My emo is not your emo

A post by Jen at Jen-Sized reminded me of something that has bothered me.

What the kids call “emo” today is not at all what I called “emo.”

Emo wasn’t a clothing style. It was a music style. It hadn’t crossed from headphones to mockery. It was just good music; music that some thought was awful, but music that had a loyal following of sane, level-headed fans.

To me, emo was punk with a box of tissues; complicated, emotional, thoughtful and introspective music that meshed well with competing branches of the decade’s punk movement. There was hardcore punk. There was straight pop-punk. And there was post-hardcore – the branch that led into emo, that told everyone it’s alright to add a little bit of personal feeling to your music.

Today’s emo isn’t my emo.

My emo, and the emo of my peers, was Sunny Day Real Estate. Mineral. Texas is the Reason and The Promise Ring were nearly there. Screamy stuff like At the Drive In and Cursive was on the border. It was fun, yet thoughtful. It was perfect for the literary sector of the scene, for those that thought too hard, took things to heart too much.

Today’s emo is a clothing style. A dab of eyeliner and pinstripes. It’s died hair and TRL and meticulously placed clothespins. It’s a look. A club. A way to be different by being the same. Like every other trend.

For me, the clothing wasn’t important. It was hoodies and t-shirts. Just like the kids that listened to Snapcase and Coalesce. Just like the kids that listened to Jawbreaker and NOFX.

Hell, Coalesce was best friends with one of the most popular emo bands of the time, The Get Up Kids.

In Sioux Falls, whether it was for lack of venues or lack of shows, we all went to the same shows. We were all part of the same group. We were fans of music, of punk and emo and hardcore and the screamy stuff too.

I should apologize. I hate to sound pretentious, to sound so “nothing is as good as what I like,” to even hint that I had anything to do with the scene or that my opinion is important. Maybe I’m old. Jen touched on this in her post as well.

But something changed, and only the name held on for the ride. Today’s emo is commercialized, strewn with product placement and unoriginal. Yesterday’s emo? It wasn’t as groundbreaking as a lot of us would have thought.

But at least it wasn’t what it is today.

This was lovingly handwritten on July 24th, 2008