Have you listened to the radio or the top 40 on Spotify recently? There’s nary a guitar or drum to be found on a track. Yet the biggest cause of concert FOMO this summer appears to be the cancellation of My Chemical Romance’s headlining gig in Dublin, along with the Green Day-Weezer-Fall Out Boy mega concert in the RDS.
Just last year, Metallica drew over 70,000 revellers to Slane Castle for their first Irish gig in 10 years. Ireland has always had a strong relationship with rock music – that’s natural, we produced Thin Lizzy, U2, The Cranberries and The Pogues – but our love for pop-punk is perhaps even more enduring and mysterious. So why is it that a specific sub-genre of rock music that peaked before the first recession of our lifetimes still endures in the culture?
A simple explanation could be nostalgia. In the 2000s, the likes of Fall Out Boy, My Chemical Romance, Busted, Good Charlotte and Blink 182 were regular fixtures on the Irish singles charts, so it makes sense that a certain part of the population want to revisit that era of chart music. The prospect of seeing them in concert would also give people the chance to revisit their youth (and we apologise for making our readers feel very old!).
In a more abstract sense, 2000s pop punk music captures the spirit of that era better than the likes of Britney Spears, Shakira, or Christina Aguilera ever did. While the early 2000s in Ireland was a sunnier and rosier time, the majority of music we listened to was from American or British singer/songwriters.
“My Chemical Romance’s Welcome To The Black Parade was an inexplicable number one in the UK in 2006, and peaked just outside the Top 10 in Ireland.“
While the likes of Britney and Christina were giving us timeless bangers like ‘Toxic’ and ‘Beautiful’, a bit of cynicism was seeping in from the rock music we imported. Blink-182 sang about rebelling against parents, Jimmy Eat World put out tracks about the human condition and emotions. My Chemical Romance’s Welcome To The Black Parade was an inexplicable number one in the UK in 2006, and peaked just outside the Top 10 in Ireland. Yet, there is no chance in hell of a song like that charting today – it’s over 5 minutes long, for one thing.
Research carried out in 2017 stated that the average intro time has dropped from more than 20 seconds to five seconds since the mid-1980s, meaning listeners will hear vocals within 5 seconds of the song starting. In the era of on-demand music, songs need to catch the average listeners attention, or if you’re listening to the radio in your car. It would take something short of a small miracle to have a song like ‘Welcome To The Black Parade’ even chart again, let alone top the chart.
‘American Idiot’ by Green Day is another track in the pop-punk canon, but the vocals don’t come in until the 12 second mark, making it an outlier by modern standards. ‘Bleed American’ by Jimmy Eat World, another pop-punk staple, doesn’t have vocals until the 11 second mark.
Bear in mind, both those songs are less than 3 minutes long, making it in theory the perfect song to fit into playlist rotation or radio airplay, but with shorter attention spans and audiences becoming harder to please, producer Mark Ralph told the BBC, “nowadays, if you’re sitting on Spotify and get bored within 10 seconds, you just flick a button and you’re on to the next thing. I think you have to grab peoples’ attention much more quickly.”
“Punk music was formed in the 1970s as a reaction to the social and economic upheaval of the era, and by the time it had reached the 2000s, it was capturing the spirit of fear and anxiety bought about by an era dominated by terrorism and war.“
In a cyclical sense, pop-punk has gone from being the mainstream to the alternative. Punk music was formed in the 1970s as a reaction to the social and economic upheaval of the era, and by the time it had reached the 2000s, it was capturing the spirit of fear and anxiety bought about by an era dominated by terrorism and war.
The era we live in is perhaps as evenly fraught, the absence of a major pop-punk group that much more conspicuous by their absence. In times of strife at home and abroad, listeners are returning to what they know best and to the music they grew up listening to. Some people simply don’t like what’s in the Top 40 or what’s trending on TikTok – instead, they take refuge in the familiar. And that familiar is the vocals of Patrick Stump, Gerard Way, etc.