Is Emo Poised for a Comeback Thanks to Generation Z?

Full disclosure: I hate emo. I always have. Bands like Dashboard Confessional, My Chemical Romance, Senses Fail, Black Veil Brides and Pierce the Veil (not to mention, Fall Out Boy, Panic! At the Disco and Paramore) send shivers of revulsion throughout my body. I find them too whiney, too histrionic, too overblown to take seriously.

This is my favourite t-shirt.

Emo t-shirt

Cruel, I know, but it still makes me laugh. (Please. No email/comments.)

It seemed for a while that emo was going to take over the world. There was a period around the mid-oughts when every alt-rock band that was being hyped were emo or were touted as having emo tendencies. Fortunately, though, the scene was clubbed to death like a bunch of baby seals and emo disappeared. Or did it?

If you’ve been reading my opinions on the current state of alt-rock, the emo attitude is very much alive, although wrapped in a less screamy package. All we really need for an emo revival is to substitute the ukuleles and banjos for loud guitars. The Daily Beast examines this further.

The eyeliner. The bangs. Fall Out Boy. It’s all back and coming to a concert venue near you.

Growing up in rural New York, I saw my hometown on the evening news exactly twice.

Once was when our basketball team won the state tournament for small schools. The other time was when our school district was consumed by a vicious, sectarian, MySpace-based feud between students who dabbled in the emo subculture, and a group of students who opposed the emo subculture: the so-called “Emo Resistance Program.”

For a brief period—after the Emo Resistance Program uploaded a picture of a pistol with the caption “Help Prevent Emos In America” to its MySpace page, and cops got involved, and the nearest city’s NBC affiliate stationed its news van outside the high school—my town was a scene in an evening special report on the dangers of emo.

This was Fall 2006, when emo was collapsing under the weight of its own absurdity. A subgenre of introspective punk rock with origins in the 1980s hardcore scene, emo had erupted from its underground roots. Suddenly mainstream, emo was now a burgeoning market of Top 40 hits, rural teens with floppy black hair, and television specials on dangerous teen trends. The decades-old genre wore itself to exhaustion in months. The bands broke up, the fans moved on.

But ten years after emo wreaked havoc on my hometown, the genre is making a remarkable return. America’s emo kids—those profiled in alarmist news reports—are fine. They’ve grown up, graduated, landed jobs, and are now reviving their favorite teenage phase.

Alex Badanes and Ethan Maccoby, both 26, spent their teen years in the U.K., waiting for American emo bands to visit on tour.

“We kind of grew up going to concerts every weekend,” Badanes told the Daily Beast. “All the American bands would come and we just really got into the emo and pop-punk scene from like 12 years old.”

He and Maccoby are the founders of Emo Night Brooklyn, a wildly successful emo-themed party series launched early last year. This weekend, the pair is taking Emo Night Brooklyn to London, their first international show in an expansion tour that will include shows in Toronto, Las Vegas, and Manhattan.

Oh, gawd. Please, no. Keep reading.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ 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.

2 thoughts on “Is Emo Poised for a Comeback Thanks to Generation Z?

  • May 5, 2016 at 5:57 pm

    Damn you, Discount Tom Hiddleston! I like My Chemical Romance and some Senses Fail, but half the bands you listed aren’t actually emo. Black Veil Brides and Pierce the Veil are horrible bands, and they’re not proper emo. Try Brand New, Taking Back Sunday or Thursday– disassociate them from the scene they spawned, and as long as you have two ears and a soul you’ll enjoy them. And really, why pick on them when there’s legitimately awful music like Justin Bieber, Lil’ Wayne, Iggy Azalea, Tyga, Rick Ross and Waka Flocka Flame around?

  • March 11, 2017 at 12:02 pm

    Correction — none of this is actually emo, you’ve been describing the “emo-pop punk” genre and trend since the starting image of this post (because the South Park character you used is stereotypically a goth kid, not an “emo”).
    Personally, I don’t care whether you like or hate “emo” as a label, but it’s just that you’ve listed emo-pop bands, not emo bands.
    Emo itself practically dissipated in the 90s-early 2000’s when the mainstream emo-pop punk genre arose (with the popularity among adolescents and all the black-colored scene fashion style). The media merely mislabelled this as “emo”, and hence too many regard emo-pop punk as this false “emo” label…


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