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From First to Last: How Emo Culture and Its Icons Continue to Resonate with the Disenfranchise

With headlines of another shooting or catastrophic event, it seems being safe is just another word to fill up the quota for next week’s paper.  It can be daunting to get through another day without being overwhelmed with feelings that many cannot understand. In the early 2000s, many teenagers could relate to this feeling through an outlet that went misunderstood by older generations. Emo music touched on issues of self-doubt, depression, and even suicide that attracted of young men and women to explore the spectrum of their self-identity. In the 80s, bands such as the Rite of Spring and Embrace are recognized by many as the first emo bands. They set the tropes of the emo genre with heavy riffs and emotional lyrics such as Rite of Spring with “when I started crying would you start crying?”

Emo crept into popular bands and music as icons such as Nirvana and Pearl Jam spoke for the confused of the 90s generation. These artists waved the flag to its final pinnacle in the early 2000s as bands fully embraced the trend for better or worse. Some bands like Hawthorne Heights may have had unintentionally fun with the genre. My Chemical Romance, From First to Last, Sunny Day Real Estate, Jawbreaker, The Used, and countless other bands saw the opportunity to talk about serious issues that struck a chord with suburban youth. Many teenagers were struggling with gender fluidity, problems at home or school, drug abuse, and mental or physical issues. The choices for many seemed bleak. Fortunately, many discovered emo music through Myspace or other music channels that opened a market for these feelings to be heard.

Emo culture was the first time that an artist and fan could connect instantly as they both voices were heard in the marketplace of ideas. In My Chemical Romance’s ‘The Black Parade’, the album follows the protagonist known as the Patient as he transverse death and beyond through his fondest memory of seeing a parade a child. A fan coping with his parent’s death hears the importance of carrying on and explains to singer Gerald Way that he was a coping mechanism for his own lost. Thousands of fans sent letters to My Chemical Romance for encouraging them to keep fighting as things will work out in the end. When the band announced their reunion, the internet cheered with excitement as many get to officially express their gratitude towards the group.

As the connection between artist and fan became one, the role of the fan became more complex. Fans were writing their own lyrics or poetry, talking with someone about their feelings, and supporting the culture through purchasing their merch. Through emotional lyrics have been around since the beginning of music, these bands and this culture recognized every facet of the art process from artist to fan. It created a space for fans to get across major issues and reject the notion of those who saw only the opportunity to mock or vilify. Hip hop acts such as Lil Peep and XXXtentacion spoke of their own personal struggles with all the various types of abuse. Emo music is something that continues to push its message and culture beyond the theatrical and into the heart of anyone that has the courage to listen.

Written by Jyrell Wynn

I was born in the midwest and moved around a lot. When I was younger, my dream occupation was to be a writer that wrote the great American novel. My vision has changed to media, but the dream has not completely vanished. I still want to write books and use media to convey topics that can make a difference in the world.

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