The Unofficial Guide to Emo: Part One

April 4, 2011 by  
Filed under Emo Makeup

If you take a quick look around Cooeey, you may notice that one term in particular just keeps on popping up, like errant moles under a mallet. What’s that word, you ask? It’s EMO. EMO EMO EMO EMO EMO, everywhere you look.

But what the hell does that mean? Living in this sheltered world of Cooeey, I could be forgiven for thinking the only common traits of “Emos” were a lack of camera tripods and highly disfigured eyes that required covering with a curtain of hair.

Of course, being a thoroughly curious fellow, I felt compelled to find out more. Where did the term come from? Is it short for something? In this msn obsessed world, is it some sort of acronym? (I initially theorised that it stood for Emphatically Moontanned Objects or perhaps Eratic Mainstays of Online Socialising. Erotic Minions of Orlando?)

Obviously that was entirely incorrect, as I would soon discover.

Part One: Emo Music.

Emo music.

The presiding theory is that Emo music originated in Washington DC hardcore scene n the mid 80s. As you may or may not know, hardcore shows often involve large boots flying around at head level, piercings that can catch on things and beverages in containers that do slightly more than tickle when thrown at someone’s head, i.e. they are quite “hardcore”.

The solution was in the case of bands like The Rites of Spring and Embrace to try and counter the violence by taking their writing on a more emotional turn.

It was around this time that fans started to refer to the style as Emo. It was also the start of another trend: People refusing to admit that they are Emo. Both bands, even today, refuse to accept the label.

In a supposedly unrelated event, the first wave of Emo died when the first wave of bands started breaking up in the early nineties.

After a second wave of “Emo styled” music sprang up in the nineties. Bands like Sunny Day Real Estate and Jimmy Eat World were at the forefront of a new “indie Emo” movement, this time centering in Phoenix Arizona. As the spread of the internet grew, older bands like Fugazi that previously never been labeled as Emo started to receive the tag as well, due to a similarity in sound.

Starting to see a trend here? In this ever expanding, internet obsessed world, people start to need keywords or pointers in order to par down the massive swathes of information we receive. It seems that even from the start that the Emo tag was, despite the chagrin of many of the bands it was applied to, a useful way of classifying bands for other fans.

Of course, once fans start engaging with bands on a regular basis, both parties tend to start throwing away the “Emo tag”.

Look at the current generation of groups, like AFI, Funeral for a Friend, My Chemical Romance, Panic! at the Disco, Senses FailStory of the Year, and The Used. Most of these bands strenuously deny being part of the Emo spectrum, but deny as they might, it remains a useful tag to apply.

Describe a band as Emo and it means one if not all of a long list of attributes which may include: – Makeup Wearing for both sexes – Dyed Hair primarily Black or as White as possible – Prominent fringes or spikes – Favouring of black clothing and bold simple patterns like stripes and checkers – “Punk Rock” or simple barre chord influenced guitar – Preference towards extremely tender or loud screaming vocal performances, often both in the same song – Tattoeed arms and wrists – Lyrics dealing largely with emotional pain and suffering

So it seems that “Emo” is not so much a genre of music as a signpost, giving users a vague idea of what they may expect from a band. What’s more, what attributes that may be conjured up by “Emo” have been changing for nearly twenty years now. Who is to say that Emo will ever have a concrete meaning in music? Perhaps for now it’s best to think of it as an evolving, simplistic term.

article written by Melanie.

emo – emo hair- emo-corner


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