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Good Charlotte – A Posing Posse?

One of the most popular bands among young adolescents, Good Charlotte continue to maintain their position with their brand of pop punk which has infused a dose of frenetic angst into their audiences since the release of their self-titled debut album in 2000. 

Named after a well-known children’s book written by Carol Beach York, Good Charlotte is fronted by identical twin brothers, Benji (guitar) and Joel (vocals) Madden, who formed the band in 1996 in their hometown of Waldorf, Maryland.  The brothers recruited their high school friends, Paul Thomas (bass) and Aaron Escolopio (drums).  Since then, Billy Martin (guitar) was added to the band, and Escolopio was replaced first by Dusty, and then Chris Wilson, who is the band’s current drummer.      

It took a couple of years for the band to gain some recognition.  Their hard work paid of though as they received steady gigs around the area, and they received some airplay on radio stations WHFS and Y100.  The band received further exposure by securing opening acts for more high profile bands like Blink 182, Lit, Eve 6, and Bad Religion.  This eventually led them to a major label contract with Epic Records. 

In 2000, Good Charlotte released their self-titled album, their first major-label release.  Although the record sold adequately, it didn’t propel the band to stardom.  One song from the album, “The Click”, was featured as the theme song for MTV's animated series, "Undergrads”.  After the release, Good Charlotte toured extensively refining their sound and vision, as well as developing an ardent fan base stirred by the band's powerful energy and straight-up directness.  With a loyal fan base in their pocket, Good Charlotte went to work for their second studio release.  

The follow up to their debut, “The Young and the Hopeless”, was released in October 2002, and it would be their defining piece of work to date that would launch them into a popularity that very few bands get to experience.  The album has sold over three million copies worldwide and earned them cover pages on Rolling Stone Magazine and Alternative Press.  The album’s success was driven by four hit singles – “The Anthem”, “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous”, “Boys and Girls”, and “Hold On”.   

Their popularity can be attributed in part by their attention-grabbing music videos, which received heavy airplay from MTV.  The music video to “The Anthem” went on to win 2003’s MTV Video Music Award for “Viewers Choice”.  Their popularity eventually led the Madden brothers to serve as hosts to the MTV show, “All Things Rock”, which further boosted the band’s profile, and consequently, more album sales ensued. 

The success that “The Young and the Hopeless” provided gave the band financial flexibility to pursue other business ventures.  The Maddens acquired and began to run a record label, DC Flag, and the clothing company, MADE.  Guitarist Billy Martin also runs a clothing company, LeVeL 27.  The band also secured many advertising endorsement deals with such high profile corporations like Pepsi and Electronic Arts Media.   

In October 2004, Good Charlotte released their highly anticipated third studio album titled "The Chronicles Of Life And Death".  The album received critical acclaim by Alternative Press who stated that, “the band is growing by remarkable leaps and bounds, offering an increasingly multifaceted musical palette that evinces Joel and Benji Madden's mounting songwriting muscle…  The Chronicles of Life and Death, Good Charlotte exhibit escalating artistic ambition without sacrificing the idiosyncratic spirit, style, and sincerity that made them one of today's most important bands.”  

Despite their huge popularity right now, Good Charlotte is pretty much universally rejected within the punk scene.  Although the band members dress and act in a stereotypically punk rock manner, many veteran punk rockers feel that they were commercially produced to cash in on the current trendy appeal of the genre, which has its roots derived from the anti-commercial, socially-conscious, anarchist spirit.  Good Charlotte is frequently lambasted for their willingness to endorse corporations (they once played a concert at the White House with Pepsi stickers on their guitars), their frequent appearance on MTV – which is widely noted for boosting the appeal of bubble-gum pop music, and their fan base which is dominated by pre-pubescent girls who are drawn by the band’s youth and attractiveness that has led to the band’s comparison as a punk Backstreet Boys.  But what really irks a lot of punk rockers is the band’s shallow and tame lyrics. 

You be the judge:

“Misunderstood out in the cold.  I am so young but I feel old.  The things you say, they really bring me down.  I've found my happy place is on the ground.  I am down (repeat 4 times).  No sound is found when you come around (repeat 4 times).”         - from “I’m Down”

 “I’m troublesome I've fallen.  Im’ angry at my father.  It’s me against this world and I don’t care.  I dont care.”                                                                                        - from “The Young and the Hopeless”

“Lifestyles of the rich and the famous.  They're always complainin'.  Always complainin'.  If money is such a problem.  Well they've got mansions.  Think we should rob them”                                                                                                             - from “Lifestyle of the Rich and Famous”

“You know the happiest day of my life.  I swear the happiest day of my life.  Is the day that I die.  Can you feel the cold tonight.  It sets in, but it's alright.  Darkness falls, I'm letting go.  All alone but I feel fine.”                                                                - from “The Day that I Died”

“Girls don't like boys, girls like cars and money.  Boys will laugh at girls when they're not funny.  And these girls like these boys like these boys like these girls.  The girls with the bodies like boys with Ferraris.  Girls don't like boys, girls like cars and money.”                                                                                                             - from “Girls and Boys”

And the list can go on and on… 

Having read most of Good Charlotte’s song lyrics, I can understand their worldwide appeal to prepubescent girls – there lyric’s cuts to their very soul.  I must however commend Good Charlotte in their response to the criticisms of their “selling out”.  The best quote had to come from their guitarist Billy Martin who said, “I sell out every day.  Give me five bucks and I’ll give you a kiss.”

Their ferociously defensive fans have also responded citing the natural evolution of music - As times change, so must music!  In whatever regards, the debate is largely unsolvable unless two clear questions are defined: What is Punk Music? and What is selling out?  In The Good Charlotte Video Collection, a DVD release of all Good Charlotte's music videos, the Madden twins state they have never claimed themselves to be punk, remarking "we always feel as though we're on trial for the stupidest reasons, like if we're punk or not.  It's just music."

You figure that these responses would be a sign of the band’s maturity and serve as a mark of their strong stance to their own convictions.  That is until you’ve read the recent news involving Good Charlotte’s lead singer, Joel Madden and the omnipotent Hilary Duff and Lindsay Lohan feud. 

MTV news reported that Madden refused to give Lohan’s younger brother Cody an autograph.  This prompted young Cody to get his mommy.  Madden then told the incensed Dina Lohan that she get her daughter to apologize for her actions against Duff .  This well-know feud is believed to began when both singers dated Aaron Carter .