Whether you were belting "Flavor of the Weak" into a hairbrush, learning how to play power chords to "Teenage Dirtbag" or simply blowing out your headphones, computer speakers or car stereo while blasting the Starting Line in the suburbs, admit it: You had a thing for pop-punk at one point or another. No one was immune between the years of 1996-2006. Though bands like Blink-182 and New Found Glory went on to represent that sunny genre that coupled radio-ready hooks with the driving riffs of punk and hardcore better than anything else, a handful of select bands made a special contribution to the canon of pop-punk: the one-hit wonder.
We've scoured our LiveJournals, our memories and our stacks of mix tapes to compile this list of favorite pop-punk one-hit wonders for you. Sit back, relax, rewind and revisit. (And we apologize in advance for getting "Flagpole Sitta" stuck in your head for the rest of time.)
By Hilary Hughes, Jeff Benjamin, Thomas Nassiff and Maria Sherman
American Hi-Fi rose up the Billboard Hot 100 in 2001 (and never again) with their insanely catchy debut single "Flavor of the Weak." It stalled at No. 41, just missing a Top 40 hit for the group, but was a Top 5 smash on the Alternative charts. Four albums later, the band is still together with their fifth record slated for this September. Fun fact: frontman Stacy Jones is the music director and touring drummer for Miley Cyrus.
In 2006, Jacksonville, Florida's Red Jumpsuit Apparatus snagged a Top 25 hit with "Face Down." It was a racing rock track with an important message decrying men who get violent with their girlfriends. How many songs nowadays have a chorus that's both catchy and progressive ("Do you feel like a man when you push her around? / Do you feel better now as she falls to the ground?")? We really miss this brand of pop-punk.
The ska-punk cover was a gem in and of itself in the late '90s/early '00s, and one of the best was Save Ferris' take on '80s jukebox staple "Come On Eileen." Monique Powell's voice is a force to be reckoned with, as is the chipper as all get-out instrumentation. Save Ferris are no longer the band they were back when their take on "Come On Eileen" was recorded—Powell's the only remaining original member—but the cover and its charm endure.
You'd be lying to yourself if you said you didn't whisper "I'VE GOT TWO TICKETS TO IRON MAIDEN BAAAAY-BEEEEE" out loud after catching so much as a bar of "Teenage Dirtbag." The stuff of rom com soundtrack dreams, "Teenage Dirtbag" settled at the height of pop-punk hysteria in 2000. (That explains how Wheatus was able to convince Jason Biggs and Mena Suvari to star in the music video for the track.)
The summer of 1999 brought about a soundtrack full of pop-punk glory, and we may never forget Blink-182’s “All the Small Things” and Len’s “Steal My Sunshine” as a result. The entire world was in solidarity with Southern California, and for a minute, Lit lead the pack. “My Own Worst Enemy” is self-deprecating and catchy, like all good sad boy band music. The opening line, “Can we forget about the things I said when I was drunk? / I didn’t mean to call you that” might be the most pop-punk verse ever written.
One of the most instantly recognizable singles of the “download generation,” Fountains of Wayne struck gold with “Stacy’s Mom.” Everything from the sticky-sweet melody to the Fast Times at Ridgemont High-influenced video was perfectly executed, resulting in Fountains of Wayne becoming a true one-hit wonder on a mainstream scale. (We still think you should listen to the wonderful “Hey Julie,” also from Welcome Interstate Managers.)
There are some songs that are impossible to name upon a first listen, but you—and the rest of the world—know all of the words. Harvey Danger’s “Flagpole Sitta” is one of them. Unlike the self-defeatist nature of some of the other angsty staples on this list, “Sitta” is all anthemic and morose, the last great pop-punk song to be happy and confused at the same time. Your move, Taylor Swift.
An ultimate pop-punk one-hit wonder, it’s tough to name another song of SR-71's without doing some research first. "Right Now" was on the Dude, Where’s My Car? soundtrack, featured in a couple video games and generally ran the gamut of being entirely in your face when it came out in 2000.
While bands like Lit and Harvey Danger were all sunshine and power chords, Finch resided on the darker side of the genre. Their songs had hooks, but they were always buried deep beneath frontman Nate Barcalow and guitarist Randy Strohmeyer’s guttural bellows. “Letters to You” was their only real hit and deals with losing a loved one, a theme that any listener can relate to.
Somewhere, Kris Roe is still face-palming himself because The Ataris’ cover of Don Henley's "Boys of Summer" has become their most well-known hit. It comes from their most successful album and their only LP to be released with Columbia Records, So Long, Astoria. "Boys of Summer" only became a single when legendary Los Angeles radio station KROQ started playing it in rotation. It charted as high as No. 2 on Billboard’s Hot Modern Rock Tracks chart, saw a No. 20 peak on the Hot 100, and helped introduce The Ataris to a mainstream audience during a time when bands like Yellowcard and New Found Glory were getting major attention on MTV. Even diehard Ataris fans have to admit that without “Boys Of Summer,” the band’s career trajectory would have been drastically different.
The video for Cartel’s one and only hit, “Honestly,” perfectly pays tribute to the pop-punk era it was borne from. (And it's got the MySpace jokes to prove it!) Vocalist Will Pugh’s voice was astronomically high, so if you're not really into teens belting out high notes with feminine vocals, maybe it’s a good thing it’s no longer 2003.
One common theme in pop-punk is the desire to leave your town. It usually goes hand in hand with a youthful fascination: How do we stay teenagers forever? How do we stay together forever? The Starting Line knew this better than anyone, reaching the pinnacle of teenage frustration in “Best of Me.” Just think about the line “We got older but we’re still young / We never grew out of this feeling that we won’t give up.” Swoon city!
Josie and the Pussycats wasn't a real band, but the 2001 live-action take on the '60s cartoon rockers was kind of the best, right down to Tara Reid naming a bar of soap and drumming herself into oblivion. Kay Hanley of Letters to Cleo served up the vocal prowess of Rachel Leigh Cook's Josie, making "Three Small Words" a TRL regular (both in real life and in the movie!) and a mix tape staple at the dawn of the new millennium.
Okay, so Cobra Starship is decidedly NOT a one-hit wonder, and their contribution to the Snakes On A Plane soundtrack, which served as the band’s debut single, is not even their best-selling song. That title belongs to tracks like “Good Girls Go Bad” and “You Make Me Feel...,” which are both certified double-platinum in the U.S. That being said, “Snakes On A Plane (Bring It)” stands as one of the most bizarre, awesome pieces of evidence that helps us remember a time when pop-punk ruled the radio and Pete Wentz’s Decaydance Records was at the top of its game. The song features Travie McCoy (then of Gym Class Heroes, before his solo success) and William Beckett of The Academy Is... (who sings one of the catchiest hooks you’ll ever hear on the chorus), all of whom at the time were managed by the powerhouse Crush Management. It’s a strange but wonderful thing that this song ever existed, and it’s even stranger when you watch the music video and see Wentz and Samuel L. Jackson making casual cameos.
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