Confessions of an Ex-Emo Kid

If you grew up in the 90s and early 2000s, you’ll recall the allure of butterfly clips, classically cool Rom-Coms like She’s All That and Bring It On, and if you’re honest with yourself, the memory of your first Nano Pet’s death may still sting a little. 

Buried beneath myriad gems that came out of the 90s and early 2000s, is a true diamond in the rough. It looks like perfectly smudged jet-black eyeliner and matching nail polish, smells like bangs drenched in pomade, and sounds like well, pain.

It’s a little something called emo music.

For those who were born after this trend faded back into the misty abyss whence it came—emo music originated from mid-1980s punk, but the specific brand of emo I’m enamored by, was introduced at the turn of the millennium.

Bands like Dashboard Confessional, Jimmy Eat World, Finch, and Taking Back Sunday, lit up my Myspace playlists and made multiple appearances in my AOL Instant Messenger bio. Together we worked to demonstrate to my peers what the depths of a teen soul looks like in one hundred letters or less. It was glorious.

In 2003, an angsty, activist fifteen year old, reeling from a break-up with her first love and saddened by America’s plans to occupy Iraq, had her own mission to complete. She sparked up a few sticks of incense and let the jasmine haze surround her fervent fingers that worked to assemble a variety of mix CDs. Bands like Saves the Day and Thursday, seemed to be the only people who understood her plight in a world of never-ending question marks.

Does that girl sound familiar? She was me, but if you were in high school during 2003, chances are she was also you.

No matter what era you came of age in, songs from those confusing, yet informative years will undoubtedly hold a special place in your heart. Those were the years you grew into yourself, fell in love for the first time, lost your virginity and perhaps enjoyed screamo concerts from the top of a van parked behind rusty, abandoned railroad tracks.

Even if you’d rather leave emo music back in 2003 with your chartreuse Jansport backpack, and Converse All-Star Chuck Taylors, and you’ve retired from running head first into a throng of sweaty mosh-pit goers; you can still take a moment to marvel at a genre of music that paved its way through a dichotomy of simple music, and complex emotions.

Emo musicians didn’t rely on the power of synthesizers or wall-vibrating bass to appeal to the masses; they relied instead on the seductive charm of heartbreak, and found solace in the dark and dreary corner of the ego that we’re taught to avoid. Each of their songs was a diary entry, and as fans we were able to share with them the dark anguish of collective pain, like the oldest of friends.

These musicians weren’t afraid to dwell in the misery of loneliness and heartache.

I mean, really they were the Edgar Allan Poes of the early 2000s. They put their souls on a platter, and with a few guitar riffs and high-pitched screams, you finally felt understood. You felt like you had a port in the hormone-raging-storm that was your teen years.

I imagine emo musicians, circa 2001, sitting in their darkly lit garage, penning the tale of a young couple torn apart by bruised egos and the promise of a better tomorrow. I can’t help smile knowing this was the music that made up the soundtrack of my teen years, and breathe a huge sigh of relief knowing life is much grander than I ever could have imagined in my youth, and yes, life does go on.

While my bedroom walls are no longer plastered with glossy band posters and the lingering scent of Nag Champa has faded, the affinity I have for emo music will continue to rage on for as long as my heart still beats—or at least until this throwback playlist on Spotify ends.


Carly Perkins1 Comment