the world. Well, Stand Atlantic has finally said what we’ve all thought at least once: “f*ck you and your pity party.”

Best lyric from any song: From “Cabin Fever”

“I’m a headache, I’m a headache, and I’m running from my demons on the freeway, and I won’t take sh*t just to please ya.”

Number 3: “The Great American Novel” by Proper 

This album is grippingly powerful. Proper’s Twitter bio tells listeners “don’t overthink it,” but this album WILL set up permanent residence in your head if you allow it. While skewing away from their pop-punk roots towards a more experimental progressive rock sound, the trio created exactly what the album title suggests: a novel.

The album dissects why the ‘American Dream’ is more of a nightmare, from ditching antiquated but deeply ingrained thoughts about same-sex relationships in “In The Van Somewhere Outside of Birmingham,” to discussing racial indifferences that are frequently swept under the rug in “Americana.” Lead singer Erik Garlington described the release as “a concept album that’s meant to read like a book; every song is a chapter following the protagonist through their twenties. Imagine a queer, black Holden Caufield-type coming up in the 2010s.”

Best song: “Juvie”

This song describes the fight to become more self-aware as we grow up. I really don’t want to give away too much for those who want to experience the album as a narrative story but the general theme of this song is, ‘you are not the main character.’ It creates this sense that even in the worst times of your life, you still need to be accountable to yourself and those around you.

Best lyric from any song: From “Americana”

“They told me racism ended back in the seventies, but the good old boys still have senate seats and the ones not cut for politics became police.”

Number 2: “Pop Drunk Snot Bread” by Bowling for Soup

If there are any aging pop-punk fans like myself reading this that haven’t heard at least a single from this album, you’re doing it wrong. Bowling for Soup has been one of the most fun bands to listen to for years (if you’re doing a deep dive, go find Hooray for Beer) and they’ve continued that into their latest release.

Singles like “I Wanna be Brad Pitt” and “Getting Old Sucks” create the kind of levity required for addressing some of the harder topics discussed on this album. 

Best song: “Hello Anxiety” 

Remember those staples of pop-punk from the beginning of the article? “Hello Anxiety” hits on damn near every one of them. The lyrics discuss a situation many of us are familiar with: facing down a Monday with the weight of anxiety pulling you down, turning every molehill into a mountain. This heavy lyrical composition is juxtaposed with music that could be described as a mix of classic punk and ‘50s doowop. 

Best lyric from any song: From “The Best We Can”

 “And all the aggravation was based on expectation that you and I could never live up to. Let’s just do the best we can.” 

Number 1: “Kings of the New Age” by State Champs

This album perfectly combines the driving guitar lines of punk, with poppy drum and bass beats to create energetic songs that really lean into the themes of love and self-reflection. State Champs has always been one of the best on the poppy side of the spectrum, and “Kings” will have you singing and bouncing along by the third track. 

Best song: “Eventually” 

This song is a master’s class in self-reflection. The first lines are, “I wanted to leave, but it’s difficult with hands around my neck. It’s harder to sleep when you always keep me up inside my head.” This is lead singer Derek DiScanio talking about the fight between what may be expected of him and what he actually wants.

The chorus continues to examine the idea that wrong decisions or decisions that you go along with despite your disagreement, will eventually catch up to you: “Started running from what made me paranoid. Eventually, it caught up to me. Maybe I’m the one I can’t seem to avoid.”

The second verse and bridge really seal this idea of introspection in the lines. “No, I haven’t come to terms with myself yet. I’m grinding my teeth while I’m dealing with the fear that I protect,” and “I can’t imitate at any cost, but I can ride it ’til the wheels fall off,” I hear this as DiScanio saying the only way to come to terms with your mistakes, is to face them with your own set of morals in mind.

Best lyric from any song: From “Fake It”

“Nobody knows we’re empty, so we fake it right through that Monday smile.” 


Check out the full playlist with all 10 contenders at the link below: