An Emotional genre of music

For all the hardcore (and aspiring) punk rockers, EMO has been a word well known for quite some time. It has now not only ruled the music world for a long time but also burnt runway floors and ruled street fashion for a long time and the Emo movement is only getting stronger. Emo is a genre of music that started as an offshoot of hardcore punk and later adopted a pop-punk influence as it wowed listeners in the mainstream music scene and its wave of followers spread. The term itself is a short form of the word ‘emotional’ and is a broad title that covers a lot of different styles of emotionally-charged punk rock, stereotyped fashion and now, even the “Emo” way of life.

The first sparks of this Emo- movement were seen in Washington D.C. in 1985 by two great hardcore rockers – Ian Mackaye and Guy Picciotto. They wanted to personalize their music, breaking away from traditions and stereotypes with greater experimentation. They also wanted to distance themselves from what they perceived as escalating violence and confining constraints of the basic hardcore rock scene at that time. Their respective bands, Mackaye’s Embrace and Picciotto’s Rites of Spring came up with some very innovative and definitive soundtracks that had a great influence on the music scene in D.C. Slowly this genre gained recognition and more and more bands were inducted into this kind of music leading to the summer of 1985 soon becoming famous as the “Revolution Summer”.

The actual origin of the term Emo remains uncertain but in a 1985 interview published in Flipside magazine, the members of the band Rites of Spring mentioned that the term Emo was used by some of their fans to describe their music. By the early 90s the name gained popularity and it was not uncommon for the early DC scene to be referred to as Emo-core which was short for ‘emotional hardcore’. By and large, the more hardcore style of Emo began to fade as many of the early era groups disbanded and the original Emo movement ended in about 1994. The contemporary Emo music has more of a pop-punk influence. Some famous contemporary bands which can be classified as Emo include My Chemical Romance, Good Charlotte, Fall Out Boys and Blink-182.

The tag Emo has not really been welcomed by all the bands being described under it. In many cases, the term had simply been attached to them because of musical similarities, a common fashion sense, or because of the band’s popularity within the “emo” scene, and not actually because of the band’s adherence to Emo as a music genre. Gerard Way, the lead singer of My Chemical Romance interestingly went so far as to say in an interview that “emo is a pile of sh*t”, and that his band was never Emo. Panic at the Disco also stated in an interview that “emo is bullsh*t.” These two bands however, ironically, tend to be classified as Emo.

It did not take a long time for the use of the term “emo” to expand beyond the musical genre. The word “emo” became associated with open displays of strong emotion. Fashion styles and attitudes that were portrayed by musicians of this genre, being widely copied by the fans of similar “emo” bands also began to be referred to as “emo.” In recent times, Emo has drawn sharp criticism from not only fashion watch dogs but also from people who oppose it for being too anti-conformist in its outlook. The portrayal of gore, blood and images like hanging teddies popular in the sphere of Emo art has been scoffed at. In Russia, even a law had been proposed to regulate Emo websites and forbid Emo style at schools and government buildings, for fears of emo being a “dangerous teen trend” promoting anti-social behaviour, depression, social withdrawal and even suicide. Worth a mention here is the suicide of Hannah Bond, where both the coroner at the inquest into her death and her mother, Heather Bond, blamed emo music for her death. They claimed that Emo music glamorized suicide and her apparent obsession with My Chemical Romance was the factor behind her death.

The critics might look at Emo as another phase that is meant to stay for some time and then wane away while its followers would hope for its longevity. But either way, it cannot be argued that Emo music deserves admiration for its spirit of innovation, experimentation and also, its intensely personal lyrics, even though they have been called sexist for focussing too much on women-driven pangs of sadness and depression. The popular culture today has lapped up Emo in all its connotations whether it be music or fashion and for the moment, it looks like Emo is here to stay.

Pronoti Baglary

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