Something Corporate, Good Charlotte, Taking Back Sunday, And 16 Other Iconic Emo And Pop-Punk Albums That Turn 20 This Year

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Something Corporate, Good Charlotte, Taking Back Sunday, And 16 Other Iconic Emo And Pop-Punk Albums That Turn 20 This Year

Grab your headphones, because we’re taking a nostalgic trip back in time.


Rob Jason Enate / BuzzFeed

If you, like me, listened to early 2000s emo music and are constantly rocking out to the nostalgia of it all, you’ve come to the right place. Today, we’re taking a trip down memory lane.

I cannot believe we’ve reached the year of our lord 2022, which means there is an entire library of iconic emo music that released 20 years ago. If you want to officially feel old, join me on this reminiscent journey as we countdown my own personal ranking of most influential emo albums, based solely on the significant impact they left for years to come.

19.

OK Go — OK Go


Capitol

Released: Sept. 17, 2002

Memorable song:  “Get Over It

Lyric: “Hey! Get, get, get, get, get over it!”


Paul Hawthorne / Getty Images

About the record:  I know what you’re thinking. OK Go might not fall into the emo or pop-punk categories, but this is a solid pop-rock album, and because it debuted in 2002 — a year of many, many influential rock/emo/pop-punk albums — I felt the need to include it. It’s as dancey and upbeat as its album art — bubbly and rhythmic. It also has some slower songs that seem partially inspired by Weezer. I, for one, can’t help but be in a good mood while listening to it. 

Where they are now:  OK Go’s Twitter is still active and their last album, Hungry Ghosts, released in 2014. It seems they have one upcoming show they’re playing in Canada later this year. 

18.

30 Seconds to Mars — 30 Seconds to Mars


Virgin

Released: Aug. 27, 2002

Memorable song: Unclear if there were breakout hits from this album, but perhaps “Edge of the Earth” might feel familiar. 

Lyric: “Stand out on the edge of the earth / Dive into the center of fate.”


Frank Mullen / WireImage

About the record:  While 30 Seconds To Mars’ second album, A Beautiful Liewas the one to break them out, the band’s debut is gritty, atmospheric, raw, and a little bit experimental. With growly, rough vocals and its dramatic rock sound, this album is good but not quite memorable. 

Where they are now:  It’s hard to tell what’s going on with the band these days. Recently, they posted tour photos from 2018 to their Instagram, but there’s no signs of any upcoming tour. Coincidentally, the last album they released was in 2018, titled America. Guitarist Tomo MiličevićI left the band in 2018 as well, so I guess we’ll have to wait and see what’s next for this band. 


Ethan Miller / Getty Images

About the record:  Finch’s debut album is on the heavier side of this list, but its punchy guitars and fiery sound mixed with delightful harmonies give it an energized feel. Interwoven with melodic singing and raw screaming, the lyrics are anything but shallow. The record is produced by the well-known Mark Trombino (more on him in a sec) and is an overall solid piece of work. 

Where they are now:  The band announced an indefinite hiatus back in 2006, reunited in 2007, and released their last album, Back to Oblivion, in 2014. It’s unclear if they’ll reunite again and haven’t mentioned much on Twitter since 2019.


Bill Tompkins / Getty Images

About the record:  Midtown’s sophomore album is a collection of animated, surging pop-punk songs with bright riffs and playful, sprightly vocals. This album is also produced by Mark Trombino, who not only worked on Finch’s album (see above) but many other iconic records, from Blink-182 to Jimmy Eat World. It’s ebullient and charged with sparkling verve, and while it doesn’t feel too unique compared to other albums released during this particular era, it’s still a good time. Later, Midtown’s vocalist Gabe Saporta would go on to form the electronic pop-punk band Cobra Starship, which launched Saporta to a new level of fame. 

Where they are now:  The band officially disbanded in 2005, but it was announced earlier this year that they’ll reunite to open for My Chemical Romance’s fall tour. Saporta told Billboard he sought to manage and produce in order to “learn the business and help other bands avoid what he felt were his own mistakes [in the industry].” He now produces and manages artists and helped found The Artist Group


Noel Vasquez / Getty Images

About the record:  I forgot how much fun this album is until I listened again for the first time in a long time. It’s a pop-punk album that feels influenced by Blink-182 with a mostly sunshine, upbeat sound. Led by front man Kenny Vasoli, the record is lyrically succinct with lines that are strike-me-right-in-the-heart relatable. Let’s be real, “The Best of Me” is one of those unforgettable songs that lives on in our hearts even now. 

Where they are now:  It seems like the band is still together. The Starting Line will perform the When We Were Young festival in Las Vegas later this year alongside a handful of shows later this fall. 

14.

The Early November — For All of This


Drive-Thru Records

Released: Dec. 6, 2002

Memorable song:  “I Want To Hear You Sad”

Lyric: “For all of this / I’m better off without you / Do you regret all your loneliness?”


Joey Foley / Getty Images

About the record:  The Early November feels like a staple of this in-your-feelings genre, heard loud and clear through every single song on this EP. Front man Arthur “Ace” Enders delivers sing-shouty vocals that are paired with spine-tingling buildups and an anthemic, glistening sound that’s reminiscent of Jimmy Eat World. It’s passion and heartbreak; excitement and joy; pain and sorrow. One thing is certain — we will never be the same after listening to this album. (See what I did there?)

Where they are now:  The band’s last album, Lilacreleased three years ago, and they recently announced their 20th anniversary tour happening this fall. On October 14th, they will release their new album, Twenty, but you can stream their latest single “Make It Happen” now.

13.

Weezer — Maladroit


Geffen

Released: May 14, 2002

Memorable song: “Keep Fishin'”

Lyric: “It’s just the thought of you in love with someone else.” 


J. Shearer / WireImage

About the record:  While this underrated album has a bit of a different feel from previous songs like “Island in the Sun” (Green Album, 2001) or even “Buddy Holly” (Blue Album, 1994), its rock and roll feel is bouncy and edgy, even if none of the songs are iconically memorable to casual fans. Weezer funded and self-produced this album on the tail of Green Album after parting ways with old management. It sold decently, but it wasn’t exactly a mainstream hit. That doesn’t mean it isn’t good. The experimentation with a heavier sound led to some great songs, like “American Gigolo.” 

Where they are now:  You can catch Weezer on tour for a short amount of time this September at The Broadway Theater in New York, performing each of their albums from SZNS. 

12.

Thrice — The Illusion of Safety


Sub City

Released: February 5, 2002

Memorable song: “Deadbolt”

Lyric: “When deadbolts awake you from déjà vu dreams / At four in the morning you know where I’ll be.”


Jason Squires / WireImage

About the record:  Out of everyone on this list, this album treads most into hardcore/metal territory, with wailing guitar riffs, guttural screams, powerful breakdowns, and high-energy feel. Yet it also is tinged with a hint of that yearning emo longing that was apparent in this specific period of time. I’d argue that their follow-up album, The Artist in the Ambulanceis more well-known, but this pulsating album is sure to get people on their feet. It’s hard to sit still once you give it a listen. 

Where they are now:  Thrice is currently touring through the end of this year. Their most recent album, Horizons / Eastreleased last year. 


J. Shearer / WireImage

About the record:  Fast-paced and energetic, Does This Look Infected? is a solidly pop-punk album with fun, punchy melodies as ushered in with this Blink-182-inspired era of music. It’s a slight departure from All Killer No Filler, and it seems as though people either love it or hate it. Lead singer Deryck Whibley admitted that he isn’t the biggest fan of the album’s sound. The band re-recorded a majority of it after producer Greig Nori thought the guitars sounded out of tune. Personally, I love this album. It’s very feel-good and easy to sing along to, and you can’t help but rock out to the zestful guitar riffs in nearly every song.

Where they are now:  Sum 41 is currently on tour with Simple Plan through August! Their eighth album is set to release this year, titled Heaven and Hell.


Dimitrios Kambouris / WireImage

About the record:  This album is like chocolate fudge ice cream: You know exactly what to expect, and it’s so damn delicious. While the sound and lyrics are sometimes juvenile and G-rated (ie: “I’m Just a Kid”), there’s no doubt that this record was catchy as hell. Truly, it’s an endorphin rush. A serotonin boost. And while some lyrics are certainly on-the-nose (“I’m sorry I can’t be perfect”), it’s the clear and concise projection of feeling that make them relatable even now. 

Where they are now:  Simple Plan is on tour! Catch them now through the end of this year in the US and across the pond. They also released their sixth album earlier this year, titled Harder Than It Looks.

9.

Box Car Racer — Box Car Racer


MCA

Released: May 21, 2002

Memorable songs: “I Feel So” and “There Is.”

Lyric: “Do you care if I don’t know what to say? Will you sleep tonight? Will you think of me? Will I shake this off, pretend it’s all okay? That there’s someone out there who feels just like me? There is.”


Nbc / NBCU Photo Bank / NBCUniversal via Getty Images

About the record:  Blink-182 fans know Box Car Racer was formed by two members of the band (Travis Barker and Tom DeLonge) in 2001. David Kennedy and Anthony Celestino were also part of this project, which was DeLonge’s idea. In an interview with Billboard, DeLonge said, “I wanted to do something in the studio that was much faster, much more dynamic, much more emotional…there was a lot of other stuff that I was into that I wanted to have come through that wasn’t just uptempo punk sh–, but was more post-hardcore and the beginning movements of what people started calling the emo stuff.” 

Box Car Racer was only the beginning of the darker, heavier, and thoughtful themes the Blink trio would eventually bring to the band as well as their other projects. The album showcases the emotional depth and lyricism that’s a more mature leap from their previous work. 

Where they are now:  Box Car Racer disbanded in 2003, but last year it was teased that a new song might resurface in honor of the album’s 20th anniversary. While we’ve seen no evidence of this yet, we’re still hopeful. Barker remains part of Blink-182 with Matt Skiba and Mark Hoppus, and there are rumors DeLonge has rejoined the band


Jeff Kravitz / FilmMagic, Inc

About the record:  This album is high-energy pop-punk with vibrant, catchy hooks, crashing drums, gritty guitars, and feel-good anthems. Jordan Pundik’s slightly nasally vocals deliver succinct lyrics that are easy to sing along to. Because this was the very first CD I bought with my own money, it holds a special place in my heart. It’s a fun album — and an instant mood booster. 

Where they are now:  New Found Glory has been touring this album in honor of its 20th anniversary! The last tour stop is Aug. 10, so there’s still time to catch them. 

7.

Avril Lavigne — Let Go


Arista

Released: June 4, 2002

Memorable songs: “Complicated” and “Sk8er Boi.”

Lyric: “He was a boy / She was a girl / Can I make it any more obvious?”


Frank Mullen / WireImage

About the record:  I’ll spare you all by not stepping on my metaphorical sexism soap box, but I will say Avril Lavigne deserved better from us. (Remember how society was so quick to call her a poser? Meanwhile, she was an icon for so many rock-loving teen girls out there.) Though this album may be heavily pop-influenced, Avril’s style and sound falls in line with the emo movement of the early 2000s. (Listen to “Losing Grip” and “Unwanted.”) Avril proves that she wasn’t just a style of the times — that she was (and still is) a rock chick

Where she is now:  Avril Lavigne blessed us with a brand-new album this year, entitled Love Sux, which contains everything we love about her music. It’s edgy, loud, honest, and hella catchy. Speaking of catchy — you can catch Avril on tour now


Nbc / NBCU Photo Bank / NBCUniversal via Getty Images

About the record:  Doesn’t this album remind you of signing into AIM, talking to your unrequited crush for 4.5 seconds before they abruptly log off, then crafting a heartbroken away message made up of only All-American Reject lyrics? No? Just me? This album is full of larger-than-life hooks, soft acoustic guitars, spine-tingling riffs, whimsical chimes, delicate piano melodies, and, of course, the iconic organ as heard in “Swing Swing.” Tyson Ritter’s vocals are melodic and full of emotion, passionate and yearning. It’s an album that waxes poetic about heartbreak and love, but Ritter was just 18 when this album debuted, so of course it’s one full of big feelings and uncertainty — and you can’t help but sing along. 

Where they are now:  Funny enough, the last album this band released (Kids in the Street) came out a decade ago. They’ve released a few songs since then, but have yet to release another album. Tyson Ritter is also an actor, for those who don’t know, and he has a few different projects coming up. (I certainly haven’t forgotten his iconic performance in 2008’s The House Bunny.) The All-American Rejects announced they’ll be part of the When We Were Young festival happening this October in Vegas.


L. Cohen / WireImage

About the record:  Not to be dramatic, but this album influenced me to my very core. I can still recite the entirety of the lyrics to “Bloody Valentine,” much to my mother’s horror when I was a mere 12-year-old punk-rock kid. This album made me want to fully immerse myself in the emo community. While the very definition of emo is still debated, I’d venture to say this album is more pop-punk than anything else, and it’s the one that launched the band into mainstream stardom. 

The album is full of catchy pop-adjacent rock songs paired with singable, straightforward lyrics that reveal feelings and tell stories. It’s high energy, and the sound seems influenced by Blink-182’s Enema of the State, but it’s full of undeniably catchy melodies that middle school me clung onto like a life raft: “Emergency call 911 / she’s pissed off at everyone / police rescue, FBI / She wants a riot! She wants a riot!” Call it what you want, but the impact of this record made its pop-punk mark in history. 

Where they are now:  In August of 2021, Joel Madden tweeted that they were headed back to the studio for the first time in 10 months. The last song the band released (2020) is called “Last December,” and the last album they put out was in 2018. It’s unclear from their website if we can expect new music in 2022, so we’ll have to continue to wait and see. 


Matthew Simmons / Getty Images

About the record:  In the emotional aftermath of 9/11, lead singer Gerard Way decided to leave his job at Cartoon Network and start a band. Produced by Geoff Rickley (of Thursday), this album marked My Chem’s debut into the world. The album opens with a crackling, lilting acoustic guitar before moving into heavy electric guitar riffs and energetic drums. Way switches between emotionally clear vocals and thick, growling roars. It’s an extremely animated, high-powered sound throughout the album, and while I’d argue that it was Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge that broke them out, this record certainly put them on the map. 

In Sellout: The Major-Label Feeding Frenzy That Swept Punk, Emo, and Hardcore (1994-2007), Dan Ozzi writes that Gerard Way had a tooth pain that required dental care while recording this album, pushing himself to sing through it before seeking relief through treatment. (Way also references it here.) Nevertheless, it’s truly an unforgettable, crowd-pleasing body of work. 

Where they are now: In the year of our lord 2022, we throw our hands up and REJOICE, because My Chem released a banger of a song (“Fountains of Decay”) after a too-long hiatus. Many know that Gerard Way released The Umbrella Academy graphic novels (in 2007, 2008, and 2018, respectively) with illustrator Gabriel Ba, which was adapted into a television series for Netflix. Way also wrote music for the series. They’re currently on a North American tour that ends in October. 

3.

The Used — The Used


Reprise

Release date: June 12, 2002

Memorable songs: “The Taste of Ink” and “Buried Myself Alive.” 

Lyric: “Is it worth it, can you even hear me? / Standing with your spotlight on me / Not enough to feed the hungry / I’m tired, and I’ve felt it for a while now.”


Jeff Kravitz / FilmMagic, Inc

About the record:  Produced by the legendary John Feldmann, the Used’s self-titled album is a compilation of intense feeling. Bert McCranken switches between guttural screaming, sentimental wailing, and transpicuous, coherent tones, but the album itself is rock. Or maybe it’s screamo, or maybe it’s emo. Perhaps its all three — biting, rowdy, coarse, and melodic. It’s unapologetically hard and rough, and its lyrics seek to dive deeper into life, love, and loss. Even the slower songs create a powerful punch. 

“[Emo] wasn’t a name of a genre back then, so we didn’t care. We still don’t care. You can call music whatever you want. Emo was just such a strange thing, because what is music without emotion?” Bert McCracken said in a 2018 interview with Kerrang

Honest emotion is transparent in McCracken’s lyrics. (“I think I made it a game to play your game / And let myself cry / I buried myself alive on the inside.”) And although the lead vocalist quit the band after this album released, McCracken would eventually return to record others and continue to see success. 

Where they are now:  They’re currently touring! Their latest album, Heartwork, was released in 2020. (And if you’re wondering, yes. John Feldmann did produce Heartwork as well!) 


Theo Wargo / WireImage

About the record:  SoCo is such an iconic staple to the genre that I almost slotted it in the #1 spot. Andrew McMahon’s easily recognizable vocals have a powerful, drawn-out feel that are pristine yet edgy in a melodramatic way: clear and concise. He was only 19 when this album released, and the longing and heartbreak in his lyrics resonated deeply with fans, especially fellow teens.

The pop-punk sound is thrashy and eloquent, a pressure that builds and releases. Listeners experience crashing drums and loud, gruff guitars on “Punk Rock Princess” in contrast to the catchy, bouncy melodies on “I Woke Up in a Car,” where McMahon’s yearning vocals make it a whimsical, singable anthem. His sensual, sweeping piano playing is, by far, what sets him and the band apart. 

McMahon would go on to do other projects (Jack’s Mannequin, Andrew McMahon and the Wilderness), but Something Corporate would release just one more album after this one, entitled North. Their songs captured the angsty teenage experience in a way that was relatable, as if to say, “Hey, we’re not the cool kids here. Come sit with us anyway.”

Where they are now:  The band is no longer together, but they did release a greatest hits album in 2010: Played in Space: The Best of Something Corporate. Up until 2018, McMahon released under the name Andrew McMahon and the Wilderness. He also published a book last year titled Three Pianos: A Memoir. 


David Pomponio / FilmMagic

About the record: Adam Lazzara’s gritty and sometimes growly vocals that, at times, dip into breathy whispers are paired with melodic choruses to create churning, anthemic songs that feel alive, energetic, and palpable. This is a “quintessential emo album,” as described by Pop Matters, and it’s hard to argue when you have lyrics like, “You could slit my throat, and with my one last gasping breath I’d apologize for bleeding on your shirt.” 

From the opening chords of “You Know How I Do” to the chugging guitars in “You’re So Last Summer,” Taking Back Sunday’s album exploded onto the scene and cemented itself as a historic relic of an era where MTV and Fuse TV uplifted a new wave of rock stars. When looking back on touring this album, guitarist John Nolan told Nylon, “I remember people going insane for the entire set. I don’t remember there being many lulls or points where people were not singing along or just jumping all over each other and going crazy.” The album’s emotional heartbeat is melodramatic and vibrant; angsty and angry. It’s, quite simply, unforgettable — which is why it has earned its spot as #1 on this list. 

Where they are now: They’re still at it. Taking Back Sunday is on tour through October with Third Eye Blind and Hockey Dad. They just released a song with Steve Aoki and reintroduced the 20th anniversary edition of Tell All Your Friends, available now. 

On that note (pun intended), I couldn’t end this without bringing you the entire playlist for your listening pleasure:


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