How emo is that song? Let’s ask science

Emo seems to be making some sort of a comeback, which means more attention for groups like My Chemical Romance and Dashboard Confessional. But what, exactly, makes emo emo? Are there data points we can use to compare one song against another in order to determine relative emo-ness?

A site called The Pudding sought to answer this question by quantifying certain aspects of the genre.

I wondered: Who has the most emotionally vulnerable lyrics, emo rappers or Dashboard Confessional? Has Juice Wrld out-emo’d emo bands?

To find out, I used the same approach that identified Radiohead’s saddest track, calculating percent of each song’s words associated with sadnessor fear (my proxy for “emo” lyrics of the 2000s emo-pop era).

For example, here’s the chorus of Lil Uzi Vert’s “XO Tour Llif3.” 33% of the words fall under the sadness/fear list, which is very high on the emo scale.

Lil Uzi Vert – XO Tour Llif3

I don’t really care if you cry
On the real, you shoulda never lied
Shoulda saw the way she looked me in my eyes
She said, Baby,I am not afraid to die
Push me to the edge
All my friends are dead

33% emo
4 emo words of 12 total words

Now let’s look at how emo rappers stack up against Dashboard and other 2000s emo bands (as well as some mainstream hip hop, like Lil Pump, and rock, like Radiohead and the Smiths, for good measure).

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.

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