I hit the streets to find out if the kids of today equate the defining angst anthems of my youth to someone's dad sticking Pink Floyd on.
If you were a teenager during the early-mid 2000s, there’s a high chance you were a massive emo. You will remember a time when MySpace Top 8s were of ultimate hierarchical importance; like a social system under a dictatorship but for black-fringed, lip-studded 15-year-olds. You will remember when your hotmail address had an “Xcore” in it and your MSN Messenger pic was Oli Sykes. You will remember when skin-tight jeans and bisexuality went hand-in-hand. You will remember when Pete Wentz could be described as an absolute God of a man, and your heart could be compared to an urn. But most of all, you will remember the music; all the wailing, screaming, drama-filled music, which we can finally look back on with an element of objectivity, only to discover that it was absolute trash, but also kind of (still) the best thing ever.
Of course, being an emo over the age of 20 is unspeakably, ahem, lame *shifts in chair uncomfortably, tries to cover spotify playlists with hands, sobs gently into Funeral for a Friend pencil case*. It’s a teenage phenomenon, mainly because you will never be that angsty or theatrical again in your life, but also because the older you get, the more you work, and the less time you have to dedicate your every waking moment to the many nuances of a subculture. After 20, most of our tastes just blend and morph into one huge, throbbing mass. The last time someone asked me what music I was into, I mumbled something about Drake and stared into the middle distance, trying to remember a time when I had an identity.
Anyway, all of this got me thinking... What do the actual teenagers of today think about all the big emo tracks of Generation Y? Do they look at bands like From First to Last and think “Wow, they are the stuff of legend” or is me forcing a 16-year-old to listen to HelloGoodbye akin to your dad sticking Pink Floyd on in the car and saying things like “This is what real music is, son”?
Instead of speculating wildly, I thought I’d hang around outside the band tee shops and cannabis lolly stalls in Camden to find some real teenagers, make them listen to a bunch of MySpace era tracks on my headphones, and then ask for their honest opinion.
Hi Anastacia! What kind of music do you listen to usually?
Grime and R&B mainly.
Ok. Well, this isn’t exactly grime, but this is Funeral For a Friend with “Red is the New Black”. Do you like it?
I don’t mind it. I wouldn’t classify that as emo because it’s not that heavy. When I think of emo I associate it with loads of guitars and shit.
Let me find a track with more guitars… Right, what do you think about this one? “Understanding in a Car Crash” by Thursday?
Yeah I like this, because sometimes I listen to really old music from ages ago and this sounds similar.
Like stuff from the MySpace era?
Yeah MySpace isn’t a thing anymore, nobody uses that. It’s something old people would be on.
But MySpace made me discover Soasin’s “Seven Years”!!! Let’s listen to some of that. What do you think?
That was really deep and emotional. It kind of cringes me out, to be honest.
You’re breaking my black heart.
What kind of music you into, Allie?
Dunno. Metal. Yeah.
Do all your mates listen to similar music to you?
Ok, so what do you think about this track by The Used? It’s called “The Taste of Ink”.
It’s okay, but it needs to be heavier, and where is the drop? It just sounds very old.
Old?! What’s old?
Dunno... like, people in their mid twenties listen to it.
Christ, okay, let’s listen to something way different. What do you think of “Brat Pack” by The Rocket Summer? Catchy, huh?
Yeah, it’s super chill.
Would anyone in your class listen to music like that?
Maybe. If they’d had enough to smoke.
Thanks, Allie. Stay in school.
Hi mate. You look like a guy that would enjoy some Head Automatica. What do you think of “Beating Heart Baby”?
That was alright actually, it’s not bad. I thought it was gonna be much worse, I’m not gonna lie.
Why? Do I look like someone that would play bad music? What kind of music do people your age listen to?
Most people are into grime and house, stuff like that. No one’s into emo music anymore, mate.
Have you heard of Dashboard Confessional?
Okay I’ll play you one of their tracks “Hands Down”. What do you think?
Yeah, I like it. They sound like a good band. It’s something new for me.
Hey Daniel! So… are you into emo music? Your hair tells me you might be.
I guess so, yeah.
Are you into bands that were around in the early 00s? Or is it more newer stuff?
I like the older stuff actually. I wouldn’t listen to all those You Me at Six tracks, for instance.
Cool, so what are your thoughts on this old classic: Silverstein’s “Smile in Your Sleep?”
It’s pretty good! The lyrics are what you’d expect from an emo song.
Here’s another track with very emo lyrics. What does your teenage brain say about Hawthorne Heights’ “Ohio is For Lovers”?
Ummm… I preferred the first one. This one’s just too sad.
Yeah, I kinda agree.
Hey Kiara. So let’s start with some peak MySpace-era Fall Out Boy. What do you think of “Dance Dance”?
It’s okay but… I don’t know how I feel about it.
Would you listen to this on the way to school?
Nah, I don’t like the lyrics.
What kind of person would listen to Fall Out Boy?
Alternatives. Some emos. Most of my friends don’t really know who Fall Out Boy are.
So are there still a lot of emos about?
It’s not as popular as it used to be, but yeah there are a few.
Let’s listen to some Underoath. I think their track “A Boy Brushed Red Living in Black and White” has one of the catchiest opening lines ever. What do you think?
The lyrics are really depressing. But, yeah, they’re relatable... sure.
What do you think about all the screaming?
I don’t know.
Do they adequately express your teenage angst?
Hey, your jeans are kinda tight. Were you ever into emo?
Nah. Everyone went through that phase, but I was never interested. My girlfriend was massively into My Chemical Romance, though.
What about something more like Say Anything “Alive With the Glory of Love”?
It’s nice, but I wouldn’t think of that as emo. That sounded a bit indie.
Hmm. Maybe I need to give you something with higher emo content. What about Finch “What it is to Burn?”
I like the noise bit at the beginning, but that drum machine is kind of lame.
Lame? Okay, let’s strip it back a bit. What do you think about Bright Eyes’ “First Day of My Life?” How does it make you feel?
I really like that, it’s nice acoustic stuff.
How do you think the definition of emo has changed for your generation compared to mine?
It’s just evolved to meet teenager’s needs now, I guess. Back in the day, there weren’t websites like Tumblr to express yourself.
But we had LiveJournal, Cameron. That was way better than Tumblr.
Pfft. Thanks for chatting.
Louisa! So what kind of music are you into? Emo?
Grime and house. Nobody I know listens to emo.
Not even some old legendary icons like My Chemical Romance? Lets listen to “Teenagers”. What do you think about that?
It’s okay. I used to listen to this kinda stuff, but I wanted a happier life.
Let’s listen to something a bit softer then. What do you think about Secondhand Serenade - “Your Call”? The lyrics are like classic poetry in motion.
It’s nice, but it’s just not my cup of tea. I couldn’t listen to that all the time. I think it’s more people who grew up listening to this that like it.
Yeah, you’re probably right.
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