Until recently, I only had two genres of music to abhor: Country and Gangsta Rap. Now I can add a third – Emo. And for the purists who want to divide it down into Emotional Hardcore or Screamo or Post-Punk-Whatever-Core, save your breath. I’ll be more specific:
Tight, punchy metal or rock music
Throwaway, sappy, broken-hearted lyrics.
Whiny singing, possibly punctuated by guttural screaming.
Dashboard Confessional. Fall Out Boy. My Chemical Romance. The kind of music that makes me wish California would break off and slide into the ocean, taking all these bands with it.
Nothing against the music, mind you. Often the music is top-notch. It’s the singing that wrecks it for me. I can understand the xenophobic, directionless anger of Hardcore music, but its tough to sympathize with a whiny singer whom you would kick in the balls if he had any. And screaming gutteral nonsense doesn’t make you sound tough after you just whined and cried a bunch of sappy lyrics that sound like they were inspired by a Danielle Steele novel.
There are real bands out there that are able to mood swing from angry to melancholic and it sounds authentic. Listen to NIN’s brutal ‘Big Man With A Gun’, then listen to the intimate ‘Hurt’, and then try to call Trent Reznor a pussy. You can’t. Then listen to Linkin Park and try to imagine the lead singer getting into a fist-fight. You can’t. The singer’s lyrics, subject matter, and delivery are so sensitive that anything more brash than flipping him off on the Interstate would make him burst into tears.
Most of these songs are based around two characters, and the relationship gone wrong between them, told from a first-person perspective. They all contain the word ‘trust’ (or more likely ‘trusted’) and they are drowned in first and second person pronouns: I, Me, My, and You. Some Examples:
‘I know you felt like I was fading away’
‘Youre everything I wanted’
‘Ive left nothing for myself’
‘You said you wanted me’
‘I love you’
‘I hate you’
My theory is that lyrics like this are easy to write. An afterthought, really. Even easier now, since bands have moved beyond the need to rhyme. Kiss the vocal hook goodbye. I kinda wish these bands would kiss their lead whiners goodbye and write instrumentals instead.
With any luck, Emo is a fad that we’ll look back on and laugh, “Yeah, people used to listen to that.” You can call me old if you like, but I’d rather be called old than listen to the 2000’s version of Trixter.