Wednesday, May 30, 2007

My ChEMO Romance

Remember when you were younger and someone nailed you with a clever and mean insult, leaving you speechless, and you couldn't think of a comeback until days, weeks, or even years later (I’ve since given up; I keep an arsenal of “Yo Momma” jokes that more or less get the job done). A week or two ago, ABC 4 news ran a story about emo (you can watch the video here), without really acknowledging what it was, but along with other current hot scoops like MySpace and cell phones, the story unfairly duped parents into thinking that emo is something to fear (you know, the old they-wear-black-clothes-and-cut-their-wrists chestnut).

Despite the hilarious excuse for “investigative journalism” that any person under the age of 50 could easily point out as bogus, the obliviousness of the information left me feeling like I should not only cry out against such a misrepresentation of pop culture, but try to clarify and defend emo as best I could—this is my comeback to ABC 4, but also some thirst-quenching for all of you who have been milking the haterade for too long.

Emo is hard to define—and it’s really no wonder that an out-of-touch news station failed to even try. But, like goth, grunge or rave culture, the definition becomes harder to distinguish from all the negative connotations that become associated with it. I am not going to try to be the authority on emo by any means, but I think I can do a better job than ABC 4's Reed Cowan.

First off, emo stands for and refers to any music that is “emotionally-charged,” or something. I think this is a stupid definition because all music is emotionally-charged, but the term seems to have been commandeered by punk rockers who aren’t singing about politics or sniffing glue, and maybe there’s an acoustic guitar thrown in every once in awhile.

Emo is a description and NOT a genre. I don’t think I’ve ever heard any band refer to themselves, in interviews or whatnot, as emo. Just like there have never really been any “grunge” bands, emo is that word to pigeon-hole numerous undeserving bands, either by spite or sheer laziness. But since I’m a lazy writer, I’m going to keep referring to it like a genre.

The term emo is arbitrary. Nowadays, it stands as a warning sign for all scenesters to stay away, usually Top 20-radio fare. But there was a time when cred-reputable bands like Jawbreaker, Fugazi and Sunny Day Real Estate were the kings and forefathers of “emo.”

I think that’s a pretty good non-definition of “emo,” and because of that, I can proudly say that I don’t like emo. I do, however, like bands that are misrepresented as emo. I like the theatrics of My Chemical Romance and the wordplay of Fallout Boy and Panic! at the Disco, three bands that rule the charts and proclaim emo, but are pop-punk or simply pop. In fact, the use of the “e” label gets thrown so liberally now that bands like Green Day are mistaken for emo, even though they’ve been making the same music for 15 years.

If you hate emo, that’s fine. It’s fine to hate it for its wussiness, the industry’s remorseless capitalization of it, the fashion that emo embodies, and if you’re not confident with your musicality, you can hate it to keep up your hipster-cred. That’s all fine. But when you start hating music for its honesty, that’s when the stench of elitism begins to waft from your general area.

Dashboard Confessional, a prime example and the harbinger of modern-day emo, make pussy music by any and all means. But six or seven years ago, Dashboard's Chris Carraba scored big with just an acoustic guitar and his heart on his sleeve, something that big punk outlets Fat Records and Epitaph failed to accomplish with all their Warped Tours combined (which were marketed to the same that Dashboard eventually found and profited from). From that, I say this: kids aren’t stupid … most of the time. They saw the pure emo[tion] and honesty from Dashboard and understood it, before any major label had a chance to exploit it.

Elliot Smith, by modern standards, should be considered emo.

Ironic metal-shirts and hair-swoops are dumb, but that’s what’s fashionable right now, so those emos probably get more chicks than you or me.

At least it’s not nĂ¼-metal. (Ryan Bradford)

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