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What is Emo?

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May 22, 2011 8:33PM

The term "Emo" applies to a music and fashion genre that is

based on a music culture that formed in the 1980's and 1990's. The

original roots were punk rock bands, but the term is now loosely

applied to a range of alternative music styles. The fashion and

behavioral aspects mirror some of the original trends, and have

been described as dark, emotional, depressed, or moody. (These

concepts are all quite familiar to many modern teenagers.)

The Original Emo

Emo was a kind of hardcore punk music that originated in

the 80s. It was pioneered by bands such as Rites of Spring, and

spread to include many different sounds ranging from aggressive and

discordant to mellow and melancholy. Examples of bands are Amanda

Woodward, Christie Front Drive and Julia. There still are "emo"

bands around, who fly the flag for the original sound.

The term fell from popularity, and was then taken up by the MTV

crowd. It was first used to describe more emotional bands such as

Dashboard Confessional and "Thursday", and then because used as a

catch-all term for any band that plays dark, alternative, emotional

music. Anything from My Chemical Romance to Jack's Mannequin has

been described as emo.

People started using it to describe themselves. Nearly everyone

knows or knows of an "emo kid"; they probably wear dark clothes,

skinny jeans, have a haircut which covers at least part of their

face, and follow the "alternative" lifestyle. Whether you respect,

hate, or simply don't give a damn about "emo kids", at least have

some respect for the genre, back when it was simply about making

passionate, experimental music.

More on Emo

Emo is a genre of music, and a quickly emerging sub-culture.

There are many stereotypes associated with this new sub-culture,

including the stereotype that all emo kids are depressed, cut

themselves, and are over-privileged kids who are acting out. Emo

music, whether your emo or not, is very enjoyable. "Boys Like

Girls" and "My Chemical Romance" are examples of bands that fit

within the genre.

Emo History and Revolution Summer

Emo, or 'emotionally charged hardcore punk', is a genre of music

pioneered by the '80s D.C. hardcore band "Rites of Spring". Their

music was a mid-tempo version of hardcore punk that focused less on

social/political issues and more on self-introspection. Alongside

Rites of Spring, many other pioneering bands attempted to shift the

D.C. hardcore scene from the more violent antics to the artistic

values of the music they were putting forth. This phenomenon was

known as "Revolution Summer". During the early 1990's a second wave

of bands would emerge predominantly from what is now known as the

Mid-west scene. Prominent bands include such as "Cap'n Jazz" and

"Bells on Trike". This style of emo was based less on the

progressive hardcore put forth by the first wavers and more on

emo/pop, what one might refer to as 'indie emo'. Other important

bands during this era were "Sunny Day Real Estate", "The Promise

Ring", and "Texas is the Reason". When emo hit the mainstream in

the late-90s, due to the success of such bands, the genre had

become more pop-oriented and less focused on its origins. The

contemporary form of emo is often dismissed by those who are fans

of the original versions. Today, Emo is more closely related to pop

rock or 'mall punk' than what was played in D.C. twenty years


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