Pop Punk Has A New Face, And It’s No Longer White

By Sheila Uria | 16 September, 2022


Mom, it was never a phase. It's a lifestyle. Maybe we're not wearing skinny jeans and band tees anymore, but pop punk continues to live inside us, buzzing under our skin and sending goosebumps down our arms whenever ‘Welcome to the Black Parade’ by My Chemical Romance plays nearby.


The truth is that pop punk never died; it is very much alive and has entered a new age that is no longer white.


Throughout the genre's history, pop punk predominantly consisted of white, cis, straight, and middle-class men. Sure, there have been a few outliers like the Mexican-American band Pierce the Veil, but for the most part, pop punk is often deemed as a white genre.


However, there is nothing white about pop punk.


The genre is characterized by rock instrumentation (which we have thanks to Black Americans), pop melodies, and cathartic lyricism that speaks of disenfranchisement and opposition to the status quo. Ironic that in a space meant for the oppressed (the damned and the broken, if you will), marginalized people continue to be pushed out into the fringes of pop punk.


The thing is, eventually, everyone starts rooting for the underdog.


New bands have started to break through with the dissemination of more social media platforms in the last few years. Today, Tik Tok is to these bands what MySpace was to household names like Fall Out Boy and Paramore in 2007. It has completely leveled the playing field (as much as you can in a digital landscape that shadowbans BIPOC creators).


In the case of Magnolia Park, the Orlando-bound group responded to a Tik Tok comment claiming that pop punk was a white genre with a song titled ‘Don't Be Racist.’"They told me I should stay in my own lane / Whatcha doing here, this ain't your race," lead vocalist Joshua Roberts sings boldly. "You got your knee on my neck, and I can't breathe."


Magnolia Park photographed by Jessica Griffith (@jessgriffithphotos)

Some of these bands have been around for a while. Take Action/Adventure (A/A), for example. The five-piece, formed in Chicago, Illinois, in 2014, has been making headway for the last eight years, even securing a spot in the Vans Warped Tour in 2018. However, they truly made their mark when guitarist and vocalist Brompton Jackson posted on Tik Tok a clip of their powerful music video for ‘Barricades.’ The 60-second single details the discrimination the band has faced as BIPOC in the pop punk scene.


Action/Adventure photographed by Kodak Chris (@thekodakchris)

"Would you listen if we looked any different / Because these are all the things that we can't change / Would you listen if we all looked the same / Because it's getting so much harder to pass through all these barricades."


The riveting song was captioned with the hashtag #PopPunkInColor. Within three weeks, the video had over one million views, and the band was being signed by their dream label, Pure Noise Records, which houses some of A/A’s musical references like The Story So Far.


Meet Me @ The Altar photographed by Jonathan Weiner (@jonathan.weiner)

A/A aren't the only band getting the long-awaited recognition they deserve, though. Meet Me @ The Altar is the first band composed solely of women of color to be signed by Fueled By Ramen. Their first single under the label ‘Hit Like A Girl’ was released in March 2021 with the provoking and feminist lyrics: “Revolt, refuse / Stand tall, you deserve" and "I'm rowdy / I hit like a girl." They have even garnered the attention of All Time Low's Alex Gaskarth and Dan Campbell from The Wonder Years. This past summer, the trio also played at Lollapalooza and opened up for Green Day for several of their European shows.


Ultimately, pop punk is rebellion, and to exist in a space that has historically tried to keep you out is the most rebellious thing you can do. The face of pop punk has changed, and we're finally seeing it all in color


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