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What is Emo?

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what is emo

Picture it: the Washington DC music scene of the mid-1980s. Hardcore music is the prevalent genre of any real import: Bad Brains, Teen Idles, Minor Threat et all are tearing up venues with hedonistic abandon, and a small minority is getting sick of it. Sick of the drugs, the drink, the vapidity of hardcore music in its increasing popularity. Things had to change. With this realization on the part of the likes of Rites of Spring and Embrace, the genre which would later be mockingly referred to as \'emocore\' was born in DC in the late \'80s. The music was softer, slower and more technical, with lyrics on the personal rather than political scale. Distorted guitars strumming octave chords and strained vocals were the order in this new genre soon to evolve into the genre of \'emo\'.

What is Emo?

The sound of classic emo was brutal : there was a lot of play on quiet-loud, soft-harsh dynamic music; songs became movements .. Vocals ranged from a whisper to a talking, all in keeping with the mood of songs and emotion of the vocalist. Performances were often honest and earnest, with vocalists often breaking down into tears from this emotional outpouring that was their music. The lyrics tended to be abstract, difficult to decipher and, invariably, difficult to hear; all of which added to the mystique of the genre\'s music.
The mid-1990s brought with them a new generation of bands influenced by the work of Fugazi, such as Sunny Day Real Estate, Mineral and Texas is the Reason. In the fledgling era of the World Wide Web, internet discussion on these bands and other bands belonging to their scene led to their being tagged \'emo\', even if Fugazi had had nothing to do with the First Wave of emo. The \'90s period saw the first \'emo\' mainstream record release in the form of Jimmy Eat World\'s Static Prevails. This genre of what is called \'post-emo indie\' continued to rise in success up until the early 2000\'s, where it then met its end of mainstream popularity.
However, all of this is very much in the past: the modern definition of the term \'emo\' has very little to do with the original \'80s hardcore definition, or even the \'90s indie definition. Jimmy Eat World \'s shift from post-emo indie influences to a more poppy feel to their music led to the term still being applied to them, inexorably changing its meaning. 2003 saw the success of singer-songwriters such as Chris Carrabba (of Dashboard Confessional), who himself was seen to be at the forefront of a new movement of artists with (supposedly) overtly emotional music. MTV had to come up with a tag to market this movement at adolescents in a catchy manner, so the tag \'emo \' was chosen. This misnomer was expanded to many other bands with very little, if anything at all, in common: it is, therefore, pretty much impossible to define emo in the current musical climate, other than the assumption that it \'s anything being marketed to teenagers. The term \'screamo\' (which will be discussed later) was used to describe bands with a heavier sound, producing a similar cathartic-esque music. Current examples of \'emo\'/\'screamo\' include:
  • My Chemical Romance
  • Fall Out Boy
  • Dashboard Confessional
  • Cursive
  • Avenged Sevenfold
  • Bring me The Horizon
  • Panic(!) at the Disco
  • From First to Last
  • Senses Fail
  • Taking Back Sunday
  • Bright Eyes
  • Coheed and Cambria
  • Thursday
  • and more
Emo purists see the MTV generation to be a scourge upon the genre, making the definition between new and old emo clear: they use the term \'screamo\' (or \'skramz\' as a humorous way to differentiate between screamo and MTV screamo) to describe the (mostly European) bands sticking to the original emo formula. Internet terrorism has even been undertaken by these groups to make well-known faux screamo bands change any details which make them out to be screamo: they\'ve made a lexical error into a political cause. Bands considered to be true screamo include Stella Dawes, Daitro, I Would Set Myself On Fire for You, Circle Takes the Square, Hot Cross, Saetia, Envy and Neil Perry.