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The 21 Best Pop-Punk Choruses of the 21st Century

Earlier this week, our colleagues at Billboard released a list of the 100 Greatest Choruses of the 21st Century, an audacious undertaking that highlighted the most memorable pop, rap, R&B, dance, rock, and country hits since the year 2000. Of course, picking only 100 over that 17-plus year period meant a lot got left on the cutting room floor, including some of the most iconic pop-punk choruses of the time, ones which left an indelible imprint on millennials, for better or worse. The following is our list of the 21 best pop-punk choruses of the 21st century, with our boundaries including where pop-punk bled into emo, and also into pure pop. Enjoy, and call up your old friends and sing these to them over the phone, or at least send them the Spotify playlist at the bottom of this post.

21. Good Charlotte – “The Anthem”

The history of anthems would suggest that it is inadvisable to actually title your prospective anthem “The Anthem,” much less to inform listeners that “This is the anthem,” right there in your anthem’s chorus. “The Star-Spangled Banner,” after all, is just a poem Francis Scott Key wrote one night in Baltimore, set to the tune of an old drinking song. But if you move your map just an inch or so down, to the small and inauspicious towns just south of that historic city, like those from where Good Charlotte sprung, and you set your sights not on the entire United States, but on an invisible nation populated entirely by spiky-haired suburban dirtbags like you, “The Anthem” might do just fine. Throw your damn hands up. Shout out to Madden 2003. — Andy Cush

20. Against Me! – “Thrash Unreal”

It’s hard to remember that there was a time when Against Me! were declared to be full-on sellouts for signing to Fat Wreck Chords, much less Sire, the major label with whom they released New Wave, which was named our album of the year back in 2007. After years of edging their punk songs toward the radio’s center, the band went full-on pop by leaning into their instinct for crafting giant, singalong hooks. The harmonizing on “Thrash Unreal” isn’t too complicated, but it’s melodically irresistible—you’d forget that it’s an actually sort-of-depressing song about a junkie Laura Jane Grace used to know, who eventually died. (Grace eventually wrote a mea culpa for the song’s subject on “Because of the Shame.”) Perhaps not surprisingly, became their best charting song to date. — Jeremy Gordon

19. Simple Plan – “I’d Do Anything”

The Canadian band Simple Plan stepped into pop-punk stardom with perhaps the genre’s most quintessential album title—No Pads, No Helmets… Just Balls—which emphasized two very important things: they were boys, but not popular athletes. As such, “I’d Do Anything” made sense as the album’s biggest hit, a loser’s plea to an unnamed girl to recognize that he, really, is the perfect one for her. “I’d do anything / Just to hold you in my arms” it went, in a perfect ascending adolescent whine, and driven by an encouraging guitar riff that seems to say, “Hey man, maybe you have a chance.” Ha. — Jordan Sargent

18. The 1975 – “Sex”

British and perpetually in love with everything and nothing simultaneously, the 1975 wrote the best early hook of their careers when they narrowed their ambitions to matters of the body and the petty. “She’s got a boyfriend anyway,” Matt Healy unconvincingly chants to himself about a romance just past his reach. He sings about this not as a conscious failure, but as if it’s caused by some inherent wretchedness. The 1975 long ago distanced themselves from any notion of pop-punk, but they were awfully good at vocalizing its ethos. — Brian Josephs

17. SR-71 – “Right Now”

“Right Now” by SR-71—the now-obscure, well-hair-gelled Baltimore rockers who named themselves after an Air Force spy plane—seems so perfectly shaped, effusive, and effortless that one can’t help but feel the boys knew it would be their only hit the moment they happened upon it. The pre-9/11 pop-punk classic is a songwriting masterclass. It’s not just the refrain; the song is comprised entirely of catchy fragments, like the eminently hummable guitar riff that is the song’s sneaky second hook, and the irreverent calls of “now that’s over” that punctuate the verse. But its the chorus that soars highest—full of musical humor as well as the expected, if gleeful, misogynistic angst, exalted by the against-emphasis phrasing of “‘til we see eye to / Ey-ye” and the eternal, petulant “Why” that sets the whole thing off. “I used to be such a nice boy,” band leader Mitch Allan croons disingenuously later on, but it’s impossible to believe him. — Winston Cook-Wilson

16. All-American Rejects – “Swing, Swing”

All-American Rejects are in many ways an embodiment of a pop punk’s oxymorons. Are your really that alone if everybody experiences that same yearning? Are you really a reject if you’re, you know, All-American? But no matter: Their debut single “Swing, Swing” casts away all the maudlin sentiments with its wistfully melodic hook. “Do you know what it feels like, being alone?” Tyson Ritter bitterly asks, but by the end of the hook, you at least feel like things aren’t so bad. — BJ

15. Sugarcult – “Bouncing Off the Walls”

On “Bouncing Off the Walls,” Sugarcult frontman Tim Pagnotta sings in characteristically whiny vocals about a lost love, troubled parents, and Ritalin. A single off of 2001’s Start Static, the song’s hook—”I’m bouncing off the walls again (whoa) / And I’m looking like a fool again (whoa)”—will revive teen angst, not to mention make you feel like you’re rattling around inside your apartment . — Emma May

14. Taking Back Sunday – “Cute Without the ‘e’ (Cut From the Team)”

The moody, self-obsessed boys in Taking Back Sunday were emo at its most toxic—you could hear the jealousy boiling their blood, as though they might literally keel over from emotional poisoning. Every relationship they sang about was Romeo and Juliet turned up to a billion: What are you even supposed to say to a line like “And will you tell all your friends / You’ve got your gun to my head”? Healthy, it is not, but catchy? Yes, it’s extremely catchy. — JG

13. Paramore – “Misery Business”

The biggest single from Paramore’s beakthrough second album  Riot!, “Misery Business” grew out of a difficult time in the life of singer Haley Williams. Struggling to keep her Christian faith while watching a friend tortured by a toxic relationship, Williams took to song for escape. Turning a stutter of palm-muted power-chords into a blast of high-voltage volume, Williams leaps into full-on confrontation right as the chorus hits: “Woooah, I never meant to brag / But I got him where I want him now.” Like the best pop-punk, the song surfed its pettiness and melody into timelessness. — Rob Arcand

12. My Chemical Romance – “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)”

It’s a joke until you realize Gerard Way just might understand you. Built up by spastically performed verses (“I never want to let you down or have you go / IT’S BETTER OFF THIS WAY”), Way belches out the chorus with the grotesqueness of Tetsuo spilling his intestines. The wind-tunnel power chords churn along to match the drama, because there’s no room for nuance when you’re this fucked up. — BJ

11. New Found Glory – “My Friends Over You”

New Found Glory’s Jordan Pundik always had a knack for soaring choruses, but on “My Friends Over You,” he truly struck pop-punk gold. With racing snares and explosive chords, Pundik turns a classic “bros before hoes” joke into a sincere anthem on the power of male friendship. With the chorus’ closing lines—”Though you swear that you are true / I still pick my friends over you”—Pundik hits just about the purest distillation of sweaty-palmed, pimple-faced masculinity, and there isn’t much more pop-punk than that? — RA

10. Sum 41 – “In Too Deep”

The band’s second TRL hit,  Sum 41’s “In Too Deep” is emblematic of the pop-punk generation. With its whiny vocals and multi-tracked guitars, the track starts out fairly ordinarily. But when the chorus hit, its stacked voices harmonizing into some weird, boyish sneer, it soars with the specific force that makes the genre great to begin with. — RA

9. American Hi-Fi – “Flavor of the Weak”

“He’s too stoned / Nintendo” is an all-time great almost-rhyme, and as apt a description of knucklehead bliss in 2017 as it was in 2001. Listening to “Flavor of the Weak” now makes me want to crack an, “I get older, shitty boyfriends stay the same age” joke, but the real reason this chorus is so good is because it’s fun—specifically, how much fun his dumb ass is having while destroying his meaningful relationships! YOLO? — Anna Gaca

8. All-American Rejects – “Dirty Little Secret”

On their sophomore album Move Along, the All-American Rejects were no longer, well, rejects. After their debut single “Swing, Swing” rocketed onto the Billboard Hot 100, they scored a contract with the short-lived record label arm of DreamWorks, positioning them firmly as new rock heartthrobs. They hammered that home with “Dirty Little Secret,” which leans on the inherent charm of their debut but also uses its hook to flirt with a new sort of sex appeal, the kind usually reserved for the full on pop stars they would soon become. — RA

7. Blink-182 – “Rock Show”

Blink-182’s “The Rock Show” is a picturesque depiction of pop-punk youth and young love. Legend has it that Mark Hoppus wrote the song after the band’s manager asked him to write a song that was catchier than their normal output, which is sort of an odd request given “What’s My Age Again?” and “All the Small Things.” On “Rock Show” Hoppus sings about sneaking in through windows, The Warped Tour, and disapproving parents. He also did manage to construct what might be their most classically catchy hook. The candy-coated chorus informed my preteen conceptions of love, and has effectively stuck in my head since the first time I listened to the song off a clean version of Take Off Your Pants and Jacket ripped from a library CD.  — EM

6. Sum 41 – “Fat Lip”

Sum 41’s debut album was called All Killer No Filler, and true to that title, the quartet of goofball Canadians did not waste a single moment on their signature single “Fat Lip.” The buzzing midrange riff, the Beastie Boys cosplay of the verses, the suddenly earnest and strikingly melodic bridge, the absurd echo effect applied to the word abortion (bortion, bortion, bortion, bortion…)—each supporting section of the song is so deliriously sticky, it’s a wonder they even needed a chorus. When it comes, it’s full of cookie cutter teenage rebellion stuff about becoming a casualty of society, delivered on a melody so convincing that even a middle-aged man might be tempted to find the closest high school teacher and tell them to eat his shorts. — AC

5. Avril Lavigne – “Sk8er Boi”

The choruses in “Sk8er Boi” are all different, but they all start the same way: “He was a sk8er boi / She said see you later boi,” two lines that won’t stop being funny until animals stop riding skateboards. Which chorus is best? It might be the first one (“He wasn’t good enough for her”), but actually it’s the second, the one where Avril might as well say “plot twist” first: “Now he’s a superstar / Slammin’ on his guitar.” — AG

4. Fall Out Boy – “Sugar, We’re Going Down”

Never sleep on the mixed metaphor. Patrick Stump’s echoing hook referenced the God Complex, a boxing allusion, and a gun parallel for what reads like YA gobbledygook on paper. Yet, the whole thing was immediately ready to conquer every arena in America. The formula resonated well enough to give Fall Out Boy their first smash, setting them on a path to pop omnipresence that they are still somehow traveling to this day. — BJ

3. My Chemical Romance – “Helena (So Long & Goodnight)”

My Chemical Romance’s brand of emo was inherently theatrical—dressed in makeup, they played like goth kids left to run amok staging a school musical. “Helena” is the rousing finale, where Gerard Way gets his chance to chew every word and make every twisted face like his life depends on it. With each iteration of the chorus—a histrionic, heart-ripping admission of guilt about Way not being there for his dying grandmother—the line reading grows more tortured, as though they’re being forced out of his throat. You have to commit to singing along with this one; no passivity allowed. – JG

2. Yellowcard – “Ocean Avenue”

A few years ago I had the luck of going to Riot Fest, which over the years has walked a very narrow line between bands in their prime, and bands strictly there on the nostalgia circuit. As we were walking into the festival, we could see and hear Yellowcard, who appeared to be wrapping up their set. My friend and I headed right for the bathrooms, since we’d been waiting in line for quite some time. While we were walking, we heard them start into “Ocean Avenue,” their greatest song, and watched something happen: All around us, people were mouthing the words, not quite singing along out loud, but keeping track of the tune. This perhaps wasn’t so surprising, because “Ocean Avenue” was a legitimate hit, but we were a few hundred yards away from their stage; the music was as audible as the radio you hear from a car far in the distance. It would’ve been easier to ignore it, and yet people were singing along in this small way. If the mark of a great chorus is how it basically takes over your body and forces you to sing along, almost as a parasite infects its host, well—that was all the confirmation I needed to know that “Ocean Avenue” is eternal. — JG

1. Jimmy Eat World – “The Middle”

Many pop-punk hits were over-the-top dramatic but “The Middle” is a self-help book from start to finish, delivered in Jim Adkins’ uncommonly reassuring voice. The chorus, in which Adkins suddenly leaps up to insist that you—yes, you!—will be fine, and totally alright, is a wonderful rush. The repetition on “everything, everything” is its own hook, especially when it leads to that thrilling surf-rock solo. Given the moodiness of the genre, getting people to have legitimate fun singing along to a song about how life is going to work out is a small miracle. — JG

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