What the Heck is “Emo” Anyway? Part III
According to an article in Spin Magazine, Vagrant Records’ president Richard Egan claims that Weezer’s “Pinkerton” was the inspiration for many bands who fall into the emo category, including Dashboard Confessional and Saves the Day. Weezer, though all of their albums vary in style, had somehow helped define a genre they would spend the following years trying to escape. Weezer is not considered by many to actually be emo, but they remain one of the primary influences. And although Cuomo is quoted in Pulse as having said: “For the most part, emo is worthless. ‘Pinkerton’ is worthless. And all of it is gonna die. It’s bad music. I really think that. It’s just not rock,” he can’t escape it. I hate to break it to ya Weezer, without you guys, emo as it is today would probably not exist. Sorry.Yet Weezer can’t take all the credit here. Jimmy Eat World, despite lead singer Jim Adkins’ opinion in Spin that they are not emo because it’s “shit hitting you in the face, with a singer screaming and rolling around on the ground” (huh…?!? Was GG Allin emo?), everyone else sees them as emo. While Weezer inspired the heartfelt song style and bluesy hardcore, Jimmy and other bands helped polish the genre. And now they’re all associated with emo, whether the bands like it or not. Dashboard Confessional: emo. Sunny Day Real Estate: emo. Who considers them emo? Certainly not the bands themselves. In fact, I have yet to find a band that happily calls themselves emo, or at least admits that they are. Even people who are considered emo by the outside world defiantly deny that they are, showing that emo seems only to exist to those who aren’t into the music.
Andy would seem to agree. “My opinion is that emo was just never real. It was just a made-up word, one of those words like grunge where people said: ‘let’s call this grunge – let’s call this emo’ and it stuck. That’s it.”
Named by kids who cry at the drop of a hat, and geeky moaning wannabe-Romeos. We have to admit that yes, that may be what emo looks like, but ask any of the true members of the genre and they will deny whole-heartedly anything to do with it. Because as emotional and geeky as they may really be, who wants to be placed in that category? So in its truest form, Andy seems to be right: emo doesn’t really exist.
Yet you can’t deny the influence, the power, and the following that it has. So, defining it in its “MTV” or record label form, emo is: emotional pop-punk-hardcore music with lyrics mostly about lost loves. It’s listened to by guys in thick horn-rimmed glasses, girls in woolly hats, and people who don’t consider themselves emo in the least.
I hope this answers the question of “what is emo anyway?” Because if there’s one thing I’ve realized, it’s that in order to be honest about emo, I had to bash a few egos. Sorry to Weezer, Jimmy, Sunny Day, the Get Ups and others. But face it: to the outside world, you’re emo. To your older more devoted fans, maybe not. On a side note: wake up Cuomo, telling off your older fans because they’re “stuck in the past” (Pulse, May 2002) means telling off the people who won’t be happy categorizing you. After all, a category isn’t about the music: it’s about belonging somewhere. And emo should be about the music.
“Crying on Queue.” Spin Magazine, April 2002.
“That Other Rock.” Beaujon, Andrew. Spin Magazine, January 2002.
“Weezer For the Masses.” Koch, Karl. Pulse Magazine, May 2002.