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One Man’s Definitive (Play)list of the Best Early-2000s Pop Punk Jams

Written by AJ Smith

Written By: AJ Smith @adotjdotwoots

I know what you’re thinking… “Until we crack the code to time travel, music is our best hope of reliving the glory days.” You are good people.

The Early-2000s: a simpler time. For us “mid-to-late-twenty-somethings,” we look back on our most triumphant moments: freely gallivanting about in our first cars, embarking on our summer camp journeys and school trips, (not) studiously completing our homework as we prepared for adulthood.

And of course, rocking out to the likes of Blink 182, New Found Glory, and Sum 41 every step of the way thanks to our trusty Walkmans safely at our sides through it all…

Now decades later, with our lives fully consumed by our careers, higher education, families, and the like, it’s time to flashback, through the power of pop punk jams.

You must be wondering, “What gives you the right?” I’m glad you asked.

Here are four credentials you need to know:

  1. I was my group’s new music source. You remember… every group had a specific unspoken hierarchy of roles and responsibilities. There was the jock-guy, the jokester-guy, the skater-dude, the troublemaker, the mama’s boy, and so on. I found myself nestled gently between always-saw-the-latest-Sportscenter and definitely-has-a-new-jam-I-need-to-hear-guy. Whenever the group needed a renaissance of pop punk goodness, I was there. Whenever we wanted new songs for the car ride to Youth Group, I was there. I was constantly scouring,,, and any other epicenter for new jams. Napster, Kazaa, WinMX – you name it, I was likely dabbling in one of the countless downloading peer-to-peer sharing sites – the music was intoxicating.
  2. I wholeheartedly believed my calling card was making sweet mixtapes. Was my Summer Camp 2003 mix (featuring the likes of Fenix TX, Lucky 7, FM Static, Story of the Year, Watashi WA, and Never Heard of It) the most popular music selection of the entire church group? Did no less than six girls borrow my Walkman to listen as they fell asleep? Did my mixtape abilities become the stuff of legends? You tell me.
    1. Editor’s note: Making mixtapes is a man sport and certainly not for those faint of heart. Transitions matter. Leadoff songs matter. I treated my playlist construction like a lineup on Ken Griffey Jr. Baseball ’98 – each song had a specific duty. A mission. A dream to fulfill.
  3. I braved the battle of Warped Tours, Taste of Chaos Tours, and countless shows in the 120 degree AZ heat. Our only relief you ask? Sweet, ice-cold Yoo-hoo. Clearly at 14 the concept of drinking a sugary faux-chocolate beverage as my only source of defense from dehydration was just percolating with wisdom. Some of my greatest band and track discoveries occurred at these venues, as well as some of my greatest “band swag” finds.
  4. After hearing an initial song I liked, I made it my sole purpose in life to find entire albums. I have an unreasonable 100 GB of music in my iTunes (which I had to manage with an OCD level of precision) and the vast majority is made up of 2000s pop punk.

So what is a single, twenty-something with a laundry list of battle-tested pop-punk credentials to do? The only reasonable thing that can be done… Create the single greatest playlist of songs to even exist in the pop-punk genre. Below, you’ll find my definitive top-20 playlist of the best jams from the Early 2000s pop punk scene.

Before diving in, let’s set some ground rules:

Rule 1: This list was challenging enough to concoct, (yeah, you try narrowing down 10,000 of your favorite songs to a top 20 list – seriously, it’s heartbreaking and exhilarating at the same time), so I had to make a tough call: only one song per artist.

  • Let that resonate for a moment, since it’s a game changer. My rationale: I’m a serious believer in diversification within each playlist. My playlists were designed to introduce friends to new artists or favorite jams, so I aimed to achieve the best bang for my buck by spreading the wealth – (think label samplers those prepared by Drive Thru Records, Fueled By Ramen, Capitol – yeah, they were amazing) – same rules applied to this playlist.

Rule 2: The song I selected may not have been the most popular song from each artist. These are simply my favorite songs from each artist – hence the title, “One man’s definitive playlist…”

Rule 3: Early 2000s pop-punk is a hyper-specific, super targeted and defined genre.  As such, I have only included bands that first entered my life between the years of 2000 and 2005.  As such, many extremely well known favorites had to be left off. Some honorable mentions, categorized by how they’re spatially organized in my brain (links take you to a favorite song by each band) include:

Rule 4: Finally, my number one criteria for the following selections: What songs are you throwing on your Spotify for a road trip with your oldest friends – looking to get lost in the memories and ready to sing along with everything you’ve got?

Each song includes a 100 words or less overview of why it made the cut and a link to your very own YouTube video to jam out.

  • Editor’s note: Yes, this list was handcrafted with your needs in mind – starting off fast, helping you transition to enjoy the peaks of pop and the valleys of bass.
  • Call to action:
    • Check out the playlist, and enjoy the jams!
    • Comment on this post with YOUR Early 2000s pop-punk playlist! All’s fair in love and early 2000s pop-punk. I HOPE you have superior suggestions, since that just means the rest of the world will benefit from hearing your playlist.
    • Thirsty for more? Take a swig of the bonus bracket following the playlist! This walk down memory lane has invited the question – which song is the BEST of the era?
      • Beneath the playlist you’ll find an NCAA-like-March-Madness-bracket introducing a battle royale of these jams.


  1. Sum 41 – Heart Attack
    • Album: All Killer No Filler (2001)
    • Honorable mention track: In Too Deep
    • Selection summary: Quite possibly one of my favorite intros of any song from this era (with Blink 182 – Dammit close behind). Hence, why it’s #1 on this ultimate playlist! Something just inescapable about the piano backdrop with a smooth transition into the traditional pop punk sound we’d typically expect from Sum.
  2. The Format – The First Single
    • Album: Interventions + Lullabies (2003)
    • Honorable mention track: Give it Up
    • Selection summary: Leading off with a band from AZ felt right inside. “You know the night life is just not for me, ‘Cause all you really need are a few good friends.” Words to live by. Try not to have the best time of your life blasting this jam, singing at the top of your lungs with the windows down, surrounded by a few good friends, while driving over the Coronado Bridge in San Diego, CA. I dare you.
  3. The Used – Taste of Ink
    • Album: Self-Titled (2002)
    • Honorable mention track: Greener with the Scenery
    • Selection summary: “So here I am alive at last, and I’ll savor every moment of this.” This jam epitomizes heartfelt pop punk energy. Try not to play this as loud as your ’01 Honda can handle while cruising to school, feeling like you’re about to conquer the world.
  4. Taking Back Sunday – Cute Without the ‘E’ (Cut from the Team)
    • Album: Tell All Your Friends (2002)
    • Honorable mention track: Ghost Man on Third
    • Selection summary: This is a show-stopper. Includes one of the most recognizable lines of the era, “Your lipstick, his collar, don’t bother angel. I know exactly what goes on.” Part of the famous feud with fellow industry powerhouse, Brand New, this jam is iconic. Try to tell this crowd Dare you. The cleanup jam, track #4. This one delivers a dominating, standalone, line-up carrying performance every time.
  5. The Starting Line – Best of Me
    • Album: Say It Like You Mean It (2003)
    • Honorable mention track: Left Coast Envy
    • Selection summary: Another show-stopper. Back to an idealistic state of mind with this all-time-great. A super pop vibe that’s representative of the entire genre, a message that infuses hope and passion into its listeners, and a happy beat. The total package.
  6. Yellowcard – Ocean Avenue
    • Album: Ocean Avenue (2003)
    • Honorable mention track: Back Home
    • Selection summary: It’s rare that a song can actually help you feel immersed in the picture it’s painting. This song has an infectious beat, a unique violin vibe, and a story featuring the beach and love. “Let your waves crash down on me and take me away.” In retrospect, years removed from the haze of adolescence, I wonder just what that means – but nonetheless, I still get lost in this jam.
  7. Fall Out Boy – Chicago Is So Two Years Ago
    • Album: Take This to Your Grave (2003)
    • Honorable mention track: Grand Theft Autumn
    • Selection summary: Nestled carefully in its #7 slot, right where it belongs after holding court in this position for Take This to Your Grave, this jam is one of FOB’s lesser-known, but greatly appreciated sing-along jams. “You want apologies, girl, you might hold your breath, until your breathing stops forever, forever. The only thing you’ll get is this curse on your lips: I hope they taste of me forever.” Speaking of smooth transitions…
  8. Brand New – Jude Law and a Semester Abroad
    • Album: Your Favorite Weapon (2001)
    • Honorable mention track: Last Chance to Lose Your Keys
    • Selection summary: “I hope the next boy that you kiss, has something terribly contagious on his lips.” What do you know about transitions?! One of the angrier, more passionate jams on the list. “And every time, you fed the line, ‘you mean so much to me,’ I’m without you.” Brand New kept everything in perspective – no hopeless romanticism here, just real, rhythmic, and ‘needs to be on REPEAT.’ The most sustainable sounds of a glorious era.
  9. Blink 182 – Going Away to College
    • Album: Enema of the State (1999)
    • Honorable mention track: All the Small Things
    • Selection summary: Not quite as popular as its honorable mention (which was clearly a gateway-song for many pop-punkers in the early 2000s) but this was a classic Blink jam in its own right. “I haven’t been this scared in a long time, and I’m so unprepared so here’s your Valentine. Bouquet of clumsy words, a simple melody. This world’s an ugly place, but you’re so beautiful to me.” In typical Blink fashion, these smooth lines are encircled by hilarious, goof-ball high school stories that withstand the test of time.
  10. New Found Glory – Hit or Miss
    • Album: Self-Titled (2000)
    • Honorable mention track: Dressed to Kill
    • Selection summary: Another staple of the pop punk industry, NFG is more on that nasally sounding side of the shop, but their style is clearly sustainable. Still at it all these years later, with countless worthy tracks for this playlist – this jam is a toe-tapper for days.
  11. The Ataris – Takeoffs and Landings
    • Album: So Long, Astoria (2003)
    • Honorable mention track: In this Diary
    • Selection summary: Your quintessential ‘must-be-played-on-extended-plane-trips’ jam, touting lines like, “Fell asleep on Tuesday, woke up Monday afternoon…” SAY WHAT? (Gets me every, single, time.) “Slept right through your International Date Line.” OH SNAP. (The light bulb goes off, every, single, time.) With a smooth and welcoming rhythm, this is a lean-back-and-appreciate-pop-punk-jam.
  12. Acceptance – Over You
    • Album: Phantoms (2005)
    • Honorable mention track: Glory/Us
    • Selection summary: This jam definitely brings some contrast to the super poppy-vibe of the other tracks on the playlist (but don’t forget, any solid playlist has diversification!)… Teetering on the edge of emo, Acceptance carries a power-ballad-flare for the pop-punk dramatic, infusing melodies and a velvety finish to their sound.
  13. Lucky 7 – California Girl
    • Album: Self-titled (2002)
    • Honorable mention tracks: Falling Asleep & Come Monday
    • Selection summary: The staple track from a relatively unknown bad, this one is a powerhouse for a summer soundtrack. “With the ragtop down, starlit sky, pretty little blue gleam in her eye, she’s my California girl.” Yep, copy/pasting into the Tinder profile immediately under my wish-list. This one just feels like sunshine and tastes like saltwater.
  14. Bowling for Soup – Girl All the Bad Guys Want
    • Album: Drunk Enough to Dance (2002)
    • Honorable mention track: Life After Lisa
    • Selection summary: First and foremost, Bowling for Soup is hilarious – their songs are just raw and transparent, and usually involve romance gone wrong. Not to mention, I once saw them perform Shaggy – Angel at Warped Tour. Instant style points. Take some time to appreciate how this jam refuses to take itself too seriously, while infusing some passive aggressive jabs at emo tunes, “And when she walks, all the wind blows and the angels sing, she doesn’t notice me!”
  15. Less than Jake – Look What Happened
    • Album: Borders & Boundaries (2000) AND re-released on Anthem (2003)
    • Honorable mention track: The Science of Selling Yourself Short
    • Selection summary: Something ultra-respectable about a band with serious range, and the unique twist of integrating a trumpet into their jams. This track is a bit of a change-of-pace, but it’s the perfect song for a late night windows down drive.
  16. Funeral for a Friend – Bend Your Arms to Look Like Wings
    • Album: Casually Dressed and in Deep Conversation (2003)
    • Honorable mention track: Juneau
    • Selection summary: Adding more depth and richness to a list with lots of lighter-pop sound, Funeral for a Friend incorporates complementary screams, metal, and emo into their pop-punk sound. “As the sun sets, on battlefields. I hope you can save me. I hope you can save our wounded hearts.” Just a killer intro that sets up the rest of the track for tantalizing head-bobbing, fake-guitar strumming, and emo-revealing things.
  17. Jimmy Eat World – Sweetness
    • Album: Bleed American (2001)
    • Honorable mention track: The Middle
    • Selection summary: Another AZ shoutout (letsgo!!!), Jimmy Eat World is making us proud with jams like this, just demanding to be sung along. I mean, for goodness sake, “Are you listening? Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh. Sing it back. Ah, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh.” I do what you tell me, Jimmy Eat World. Following directions since ’01.
  18. Say Anything – Every Man Has a Molly
    • Album: … Is a Real Boy (2004)
    • Honorable mention track: Spidersong
    • Selection summary: Slightly questionable content at the ripe age of 15, but jumping on the Say Anything bandwagon at an early age set me up for decades of excellent jams. I’m still mad at Molly Connolly (how DARE she make an impulsive decision like that), but I’ve always appreciated this song for inspiring (what has to be) millions of other spite-songs.
  19. Mest – Rooftops
    • Album: Self-Titled (2003)
    • Honorable mention track: Jaded
    • Selection summary: Slowing it down a bit, getting a little introspective, this jam is perfect for contemplating what’s next. Doesn’t hurt that it has an infectious riff. “Up on the rooftop, listening to punk rock. Nobody believed us, this could be our one shot. That was all we had…” Preach, Mest. Preach.
  20. Spitalfield – I Love the Way She Said LA
    • Album: Remember Right Now (2003)
    • Honorable mention track: Stolen From Some Great Writer
    • Selection summary: Finishing on a high note, a song with an embedded pick-up line that actually works, “Now, you’ve got me thinking, and I really think it’s true. The sun shines sometimes just for you.” This song sounds like California and feels like 16. It’s a trip, man.

Don’t forget: Comment on this post with YOUR Early 2000s pop-punk playlist! 

Bonus bracket: Deducing the BEST jam from the era! The process:

  • I’ve taken my definitive playlist and broken it down into FOUR divisions.
    • Break-up or spite-jams
    • Idealistic, lady-chasing, Cali-vibe jams
    • Introspective, contemplative, life jams
    • Other damn good jams
  • I’ve seeded each division, based on my favorite jams DURING the 2000s (aka: if you would have asked 16 year old me to rank-order these bad boys, this is what you’d get). I’ve also awarded the top seed in each division a first round BYE for the battle royale.

Division 1: Break-up or spite-jams:

BYE: Taking Back Sunday – Cute without the E (Cut from the Team)

  1. Brand New – Jude Law and a Semester Abroad
  2. Fall Out Boy – Chicago is so Two Years Ago
  3. Acceptance – Over You
  4. Say Anything – Every Man Has a Molly

Division 2: Introspective, contemplative, life-jams:

BYE: The Format – The First Single

  1. Less than Jake – Look What Happened
  2. Jimmy Eat World – Sweetness
  3. The Ataris – Takeoffs and Landings
  4. Mest – Rooftops

Division 3: Idealistic, lady-chasing, Cali-vibe jams:

BYE: The Starting Line – Best of Me

  1. Lucky 7 – California Girl
  2. Yellowcard – Ocean Avenue
  3. Spitalfield – I Love the Way She Said LA
  4. Blink 182 – Going Away to College

Division 4: Other damn good jams:

BYE: The Used – Taste of Ink

  1. New Found Glory – Hit or Miss
  2. Bowling for Soup – Girl All the Bad Guys Want
  3. Sum 41 – Heart Attack
  4. Funeral for a Friend – Bend Your Arms to Look Like Wings


AJ Smith & Wheelhouse Factory, @wh_factory


About the author

AJ Smith

AJ has a bachelor degree in marketing and management as well as a master's degree in business administration. His specialties are basketball (letsgoo Suns!), baseball (letsgoo D-Backs/Bo-Sox!), football (letsgoo Cards and my "legendary for all the wrong reasons" fastasy football teams), early 2000s pop-punk, college gourmet culinary creations, Star Wars, bromance, cheese, and longwindedness.

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