Twitter / OliviaRodrigoPY

It’s official. Pop-punk is finally back, and it’s louder and angstier than ever. After years of mainstream success, what had once been the soundtrack to every chick flick and teen drama in sight had, until recently, found itself barred from the hallowed halls of chart success. But lately, the tides have been changing. In July, Willow released lately I feel EVERYTHING, a record dedicated to all things guitar and eyeliner-heavy, while Olivia Rodrigo’s Sour, the biggest album of 2021, exuded a poppy teenage angst that has frequently been compared to the likes of Paramore and Avril Lavigne.

Take a look on TikTok, the video-sharing app that seems to be carrying the Gen Z music scene right now, and you’ll be affronted by an explosion of My Chemical Romance t-shirts and side-fringes – between the so-called ‘Twilight Renaissance’, rising nostalgia for old favourites (All Time Low’s “Dear Maria, Count Me In” went viral just a few months ago), and the app’s latest obsession with crop tops and low-cut jeans, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was still 2005.

TikTok trends have allowed for older songs to reach entirely new audiences

However, let’s get real for a second: pop-punk never really went away. Artists like Panic! At The Disco and Fall Out Boy were at the forefront of the so-called ‘Emo Revival’ movement of the mid-2010s (which I’m sure many all too vividly remember), and have continued to sell out arenas on a regular basis; relatively newer bands like As It Is, Tonight Alive and Waterparks have dominated the front pages of Kerrang! and Rock Sound for a good decade now, and major festivals across the world have always had a few of the pop-punk greats (think Blink-182, Bowling for Soup, Sum 41) up there to boost up the crowd. But sure enough, with the momentous rise in popularity of electronic music in the early 2010s, as well as a mutating pop scene that was soon producing megastars like Ariana Grande, pop-punk eventually found itself in the dust of a rapidly changing mainstream.

A shift in public taste wasn’t the only obstacle the genre found in its way. After the momentum of the Me Too movement, things went from bad to worse: bands that had previously dominated the genre began to drop like flies, from the likes of 2000s legends Brand New to up-and-coming SWMRS’ Joey Armstrong. Indeed, for a genre whose audience is predominantly female, the fact that some of its bestselling artists seemed to have a misogyny problem was probably (and I do say this sarcastically) in some way responsible for its decline.

Paramore's Hayley Williams opened up about her experiences of sexism as part of the Warped TourFootage / RTMorasonMD

Last year, Paramore’s Hayley Williams came clean in an interview with Vulture about the earlier years of her career, describing the emo and pop-punk scene of the 2000s as “brutally misogynistic”. The 2019 demise of the Vans Warped Tour, the infamous festival that had propelled many of its line-ups to pop-punk stardom since its inauguration in 1995, had been hailed as the end of a genre that was dying its natural death. The later revelation that many bands hadn’t wanted to be associated with the sexual violence allegations surrounding it? Well, it certainly didn’t help.

“What better time to hate your hometown, when you literally cannot leave it behind?”

So why, after all this, is it coming back? Of course, much is down to marketing. Artists like Billie Eilish and YUNGBLUD have been rising up the industry ladder for years, taking on darker themes and aesthetics with a poppy, radio-friendly twist, and spearheading the so-called ‘Alt’ movement that has since acted as an umbrella term for everything from dark indie pop to thrash metal. But it is lockdown that has been propelling the pop-punk scene forward, reanimating its popularity from the fringes of unconventional Spotify playlists to the upper echelons of the global charts: a whole new generation of bored kids is exploding into the limelight, spurred on by economic uncertainty, chronic doomscrolling, and the mind-numbing boredom of having to spend the ‘best years of your life’ inside your bedroom. What better time to hate your hometown, when you literally cannot leave it behind?

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And it’s these kids that are spearheading the genre, too, even beyond the sea of Disney stars, nepotism kids and industry plants (yes, I’m looking at you, Tramp Stamps) that have been gaining so much of its traction. Look, I love “t r a n s p a r e n t s o u l” as much as the next person, and “good 4 u” has, I have to say it, been the anthem of my summer – but if the genre wants to survive for another decade? It’s going to have to look further than the artists that already have a backing in the industry.

Already, bands like Meet Me @ The Altar, Action/Adventure and Pinkshift are taking over the underground, edging their way into the mainstream and fighting back against the brutal racism and sexism of many of their predecessors. Maybe the key to its newfound success is that pop-punk is no longer an old boys’ club – that the systemic harassment Warped Tour’s founder disregarded as “part of the culture” is finally losing ground, and the eagle eyes of industry execs are now being forced to accept a more diverse, representative reality. Perhaps times are changing for real now, and the renaissance we’re now seeing will take the world by storm. In many ways, pop-punk is just like Rock ’n Roll: who knows where it’s going next? If there’s one thing to be sure of, it’s certainly not dead yet.