I’ve been taking a few months to really gather my thoughts on what emo music is, and how it has shaped my listening habits since I was a teenager. This is the first in a series of posts about early, middle, and modern emo and what all of that means to me. I’m not going to pretend that I understand everything about emo’s long and varied history- these are just my thoughts on the subject. Follow the tag Three Cheers For Emo (#threecheersforemo or #3cheersforemo) to read more.
I’m not like my husband. He will pick out rhymes that don’t work, words that sound strange in the singers’ mouths, lyrics that don’t quite express themselves. He does this with most songs he listens to, even with bands he’s loved since childhood. He doesn’t do it to be mean or petty, he’s just a lyrics person.
Me, I listen to the wall of guitars and it’s almost soothing, even though it can be manic or loud. I have a harder time picking out what the singer is saying. I’m too busy headbanging or tapping my foot.
What’s ironic about our different styles of listening to music is that we both end up liking the same thing.
Jon loves modern emo music* because of the lyrics- the biting stories of romance gone wrong, the fond remembrances of nights spent with friends, the struggles of past breakdowns retold. I appreciate this, too, but oftentimes it’s not the first thing I hear. I hear the lonely guitar riff, the deep bass line, the frantic drums, and I hear the same emotions expressed in the lyrics. I’ll read the lyrics later, on one of those poorly made song lyrics website or on a Bandcamp page. Jon will, too, just to make sure he really heard that awkward moment when the singer rhymed “hands” with “secondhand.” He’ll sigh and think of a better rhyme, but he’ll still listen to the song anyway. He loves music, too.
I think the emo genre offers what we both want: emotion, stories, irony. We receive these gifts differently, but we take with the same open hands like we’re begging. Give us some truth.
*I define this genre through examples: Modern Baseball, Sorority Noise, Moose Blood, etc. They came after the post-hardcore emo of the 90s and the pop-punk emo of the early 2000s & they’re bands that are touring now.