An inquisition by DBL into a popular, yet doomed genre.
Sat, 14 October 2006
by: Darth Bin Laden
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It was a style that, for all intents and purposes, breathed life back into an industry that had begun to focus too much on either the glitz-and-glamour of rock and roll, or energetic shock punk that was as much about rebellion and pissing off your parents as it was the music. Popular music had completely evolved away from sincerity and emotion in music. Then something started.
It was late 1984, and a band called Rites Of Spring was formed. This band, along with other existing or newly formed punk bands from the music pit of the DC hardcore-punk scene, began to lace their sound with emotionally charged lyrics, that let the singers communicate on a deeper level with the audience. In 1986, a band known as The Hated began to change the music to suit the vocals, adding more complex, moodier backing. And emo was born.
As a fusion of the punk styles of the 80's and emotionally relevant lyrics, the genre started off fantastically. As time passed, it was a genre that remained relatively underground. Bands that became popular coming out of the 80s and into the 90s however had adopted a similar strategy of returning to the emotional connection that has allowed music to become timeless. Those regarded as the greatest songs of all time, not the greatest one-hit wonders, are songs that have legitimately struck a chord with the audience. The intention of emo was to give a passionate audience passionate material.
|And if summer left you dry with nothing left to try |
For the most part, the forefathers of emo, and their material, are held in high regard by both critics and hardcore fans of the genre. Like many old school punk fans, old school emo fans don't consider what is played today emo at all. And for good reason. Because for this genre of music, everything went downhill when it all went uphill.
The success of emo was possibly the worst thing that could have happened to the genre. For the most part, the bands that helped the genre become successful simply had humble beginnings in backwater towns (and backwater states - *cough* Utah *cough*) of America, and in any other time and place would have stayed there. But record executives are always looking for a new way to make money. And the best way to make money in music is to offer not simply a new style of music, but a new lifestyle.
Inspiration came from emo's second wave. Before the genre truly hit full swing as we know it now, it enjoyed another, more independent insurgence in the late 90's. It was through this insurgence that the band At The Drive-In emerged. Personal favourites of mine, this band, along with its contemporaries, continued to produce emo the way it started. It was a new surge for the underground genre that both hardcore fans and many music purists wish had stayed there.
The companies had been trying it for years already, and prior to emo it had been with a sub-genre called 'nu-metal'. Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park led the nu-metal scene with nowhere near the amount of success the companies were wanting. Out of the 90s had emerged a band known as Jimmy Eat World. The band, other favourites of mine, was simply commercially successful contemporaries of the second wave of emo. Then came the third wave.
It started with this whinging crooner Chris Carrabba. Now lead singer of Dashboard Confessional, his writing style was simply Carrabba being a little b*tch and whinging about failed high school relationships. Coined by fans as 'honest' and 'heart-felt', it is coined by music aficionados and true emo fans, more accurately, as 'music straight from the vagina'. Carrabba, still was not the look the companies were looking for.
|So make sure that I'm up to date|
on TV night, I hate to miss out.
Then they all came. Like a flood, those who aren't technically emo but have claimed the term for themselves emerged. The likes of The Used, My Chemical Romance (who I foolishly gave a good review to in my early days as a writer) Fallout Boy and most recently Panic! At The Disco all came guns a blazing. With these new bands, existing groups such as Blink 182 and Greenday began to change their image and writing style too. They all claim it was because they had grown as a band, but in reality, it was because the record companies had stumbled onto something big.
Emo grew fast. Perhaps it was because there were more depressed teenagers then we thought. I have my theory. The 'cool' people in this world are all depressed because, despite all their status, their lives are ultimately empty. Therefore they connect with the dribble that is released by the bands of the 3rd wave. Those that wish to be cool and idolise the cool are depressed because they have self-esteem issues. The 3rd wave got them too. And the 3rd wave not only gave a style of music that flies of the shelves at ridiculous pace, but a sub-culture of dress, TV and most importantly to the emo-s, MySpace. Without MySpace, they would have no way to talk to one another about their problems, or frequently change their red, black and white colour schemes. Tom, creator of MySpace, executed his most brilliant play on this sub-culture by calling the people in your network "Friends". People you don't know, people you do know but never talk to, even bands and famous actors have MySpace pages. Tom, creator of the Internet Black Hole, makes a killing because his site is probably second only to Google in terms of hits, and is possibly the single smartest person since the guy that made Scientology. MySpace is to emo-s what Scientology is to actors.
No matter what your opinion of the genre is though, emo is at is height. In terms of popularity with the masses, it has reached its pinnacle. To the true fans, it is at the point now where true fans of music can truly appreciate the work of those who truly belong to the genre. As a musical style, as a fashion statement, as a freaking international culture, emo is at its height. Record companies should learn from Matt Groening and quit while they're ahead. Because it is only a matter of time before it dies. And all it takes is a new generation.
While hip-hop moves through the 80s rock equivalent (songs of either anti-establishment or celebrations of wealth), rock is moving into its next phase. What that is, nobody quite knows. But it will ultimately be driven by the re-introduction of honesty to music.
Like the emergence of emo in the mid 1980's, the new styles of music will be driven by honesty. As always, the commercial market becomes flooded with irrelevant music, and the audience grasp the music that is once again relevant to how they are feeling. The emo scenesters have modified their feelings in order to make the music relevant to them because, truly, they are insecure, just like everyone else, and have chosen this culture as a way to strengthen them against their self-esteem issues. Emo is their way of life and they are afraid to lose what they have gained, whether it is so-called friends, a place to finally fit in, or popularity. But those who chase the pursuits of popularity will find something new and fresh, and there will be those that follow. What then, will happen to the most hated of rock genres?
You remember the 70s? No? I don't. But my parents do. Fortunately for me, their wardrobe doesn't, because they were amongst the pop fans that completely dedicated themselves to the movements of music and style when they happened, but moved on once they passed. Some people didn't, and still have their dodgy outfits and bad records in the cupboard. With CDs re-releasing all that 'classic' music, your parents are able to subject you to the, for the most part, torture of their youth. And you know that horrid clichéd nightmare that your parents will show up to your school dance trying to be all hip and trendy by dressing in their clothes from the 70s? It happens. And you know what its going to happen to next?
Your kids now, whether you are emo or not, are going to be subjected to a new clichéd nightmare. Those horrible parents who show up to your high-school dance completely dressed in black, wearing their favourite band shirt, with fake piercing and fake wigs of that hair that you think is oh-so cool now. As parents, many of you will embarrass your children with something which I'm sure many of you claim will remain cool forever. You obviously never saw the 'Hullabalooza' episode of the Simpsons.
I'll go one step further. Emo is closest to the glam-rock of the eighties. While proud at the time, many musicians look back at that period and go 'what was I thinking wearing those tights?' Fans look back at old photos and go 'I had hair, and that's what I did with it?' Bad hair that was considered cool at the time. Ridiculously tight leg-wear that are stupid in hindsight but they were cool back then. Guys that wore makeup that was cool back, then but it is a little weird now. Stupid lyrics, song and album titles that seemed really cool at the time but now, fans wonder what they were singing along to. And the homosexual innuendo attached with the genre! Oh how the fans vehemently deny that.
|Let all the children boogie |
Hold on a minute. 'Cool' hairstyles? Tight pants? Implied, often real homosexuality? 'Clever' and 'cool' songs and albums? Guys wearing makeup? Sounds a little familiar, doesn't it?
You can enjoy whatever you want. Its personal choice. But just remember, it isn't a way of life, because more often than not, it won't last forever.
by: Darth Bin Laden
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