What a year 2017 was for music. We got new music from The Maine, All Time Low, Paramore, Knuckle Puck, Neck Deep, P!nk, Kesha, The Wonder Years, Bleachers… There are too many albums to name here. Yet, what many of them had in common was exploration, change, evolution, diversity.

Whether pop-punk is dying or not, which is the case of another discussion, the majority of the readers of All Punked Up would defend the genre and its existence to date. And Pop-Punk is still pretty much alive, so that’s fair; we have bands like Waterparks, Neck Deep and State Champs still hitting hard on what makes the genre so distinguishable and why we all love it, there’s no doubt in it. But when you see acts such as The Maine, Paramore or All Time Low, it is hard to argue that bands grow and with such growth comes an exploration towards other sounds.

This is not exclusive to pop-punk, we’ve seen rock bands going to a softer sound (Linkin Park) or the other way around with some artists (Harry Styles). So what does this mean in 2018 and how we could embrace it?

I don’t know if it was because I listened to way more music (old and new) last year than any other year, but 2017 was the year in which I acknowledged that only in a few cases it’s cool to have bands that keep playing basically the same music over and over again with every new album; but that in most cases I really enjoy the musical exploration that each album brings, mostly because it allows us to have something for every occasion, mood or even age (physical or emotional).

And yet, more than that, as fans we must realize that our favorite artists are humans as well and therefore they change, just like us. It is logical (and something I strongly appreciate since, as much as we change, our core is sort of constant) that we expect such artists to maintain the essence that distinguishes them from other acts, and even more so when we are talking about bands or artists that have had a major role in the music industry for a very long time. But in such conservatism of the essence there are multiple open doors to keep it and explore new territories that can lead to a better understanding of music and therefore life. Some artists get bored of doing the same over and over again, some have likes that were hidden in order to maintain a coherent front face, and some just enjoy to push themselves further.

The problem is not genre in itself. Many die hard rock and even pop-punk fans argue that pop is trash, too simple, and that bands who land in such territory are “sell outs”. That’s a misunderstanding of artists and genres, which exist to try to classify music, but are not a bottle to enclose acts in a bubble from which they can’t depart, even if momentary. Sure, fans are not entitled to enjoy and like every single thing their favorite band or artist does, but one thing is to like and another to bash and mistreat them for doing something different just for the sake of it.

With that in mind, 2017 showed us that our favorite artists are more than capable to explore, and that most of them do it while maintaining the essence that made them a recognized act.

In 2018 it seems like such exploration won’t stop. We will probably see artists taking a more rock approach to their music, some going more indie and others more pop. But whatever the direction they all take, catch a breath and examine the music you listen to, research on what the album is technically based on, how it was made and what the reasons of the artist were in order to create it. Then, make up your mind and make a ground-based criticism or praise.