How Did Early 2000s Emo Become Such a Joke

There was a time a little more than ten years ago that it seemed every new alt-rock band was into some form of emo. I, for one, hated all of it for ruining the legacy of some of the original bands of the genre, especially those from DC.

Thanks to overwroughtness of bands like Dashboard Confessional, 30 Seconds to Mars and their ilk, early 2000s emo became a joke, a South Park punchline. But how? And why? This is from Consequence of Sound.

A few days ago, the folks over at YouTube entertainment channel Super Deluxe thought they had stumbled upon a bit of comedy gold while perusing President Donald Trump’s famously petulant Twitter feed. “We noticed that @realdonaldtrump’s tweets are basically the lyrics to an early 2000s emo song,” they explained, “so we turned them into one.” The resulting video, in which Trump is depicted with a swooping bang of jet-black hair as a whiny, nasally male voice recites his tweets over compressed power chords, quickly went viral. It was another way for millennials to laugh at our incompetent leader, yes, but it only worked as satire because it had another, similarly easy target in mind.

Emo music has been the on-and-off subject of ridicule ever since it broke out into the mainstream 15 years ago, riding the backs of songs like Dashboard Confessional’s “Screaming Infidelities” and New Found Glory’s “My Friends Over You” to a new level of cultural prominence. I remember this era well because it coincided with my own formative years as a music listener, my nascent sense of self torn between the aloof irony of The StrokesIs This It and the heart-on-the-sleeve lyricism of Saves the Day’s Stay What You Are (both albums released 30 days apart in the summer of 2001). The former had the advantage of being pretty much the dictionary definition of “cool,” but the latter did its damage on a more visceral level. Emo and pop punk in the early 2000s eventually won over a generation of teenagers not because it was cool but because, to paraphrase an earlier Saves the Day record, it didn’t care about being cool.

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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