Angst, anthems and teen heartbreak: How do you write a pop-punk hit?

From the Guardian

Green Day and Blink-182 producer and Goldfinger frontman John Feldmann’s pointers for penning a moshpit classic

Pop-punk pioneers … Mike Dirnt, Billie Joe Armstrong and Tré Cool of Green Day. Photograph: Robert Knight Archive/Redferns

John Feldmann is as close as pop-punk gets to a super-producer, a svengali in spiky hair and board shorts. His group Goldfinger were major players in the genre’s first wave in the late 1990s. Even if you’re not familiar with his band, you’ll almost certainly have heard some of Feldmann’s work: in recent years he’s become pop-punk’s go-to guy, producing and co-writing for everyone from Green Day and Blink-182 to 5 Seconds of Summer, with credits on albums that together have sold more than 34m copies worldwide. So what’s his secret? How do you pen a song that will conquer both the moshpit and the charts? Here’s his foolproof guide to writing a pop-punk hit:

Lighten up!

Pop-punk came from the ashes of the dying grunge scene, which was a very heavy scene. We’re talking Soundgarden, Temple of the Dog. Pearl Jam came out of Mother Love Bone, whose lead singer died of an overdose. We’ve got Nirvana, who ended with a suicide. We’ve got some of the heaviest, darkest stories in the history of music. The mood at the time was anarchistic, nihilistic, political, very serious. But 1994 is really when pop-punk happened as a global movement. Dookie came out and it changed everything. It was about suburbia, jerking off and broken-hearted love songs. Every new music scene is a response to the last one. The Sex Pistols came out of seven-minute prog jams and arena rock. And it’s the same thing with grunge and pop-punk. There has to be a pushback.

Good Charlotte are a great example of this. Girls and Boys and The Anthem are very “coming of age”, teenage heartbreak, anti-college football kind of thing. Hope is the classic ingredient that most pop-punk songs have – that there is a way out. I can’t think of a harder time in life than between the ages of 12 and 16. There’s something about the hormones and growing up in that part of life that is so difficult. And a lot of times these pop-punk songs say: “This isn’t so bad.” They spread a message of hope.

Don’t outstay your welcome

A pop-punk song can’t be more than three and a half minutes. It just can’t! Sure, there are exceptions – like Green Day’s American Idiot. Rule one still applies! But then without the three-minute songs on Dookie, American Idiot wouldn’t have existed. And Billie Joe Armstrong reinventing what pop-punk is – that’s his right. He’s the guy who spearheaded the scene, after all.

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