Doodles, on notebook paper, mimicking the traditional emo kid notebook.

A Reflection On My Youth: The Emo Phase

By Bridget Dunbar
Music Journalist

Last weekend, I went to a club hosting an ‘Emo-Nite’ event, where everyone just danced along to their favorite songs from their early teenage years: My Chemical Romance, Fall Out Boy, Panic! At the Disco and so much more. I noticed that I recognized almost every song that played in the time I was there. I was even dressed in an ‘emo style.’ This got me thinking a lot about my formative years.

For many, the “emo phase” is a period during their early teenage years that they would like to pretend didn’t happen. I myself had the fringe hair that was always in my eyes, grey and lime-green converse that I always wore and a bad combination of skinny lowrise jeans and baggy graphic tees. But it was an important part of creating my identity. In other words: it may have been a phase, Mom, but it is part of who I am.

The music many of us listened to communicated the thoughts we were feeling but couldn’t express — some kind of existential dread or feelings of being trapped. Songs like “King For A Day” by Pierce The Veil from Collide with the Sky,Coffin” by Black Veil Brides from Rebels or even the classic “Welcome to the Black Parade” by My Chemical Romance from The Black Parade evoke these feelings of frustration. They are all songs about people fighting against a condition they don’t like in order to live authentically for themselves. 

I believe these songs and others had a strong effect on the way other emo kids saw themselves and even still view their lives to this day. The music that we listened to was filled with messages of self confidence. To them, being different didn’t matter. These messages still resonate with many today, primarily those who continue to be different even in a time where the name of the game is conformity. Here is a list of some other songs that I absolutely jammed to when I was younger.  

“Caraphernalia” by Pierce The Veil, off of Selfish Machine.
“Knives and Pens” by Black Veil Brides, off of We Stitch These Wounds.
Resurrect the Sunby Black Veil Brides, off of Wretched and Divine.

Moving forward several years, we have taken off the drawn-on cat whiskers, the rubber bracelets and maybe even the band tees, but something inside can never be hidden. I still see dyed hair, punk music and dark makeup permeate the mainstream. Now people are accepted for going against the status quo. Maybe we have just grown up and don’t care what others do or maybe the emo phase truly had a profound effect on all of us.  

Emo still has a profound effect on music, from the hip-hop style of emo rap, to punk to more dreamy and ethereal styles. Artists range from the late Lil Peep, to local rapper Kydd Jones, to punk artists like Sylvania Ave  and ShowerBeer.  All of these artists use emotion in their lyrics and harsh instrumentals to communicate feelings that they perhaps can’t verbalize. All of these artists can be found on either BandCamp or SoundCloud.  

My concluding thoughts are that the emo phase was important for a whole host of reasons that I have mentioned and some that I may have forgotten along the way.  Contemporary fashion and pop culture have been swayed heavily by the former emos, but one of the most important reasons for remembering the emo phase was musical; it was emo music that created and changed the popular genres of today. 

Featured image by Bridget Dunbar.

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