I’ve been largely oblivious to the emo movement in music and youth culture, but being a pop music fan I feel I should find out a little about this recent mass-market outgrowth of the hardcore punk scene. Opportunity struck in the most recent issue of kids’ mag Kamratposten left on the john by my 9-y-o son. Enthroned, I found a feature piece about a heavily eyelinered 14-y-o Stockholm emo-subculture girl, with a list of five emo bands deemed important by her. I read up about them on Allmusic, and offer the list with my commentary in the following for anyone who wants to learn about emo music.
- My Chemical Romance. USA. Album debut 2002. Big MTV band with a platinum-selling album. Pic above.
- Tokio Hotel. Germany. Album debut 2005. A single topped the German pop chart in August ’05. “The follow-ups ‘Rette Mich’ and ‘Der Letzte Tag’ also hit number one, although the former appeared in a re-recorded version dramatically different from its LP version thanks to Kaulitz’s post-pubescent vocal changes.”
- Panic! At the Disco. USA. Album debut 2005. MTV Video of the Year 2006.
- From First to Last. USA. Album debut 2004, titled Dear Diary, My Teen Angst Has a Bodycount. Second album on US Top-40.
- Jimmy Eat World. USA. Album debut 1996. A 2001 album sold 1.3 million copies in the U.S.
Says an anonymous writer at Allmusic:
“Originally an arty outgrowth of hardcore punk, emo became an important force in underground rock by the late ’90s, appealing to modern-day punks and indie-rockers alike. Some emo leans toward the progressive side, full of complex guitar work, unorthodox song structures, arty noise, and extreme dynamic shifts; some emo is much closer to punk-pop, though it’s a bit more intricate. Emo lyrics are deeply personal, usually either free-associative poetry or intimate confessionals. Though it’s far less macho, emo is a direct descendant of hardcore’s preoccupations with authenticity and anti-commercialism; it grew out of the conviction that commercially oriented music was too artificial and calculated to express any genuine emotion. Because the emo ideal is authentic, deeply felt emotion that defies rational analysis, the style can be prone to excess in its quest for ever-bigger peaks and releases. But at its best, emo has a sweeping power that manages to be visceral, challenging, and intimate all at once.”
I wonder what was wrong with me at fourteen. Back then I loved Depeche Mode and Kraftwerk, who were neither visceral, challenging nor intimate. And I was at least sixteen before I wore any eyeliner.