“Emo”…the very word strikes fear into the hearts of parents, passionate rebellion into the hearts of fans and a sour nostalgia into the hearts of those few who were there at the start. However ‘emo’, or emotional punk, is much more than a fleeting teenage fad – and has been so for over 20 years.
The Birth of Emo
Back in the mid 80s, Washington DC band Rites of Spring cropped up on the local punk scene and began thrilling their audiences with furious and energetic performances. Their hallmark sound fused melodic aspects with the well-established punk formula, creating a platform for emotional expression never before seen within alternative rock music. Emo was born, although it was hardly accepted as a credible sub-genre at the time.
Emo in the 1990s
Skip to the mid-to-late 90s, and Rites of Spring’s influence was deeply ingrained, with bands like Fugazi and Sunny Day Real Estate pioneering the more evolved form of the emo sub-genre. Throw in the newly-found indie sound of The Get Up Kids and Braid, and it’s easy to see that emo had evolved into a sprawling movement in itself.
Emo in the new Millenium
Moving onto the turn of the century, the emo brand had gained its fair share of stigmas, not all of them good. Whilst bands of the past had been known and respected for their expressive nature, music fans had begun to label emo bands as ‘whiny’ or ‘depressing’, causing popular acts such as Jimmy Eat World to deny their place in emo heritage.
The early 2000s also brought with them a revolution in pop-punk, blurring the line between punk and emo even further. Bands like The Starting Line and other such Drive-Thru Records names added a pop sensibility to the genre, fueling the ambiguity of an already confusing music scene.
Modern day Emo
So what about emo in 2007? Well, it seems that the genre has been adopted by a whole generation who have applied the name to acts such as My Chemical Romance and Panic! At The Disco. Whilst it is arguable that their subject matter fits the bill, their inherent mainstream and overly-pop sound betrays the underground values from which the genre was born. However, millions of people do find comfort in the songs and lyrics of modern emo acts – so perhaps it’s simply a misunderstood necessity.
Whatever the case, emo has managed to gain a bad reputation, so perhaps this brief introduction will go some way in explaining that, behind its tight jeans, straightened black hair and ‘guyliner’, it’s really not all that bad.
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