Emo music is something that is rather ambiguously defined. It can be something that has heavy punk chords and influence such as what we've heard from the Sex Pistols, but it can also be something with soft melodic characteristics like what we've heard from the Cure. This is why emo is such a hard concept to define. It is an expression of emotion in some way.
Emotions can vary from angry to sad to happy, and emo music is an expression of those experiences as well as their range. When it comes to the emo music scene, there are many bands that may claim to be the founders of the cultural movement. However, you would have to look across the pond to gloomy England to find the real Kings of emo music. The Cure have been going strong now for over 20 years, writing songs that could make any 16 year old boy break into tears, even the football players. Their catchy guitar riffs and honest, emotional vocals have been mimicked by almost every emo artist to date. Another band from across the pond that has definitely influenced the emo music scene is Depeche Mode. They might be a primarily electronic band, but their moody lyrics and loner style has crept into every facet of the emo scene.
In recent years emo music has even moved away from the punk sound and many bands are starting to adopt more electronic elements to their sound. Death Cab for Cutie is a perfect example, whose lead singer Ben Gibbard also fronts the entirely electronic project the Postal Service. Emo Music is becoming very popular among teens.
Emo music got its roots from punk rock and the infusion of indie rock. The genre developed in the early 1980’s arguably from such influences as the Cure and Sunny Day Real Estate. In the 1990’s one example of Emo bands would be Fugazi or Texas Is the Reason. Texas Is the Reason is a more indie version of Emo while Fugazi is certainly punk. While a band like Modest Mouse might easily be mistaken for an Emo band because they are punk influenced, highly emotional, and extremely fashionable, they are not Emo. The reason is that their lyrics are more metaphors than straight forwardly emotional lyrics.
Lyrics that talk about crying in despair after a death in the family are Emo. The second lyrics do not leave the listener to wonder what is being expressed. The desert could be a reference to drying out from alcohol abuse or it could be a metaphor for death or bareness. Because there are different styles of Emo music such as emocore and screamo, what is Emo music is an ambiguous definition.
Loosely defined, Emo music is music that is highly emotional and very straightforward in the expression of that emotion. However, Emo music could be as potent and raging as something like what we hear from Suicidal Tendencies. The screaming anger and aggression that comes from Suicidal Tendencies is emotional just like Cat Power, but the delivery is much different. The important overarching theme here is in potent Emotions. Some of the contributions to the Emo scene in the last ten years have come from such artists as: Further Seems Forever, the Promise Ring, Benton Falls, or Army of Ponch.
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