Growing up with Good Charlotte: 15 years of ‘The Young and The Hopeless’

Growing up with Good Charlotte: 15 years of ‘The Young and The Hopeless’

By Kathryn Black

Oct 11, 2017 8:52

Good Charlotte’s ‘The Young and The Hopeless’ is 15 years old. Let that sink in for a minute. A decade and a half has passed since Benji Madden rocked spiky hair so pointy it could be used as a weapon and his brother Joel, along with other band members Paul and Billy, made a statement in eyeliner and MADE merchandise. Often cited as a pop punk classic - with its lead singles still played to joyful responses at alternative club nights - the album helped pave the way for early noughties angst. For some, it had as much of an impact as the likes of ‘The Black Parade’ and ‘Deja Entendu’. For me and my friends, it soundtracked our growing up.

The Young and The Hopeless’ came out just after we started secondary school and, while it was 2001’s self-titled album that initially won us over to what would turn out to be a life listening to alternative music, my friends and I adorned our school planners with cut out pictures of the Madden twins as we practised the album’s vocal harmonies and debated which band member would make the best boyfriend. I couldn’t talk about this album without asking my friends their opinions. While Bobbie – a friend for 15 years – simply said “[it’s] my favourite album of all time EVER (as you know) I will be listening to it for the rest of my life”, my friend Ellie – who I would sing songs in the playground with as far back as 22 years ago – elaborated a little further.

“I can’t pinpoint exactly what it was (maybe a shared penchant for experimenting with eye make up/the undeniable catchiness of pop-punk/ dishy Joel Madden) but my friends and I became obsessed; listening to their first two albums on repeat, scrawling their lyrics across our school planners and covering our rooms with posters. I know I’m far from alone when I say the bridge from childhood to teenage life is a tricky one, but if you had a favourite band you loved more than anything else, it was made that little bit easier.”

No longer twelve years old, the days of obsession are over but the harmonies still make an appearance from time to time. And even now, as I wear my GC t-shirt to bed, far safer and content than I was as a child, I think fondly of a band that my friends and I bonded over as kids. ‘The Young and The Hopeless’ played through tinny speakers as we drank in parks throughout the mid-noughties, and we screamed with elation when we finally got to see them at Brixton Academy aged 16.

What makes this album so special to us and so many others? Now, it’s nostalgia. Back then, it was the soundtrack to us growing up. As we grew in maturity and intensity, on the cusp of teenagehood, so did the music we listened to. Gone was the carefree skater punk, replaced with brooding, determined, self-reflection right from the twinkling, Nightmare Before Christmas-esque opening of ‘A New Beginning’.

The album opened up a world previously unexplored and allowed us to tackle the issues becoming increasingly important to us: love, family and friendship. A style of music we hadn’t listened to before opened up a world of determination and awareness, and remains a record to go back to time and time again. A recent listen reminded me of how relevant it still is today.

‘The Anthem’ remains one of the best two-fingers-up-to-society songs out there. A simple chorus (“this is the anthem / throw all your hands up”) and jokey middle eight (“shake it three times / you’re playing with yourself”) make accessible a wealth of serious issues. For a teenager, hearing someone sing about the pressures of making a success of yourself (“go to college or university / get a real job / that’s what they said to me”) gave us something to relate to, something to cling on to, in a stressful time of our lives.

These frustrations were emphasised in ‘Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous’, an upbeat yet seriously messaged track that summarised our frustrations towards anyone better off than us but still not happy. “We’ll take your clothes, cash, cars and homes / Just stop complaining” we yelled along, angry at everything the metaphorical famous represented: parents, teachers, whoever fit the role. What so many see as a silly singalong, was for us a relatable look at things affecting us at the time.

Convinced we understood the romance of ‘Wondering’, we sang “Everybody needs someone that they can trust in / You’re somebody that I found just in time” to the pictures on our notebooks and the teenage crushes we admired from afar. Singing in unison, the most obvious conclusion was we just wanted these songs to be about love. Looking back, those lyrics apply to the friendships we built at a testing time of youth, whether we realised it or not as it happened.

Our first inklings of an awareness of our mental health were reinforced with the likes of ‘Say Anything’ and lyrics like: “When will you laugh again / laugh like we did back when / we made noise ‘til 3am and the neighbours would complain.” Amazingly we felt nostalgic as young as sixteen, and looked back at the fun we used to have. Even though we knew Good Charlotte didn’t know us personally (if only!) – it felt as though they had written those songs just for us.

‘The Day That I Die’s nostalgic, rose-tinted look at the final chapter of someone’s life gave us another opportunity to sing something we didn’t know how to articulate ourselves and, with our feelings rarely discussed at such a young age – or at least not as openly and honestly as we might manage now – it gave us a song to smile along to when we may have been struggling internally.

We listened to ‘The Story Of My Old Man’ when we felt angry at our parents. We sang ‘Riot Girl’ when we were lacking in self-confidence. We blared ‘My Bloody Valentine’ as we dipped our toe into slightly heavier music, and blasted ‘Movin’ On’ at the end of it all. “Some friends become your family” we shouted, arm in arm, oblivious we’d remain friends today. An album that encapsulates the journey we travelled growing up and learning to accept ourselves, ‘The Young and The Hopeless’ changed our lives.