March 8, 2006
Of all the different subgenres of rock, emo punk is probably one of the hardest to define and distinguish. "Emo" is short for emotional, which "is very similar to hardcore punk except with more emotional lyrics often expressing sadness, love and even anger, hence the term emo" (Rock Music). A common misconception of emo punk by many people is that it is "an upbeat and lively music" (Bunag). People confuse it with pop punk which is actually more melodic and consist of lyrics that usually contain personal life experiences of the artist. According to Wikipedia "[ ] pop punk [is] often times wrongly referred to as emo which draws its style from softer punk and alternative rock styles from the 1980s". Pop-punk actually comes very close to the authentic emo sound of being "more melodic and introspective/depressing than hardcore [punk]" (Lloyd), but less melodic than pop punk for it is, more often than not, devoid of simple chord progressions. Examples of pop-punk bands are Simple Plan, Bowling for Soup, Smash Mouth, and Good Charlotte to some extent. Another misconception is that emo punk is in stark contrast with the idea of "punk" for it is slow and whiny which in a sense, "kind of takes all the punk out of it" (Chaves). This is because some people tend to stereotype the "emotional" concept of emo punk in a slower and more sensual light as in love songs.
What many people and emo fans seem to agree on is that its roots go back in the "Washington D.C. area [ ] with bands inspired by that area's post-hardcore acceptance of new, diverse sounds within the punk scene" (Radin). It was during the 1980's when these punk bands started to emerge, most notably the band Rites of Spring, whose lead singer Guy Picciotto produced a "surprising deviation from standard punk music, and [ ] heavily emotion-laden lyrics, dangerously exposing himself and his personal feelings in each song" (Seawell) which eventually became the foundation of emo punk. The band possesed the raw and traditional emo "out-of-breath punk style, [ ] [where vocalist Guy Picciotto's] voice breaks down at climactic moments into a throaty, gravelly, passionate moan." (Radin). Another important band in emo history is Moss Icon, who managed to develop a more energy-driven type of music, and more melodic than but equally loud as the Rites of Spring's. Some would say that Moss Icon's music is the standard for emo punk as opposed to the Rites of Spring's that actually evolved directly from hardcore punk. Others even argue that the Rites of Spring is not an emo band at all. Nathan Hyatt, in his review on the band said, "I remember when the term ["emo"] first came out, almost fifteen years ago, [and] the bands that were originally termed "emo" (basically Fugazi, and in retrospect, this band) sound NOTHING like today's emo." Hyatt claims that Rites of Spring "is hardcore, not emo" all the while comparing it with more modern and recent bands that call themselves emo. Examples of these bands are Yellowcard, AFI, and The Used, which are actually labeled "MTV Pop-Punk trash" (real_emo) by emo fanatics. The so-called "emo" nowadays is almost indistinguishable from the pop- punk music created by rock bands that have a distorted view on how emo punk should sound like.
With all this confusion going on, the need to set parameters for emotional punk was felt by real emo fans trying to debunk other punk bands that did not meet emo standards. According to Thom Lloyd, author of "Origin of Emo": "The best way to describe emo music is by soft [ ] guitar [playing in arpeggio or in rapid chord succession] overtop soft airy vocals that build up and release into an orchestra of heavy distorted guitars and then brought back down to the original quiet part". This seemingly narrow explanation of how emo punk music should limit the types of music that can be considered emo and raises a lot of questions. What...