Whatever happened to emo?

Hey you, older-gen millennial! Do you remember a time when it was all about the guyliner, floppy fringes that swept one eye, lip-piercings, band t-shirts and Motorolas?

Whatever happened to emo?

Now it's all about 1930's haircuts, muscles, flecky eyebrows, cheeky Nando's, hipsters and coffee shops. Over ten years ago, the controversial Emo movement of the 2000's reached its commercial and mainstream peak with music sales going way into the millions. It didn't just make a commercial impact - the social influence it had over young adults and teenagers still resonates even by today's standards. But as time's gone by, Emo has almost died out completely. What happened? Why doesn't the genre have the same effect as it did in 2006?

Loss of relevance

We begin with the most obvious reason, which is that it simply doesn't matter to today's teenagers anymore. At the time, Emo and its fan bases were very angsty, and for many this music was a way of expressing their emotional instability and stresses about the modern world.

Of course, it's been 10 long years since, and these teenagers have grown into adults. As a result, they move on to other things in life, like careers, settling down, making new friends, finding new interests, etc. It would be a bit weird finding a 25-year-old man with overgrown hair still complaining about the fact that Gerard Way will always will be 'emo', wouldn't it?

However, it doesn't mean that Emo won't come back - it still remains an important genre to lots of young people. For example, although they're not technically emo, the alternative hip-hop duo Twenty One Pilots have become massively popular in the past couple of years due to their introspective lyrics that stick with their listeners, and seem to fit the Emo model.

Controversy and Backlash

With most genres of music, you'll always have criticism. For those who remember, Emo was far from an exception. Emos were often heavily criticized for their lifestyle choices and fashion, and these teens were often prone to bullying, hate crimes, or even legal persecution in countries like Iraq, where in 2012 a group of "emo" youths were killed by militias.

And let's not forget the suicide cult accusations - in the late 2000s, it seemed that most people believed that Emo glamorized suicide and self-harm, with the tabloid newspaper The Sun and other news sources directly associating the suicide of a 13-year-old girl with rock band My Chemical Romance in 2008. So it's not surprising the genre died down so quickly - the attention it was receiving clearly got out of hand, and as a result people wanted to disassociate themselves from the movement.

But how did it end up like this? It was nothing more than a small music scene back in the 80s and 90s in America - what made it go all crazy?


Back in the early 00s, the grunge movement had almost completely died, and with a newfound alt-rock audience to market to, businesses were looking for next big thing for these young people - they discovered Emo.

And so the first wave of commercial emo bands began, and started to gain a strong following amongst outsider teens. Bands ranged from The Used, Jimmy Eat World, Dashboard Confessional, Taking Back Sunday - the list goes on. It wasn't until around 2005, however, that it quickly became a household name, especially with My Chemical Romance releasing their major label debut Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge, which is said to have helped really bring emo as an image into the spotlight.

Despite the commercial success, fans of the original movement in the 20th century have since rejected the modern sound, due to its controversy and negative image that was far from the Emocore's original ideologies. Bands like Panic! At the Disco and My Chemical Romance have even panned the label itself for being 'garbage' - some bands from this era have changed their sound completely to avoid being caught under the Emo umbrella.

Eventually, sales died out, fans lost interest, and Emo left the spotlight at the turn of the next decade. It was drawn out for too long, and became its own worst nightmare.

No-one appreciated the genre's importance

Well, aren't we going to talk about the impact it's had? It seems to me that no-one really appreciated the whole point of emo in the first place - it gave a voice to millions of young people struggling to deal with their mental health and highlighted an emotional state that not a lot of genres seem to have done before. It has nothing to do with wanting to kill ourselves or promote the neo-goth image that drove parents to the brink of insanity.

I am massive fan of the Emo genre myself, having drowned myself in angsty lyrics and punky guitar riffs. Considering teenagers go through a lot, this kind of music is extremely important to me and many others - it reminds me that whatever I feel now or felt before won't matter when I'm an adult; it inspires me to keep going through life with a sense of rhythm and reassurance that I'm not alone.

I'm going to look back on these moments, as many people do, and know how important this music was to my life - just perhaps, it offered a reason to live.

Cue the almighty anthem!


Luke Taylor

Luke Taylor Contributor

I work as the Network Administrator for Voice. Having completed my apprenticeship at Unit Twenty Three, I continue my work supporting Voice and the Youth Network in whatever way possible. Music is my passion, and I will happily talk about all the bands you've probably never heard of!

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  • Bhavesh Jadva

    On 12 June 2016, 13:46 Bhavesh Jadva Voice Team commented:

    I feel like the world wasn't ready for emo when it was at its height. We were at the end of a period when people still said 'grow up, shrug it off, grow a pair' etc. to mental health issues. We still mightn't be quite accepting of it and emo but we're in a better place than we were - which is probably also part of its demise.

  • Luke Taylor

    On 18 January 2017, 14:57 Luke Taylor Contributor commented:

    I agree, Bhav (excuse the late response) - and adults still stay that all young people do is moan!

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