The sophomore effort from Good Charlotte was by far their most successful record, selling over 3.5 million copies in the United States alone. The Young and the Hopeless features plenty of crisp pop-punk production, courtesy of veteran hit-maker Eric Valentine, and the band spent nearly three months crafting the recordings. While many critics panned the new material, fans of pop-punk and fans of their earlier material were able to find plenty to enjoy on the album. The record rips into a introductory track called “A New Beginning” and the hard-nosed guitar parts in the instrumental song signaled a cosmic shift in the direction Good Charlotte were taking their sound. The leaning towards darker material in their songs showed that the band were not comfortable with simply re-hashing the same sound on every album or song, and it would open them up to several new artistic opportunities.
”The Anthem” would be the second single to be released from the set that was quickly picking up momentum on rock radio and getting several repeat plays on MTV. It featured plenty of punching pop-punk riffs courtesy of the dual-guitar attack of Benji Madden and Billy Martin, and further established the band as a marquee name to watch in the ever-crowded pop-punk scene that was exploding at the time. “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” ended up being the lead single, and it featured everything you could want from a pop-punk track in the early 00’s. It featured a frenetic drumbeat courtesy of session drummer Josh Freese (The Vandals) and plenty of tongue-in-cheek lyrics about the pitfalls of becoming the very thing they were trying to avoid: being famous. The irony is, the song would launch Good Charlotte onto a new, unforeseen trajectory that would find them on marquee tours with powerhouse bands like No Doubt, and a co-headlining stint with New Found Glory. Lyrics like, “Well, did you know when you were famous you could kill your wife / And there’s no such thing as 25 to life / As long as you’ve got the cash to pay for Cochran / And did you know if you were caught and you were smokin’ crack / McDonald’s wouldn’t even wanna take you back / You could always just run for mayor of D.C.” captured the spirit of that time period while still providing social commentary on the failing legal system that hasn’t gotten much better to date.
The band would showcase more of the vocal harmonies they tinkered with on their debut self-titled record on “Wondering,” that further spoke to the magic that Good Charlotte were capable of creating when firing on all creative cylinders. They would take more of an adult-based polish to their songwriting on other similar songs like “Say Anything” and “The Day That I Die” that highlighted the rich vocal performance of Joel Madden, paired with his twin brother.
Other standout songs from the set included the more speedy “The Story of My Old Man” that displayed the band’s ability to hone in on their past personal history paired with a more optimistic outlook on the lessons their dad taught them over the years. “My Bloody Valentine” remains a crowd favorite since it hinted at the darker material the band would go for on The Chronicles of Life & Death and struck the proper balance between harder-nosed pop-punk material paired with that great vocal sheen that the band typically provides.
Some of the songs didn’t quite work for me on The Young & The Hopeless. “Girls & Boys” is either hated or loved, depending on who you ask in Good Charlotte’s fanbase, with very few just simply being in the middle of the road of tolerating the song. It ended up being the third single to be released from the set, and it was at a time when the band’s popularity was at its height. The song can arguably be the reason why some music fans dismissed Good Charlotte as “too poppy” to be classified as a pop-punk band, yet the material that surrounds it begs to differ. “Hold On” would follow in the single queue with a song about making the best out of a rotten situation, with a simple message of: “it gets better.” The band would show that they hand plenty to offer new audiences just getting into the pop-punk genre and open doors to the other bands Good Charlotte displayed on their clothing like Rancid and Social Distortion. “Riot Girl” would even name drop several of these bands in the lyrics to show their love to the punk rock crowd. The titled track would end up being the final single from the set and leave a pretty clear path forward for where Good Charlotte would take their sound on the subsequent records.
While this record doesn’t capture as much of the early magic of their debut album, there’s still plenty of great songs to enjoy while looking back on this LP’s 20th anniversary. If I were to go back through the full discography of Good Charlotte’s albums, this one would fall somewhere in the middle of the pack, with Youth Authority, Cardiology, and their self-titled being somewhat interchangeable in my favorites at the top. Good Charlotte can certainly look back fondly on this time in their career since this record would open up so many new doors of opportunity in their young lives that were just getting started.