What is emo?

The term itself comes from ’emotional’, and more specifically, ’emocore’ (emotional hardcore) music. While originally referring to hardcore punk rock; this definition is somewhat hazy as bands such as Jimmy Eat World and Linkin Park have been labeled ’emo’. Indeed, most music out there is ’emotional’. Even that song where the singer apparently enjoys a night consisting of ‘bouncing in da clubs with the bitches and hos and then busting caps into yo ass yo nigga z yo mama’ may somewhat be considered emotional.

However the emo subculture, a recent phenomenon, is easy to describe. We’ve all seen emos around. Some of us may even have an emo friend or family member. They’re the angst-driven teenagers with their dyed-black hair and black glasses. They complain about the lack of understanding and listen to bands who no one’s heard of. Emos are an offshoot of the 1970s punk movement similar in their rejection of conformity (the obvious irony to this is lost on most emos, and punks for that matter) and the seeking of attention. They differ from punks in that emos are generally more interested the issues and problems they face themselves, rather than those of society. Punks once complained about the oppression of lower classes; whereas emos are more interested in writing poetry on suicide.

There are several telltale signs that someone is emo.

  1. No sense of shame. This is the single most important aspect of an emo’s character. Emos will get looks from people as they walk down the streets. Indeed, attention seeking often is the reason one decides to take up the way of the emo.

  2. Self control. Emos never smile. Especially not in public, where people might think they’re (gasp) happy. Times of happiness are often spent alone (which will be most of the time). When these times come, they would let out just a brief smile, take a deep breath, and then sniff some onions in order to get their eyes watery (it’s a nice effect).

  3. Fashion sense. Emos often wear tight fitting fitting jeans and t-shirts. Shorts reveal too much leg which, in turn, may show some character. T-shirts must be one emblazoned with some weird statement like ‘kittens cry when doves fly’. Since an emo cannot show emotion in public, the hair must reflect this. It must follow a trend, but not look as if it is. Therefore, it is dyed all black, and must at least one eye covered by it (to shield from the cruel, cruel world). The key is to remain obscure when really secretly hoping to be noticed by everyone.

  4. Communication. During a conversation, an emo will often quote song lyrics, which may of may not have anything to do with the topic of conversation. Example,

      Me: ‘How you doing?’ Emo: ‘I don’t know, life really sucks. Sometimes I wonder if I should slit my wrists. Not like anyone would miss me anyway. Me: ‘Life sucks yeah?’ Emo: ‘Don’t let anyone change, I know life hurts, But you’ll make it there somehow…’

  1. Guitar. Emos always have guitars, regardless of whether or not they know how to play. It must only be an acoustic guitar, as electric ones are too happy sounding. Bass guitars, while low sounding and symbolic of the depths of their souls, are not quite artistic enough.

  2. The journal. An emo’s journal is their lifeblood. It is carried everywhere to write lyrics when the inspiration of how much life sucks strikes. There are a few rules though: all rules of diction, tone, pattern, and style are ignored; and subject matter is limited to three things: how dark the world is, how heart broken they are, and a combination of both. The emergence of weblogs has only encouraged this.

  3. Music. Lastly, an emo’s taste in music is not related to how good the music is, but rather the popularity of the band. An emo will only listen to bands that are unknown. Once they have been discovered, or can afford to use a recording studio, they have ‘sold out’. Emos will also often start bands, whose name is usually three words long and start with a ‘The’. Words like ‘theory’, ‘project’, and some type of ‘Day’ are common.

And no, I am not emo. Can’t you understand that? No one understands. I don’t even know if people read this. Because no one cares. I feel like I’m drowning. Now where did I put that Dashboard Confessional CD…

Have a nice day.


8 Responses to What is emo?

  1. JingleBells says:

    Well, that was an interesting post! I’d given up reading this blog of yours since I thought it was just gonna be politics politics politics.

    Anyway, I’m actually commenting since I found it rather…unsual that you chose a Thirsty Merc song (If I’m not mistaken – Undivided Love? With a few of the lyrics wrong?) for your “Emo” to quote. I mean yeah, that particular song is quite emo but Thirsty Merc are anything but! They’re with Warner for starters. Besides, their predominant following consists of Maroon 5/Matchbox Twenty types (yes that does include me hence I’m going to see them June 11! yay!). So anyway, I think you need to fire that emo of yours.

    But anyway, I think the larger “problem” at hand is – is emo a dying thing? Personally I think so, Indie’s the new Emo, you just wait and see. I mean, it’s so much easier to be Indie than emo! You can be cool, individual, deep, and happy at the same time. Ain’t that great? Yeah, get into it buddy. Maybe you can do your next post analyzing Indie. Bands like “Death Cab For Cutie”, “Belle & Sebastian”, “Rilo Kiley”, “Metric”, and “Bright Eyes” (all of which are great by the way). Oh, and you could look at how there are connections between Indie music and other forms of media like the movie “Garden State” (who else listens to The Shins now?) and that awful awful show that ruins all the music I like…The O.C. (ew, gross, chuck, splutter).

    Ok well, as you can see people (even if they are a bit random) do read your posts. Unfortunately I probably don’t understand you or would care too much if you went and drowned yourself. Hey maybe the fact you feel like you’re drowning’s really some sort of deep spiritual connection you have with Jeff Buckley (who drowned in the Wolf River almost 8 years ago! boy! time does fly). Or not.

  2. Jimmy says:

    Whoa, did I say emo? I meant emu. What a bad typo…

    Sorry, bad joke. Anyway,

    Indie the new emo?

    I doubt it. I don’t think you can put indie into the same light as emo. Unlike emo, there isn’t an ‘indie’ subculture as such that can be as easily identified. It is much easier (and fun) to spot and categorise emos than indies.

    If you’re talking about people who listen to indie music, then how would you define indie music? Bands that are on independent labels? Well, that would include early Britney Spears and NSync.

    Or do you mean people who listen to indie rock? (With those bands you listed, I think you might) Again, I don’t think indie rock is comparable to emo. Indie rock is so mainstream now (you said it yourself – everyone loves The Shins) and no subculture exists; wheras emo, like punk before it, always remained on the finges of society; there for people like me to take the piss out of.

    And yes, fair call on the poor choice of band for the lyrics – great song though. It just so happened that the Thirsty Merc album sleeve was right next to me at the time.

  3. JingleBells says:

    Hmm you have a point there about indie. It is something really quite hard to define, especially with your point about Britney Spears and NSync. Well I mean, strictly speaking, they would have to be classified AS Indie during their early days wouldn’t they?

    Anyway, before continuing further I must commend you on your research. Might I take a wild guess and say you read Wikipedia just prior to your comment? Haha, I might be wrong, you coulda read it way before. But see I was wondering what labels Brit and NSync were on in those early days then had an idea of just looking up Indie music on Wikipedia…yeah ok ok I’ll try to be less long-winded. Moving on!

    Anyway, I don’t think I really have anything more to offer on the topic of “Indie” since you can use it anyway you please, no one really knows what all the accepted meanings are and which one you’re referring to.

    Well, my personal pref is for the definition of bands on independent labels. That is: BANDS who write their own music and use instruments aside from the voice and synth. There we go, problem solved? Probably not. Please tell me what flaws there are in the above statement. Goal for the moment: define indie. Oh never mind I give up it’s too hard. I mean I haven’t even started on selling-out! And I mean I wouldn’t automatically discount something NOT on an independent label…but then indie’s meant to be incredibly good but horribly underdiscovered music right?? Argh! I shouldn’t have even tried!

  4. Wayland says:

    Wow this is a pretty extensive discussion on “indie”. And Jing! Stop stalking poor old Jimmy here. Lucky he probably already knows who you are (oh how the tables have turned now hey…don’t mind me I just like to create dissension)

  5. Jayna says:

    Hey, I like your site jimmy, i found that relationship thingo supply and demand amusing…. hehe i agree about the emo thing but i like dashboard and i like tight jeans and tee-shirts & i have a fringe but it so doesn’t cover my eyes, shock gasp horror, i couldn’t be emo could i :O


  6. Jimmy says:

    I know you feel Jayna, it may be hard for some of us to accept at first. But at least you’ve taken the first step. I’m sure there are a few emos annonymous groups around your area. Joking :p

    As for indie, well, at the risk of sounding too postmodern, lets just let our choice in music be dictated by how much we enjoy listening to the band/artist, rather than how popular they are, what label they’re on, how good looking the singer is, what guitar amp combo they use… etc.

    Thanks Wayland, but it always has been one of my lifelong amibitions to have a stalker, cos that’s when you know you’ve made it! 😀


  7. JingleBells says:

    jesus what is this! why this accusation that I’m stalking your friend Jimmy Wayland?? excuse me but HOW am I stalking him? I thought blogs were PUBLIC things, and besides, you yourself put the link to this place on YOUR blog 😛 (hey jimmy i’m born two days later than you! how COOL is that eh? and oh i just found out we were born in the same hospital! no way eh? yes way! ok ok please ignore momentary insanity)

    but Wayland, what do you mean tables turning?

    oh wait, do you mean that teyler guy/girl last year?? whatever happened to that anyway? oh well…

    anyway, i agree to not sticking by a genre. i mean i listen to indie but then also matchbox, maroon 5, thirsty merc…and (try not to faint) i have a soft spot for the backstreet boys…still.

    but moving on, let me just throw in another shameless plug for jeff buckley, the king of music. he’s as good as music gets if you ask me! (his good looks are just a bonus…really…i like him for his…”spirtuality” expressed in his music…not looks…)

  8. Wayland says:

    What? How did you find out you were born at the same hospital? Or was there something on Jimmy’s blog I missed?

    Anyway…who else likes the Flaming Lips here?

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