Looking Back at Emo Music & Lifestyle

Emo is more than just being obsessed with eyeliner and deeply emotional music. For some, this music cuts to the core of their being.

There was a time during the 2000s when Panic! at the Disco’s music was a defining characteristic of people’s life. The kind of emotional expression that took over young people’s lives for a certain period there is fascinating to look back at now. The sound of emo music has changed over the years. From the mid-80s to now the early 2020s, what people perceive as emo music has been redefined. However, at its peak which is what most people remember it for, it was this sort of alternative/punk-rock renaissance. 


A Way of Life 

The type of relationship that bands and musicians who played what was perceived as emo music went beyond just the songs. It was about fashion, language, and culture. Emo kids felt rebellious against some form of threat from a society that always told them who and how to be. Though nowadays people sometimes post old pictures from their ’emo phase’ and laugh about it.

Most fans’ memories of My Chemical Romance’s music are closely related to their emo phase in the 2000s. Make no mistake, this was very much perpetuated by the artists themselves through music videos that inspired the emo look. People tried to copy the artists and in turn, the artists were gaining a new fanbase. Though emo music is still around even in 2022, its peak is very much 15 years past. 

Plenty of controversies surrounded the emo lifestyle as well. Parents, as per usual, feared their children were being integrated into some sort of cult. The controversies weren’t entirely without merit, however. A lot of the emo kids were going through some traumatic stuff emotionally. At the time especially, it seemed like the best escape was to connect with other kids who felt the same way through sketchy online websites (or just Myspace). What these kids needed was therapy but what they could afford to get is some questionable music that on the surface it made them feel like they weren’t alone in what they were going through. 


Popular Emo Music 

This type of angst can not be found in any other genre or subgenre of music. If you grew up throughout the 2000s and you ever found yourself screaming what you thought were deep lyrics in your room, you surely have already heard of some of these songs and bands. 

Calling All Cars by Senses Fail — a perfect emo band name, by the way — is one of those self-loathing songs that certainly sounded better when you weren’t mature enough to understand good music yet. Mayday Parade’s Miserable at Best romantic piano ballad is exemplary of emo heartbreak. One thing all these songs have in common is the fact that all the singers sing as if they are yelling at their parents on the brink of crying. MCR’s Welcome to the Black Parade is probably one of the cornerstones of emo music. Even people outside the emo lifestyle knew of this song because it is actually good, if not slightly outdated production-wise. 

And lastly, the godfather of all emo classics, Panic! at the Disco’s I Write Sins Not Tragedies is a troublesome song that tells the story of a scandalous wedding. Shout-out to Paramore for providing one of the few female emo voices of the time. Another thing most emo songs have in common is outward misogyny but that’s a story for another time. 

Despite all its flaws and concerning behavior that the emo phase or lifestyle pushed onto people, ultimately, it did also provide a lot of comfort to many. The portrayal of socially unspoken feelings of dread and anxiety managed to bring some people together for a while. Although now we all look back and laugh at our old selves, for some that is only possible because that old self found emo and embraced it to get through tough times. 


Photo: Christian Bertrand/Shutterstock


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