In 2017, Lil Yachty professed his dedication to emo, sending old-head hip hop fans into disarray. Similarly, that year, one of rap’s most hyped up-and-comers Lil Uzi Vert dropped a world-beating track that harkened towards Hot Topic more than the XXL Freshman list.
Fall out boy?? All time low???? https://t.co/vbaXGhWFWy
— cookin up LB3 (@lilyachty) May 30, 2017
By that point, it was common knowledge that alt-pop heroine Halsey was as comfortable name-dropping Taking Back Sunday as an influence, as she was Lady Gaga. Post Malone was a mainstay among the Insta-friendly Emo Nite LA goers, and Brendon Urie was all of a sudden rubbing shoulders with Hollywood A-listers on Jimmy Fallon.
There’s no denying “emo” has had a huge impact on the pop psyche over the last decade.
Whilst purists may continually fight for what they believe is the sub-culture's true meaning, all corners of mainstream music have felt the reverberations of angst, defining the coming of age of so many.
Emo has an inherent ability to draw upon feelings of pure, unrestrained youth. It’s uniquely bittersweet in its way of drawing on vulnerabilities, breaking down barriers between artists and listeners in a battle for hope and light in the face of adversary - making it one of the most enduring, and special, genres around.
So, as we gear up to say so long and goodnight to the last ten years, we’ve reflected on how and why modern music’s most divisive flavour managed to infiltrate pop.
As 2009 rolled around black eyeliner and studded belts were disappearing from the heights of MTV. “Emo culture” had assumed a new fervent underground fanbase in MySpace dwellers and “neon pop punk” swept a new generation of aesthetic hungry kids under a spell.
However, Top 40 continued to cop its fair dose of scene. Metro Station, Cobra Starship, 3OH!3 and even Kesha’s first releases mirrored the growing popularity of EDM, imbued by the bratty vocals and trashy-synths the stages of Warped Tour had long become acquainted with. Love them or loathe them, these artists sowed the fertile ground for emo to continue to flourish, acting as a gateway into the scene.
Then came Tumblr.
By 2013, filtered lyric edits and soft grunge stylings had flooded the blogs of teens whose pop palettes were becoming sophisticated with the brooding, emotional, alt pop sounds of Lana Del Rey, Sky Ferreira and Lorde.
With Fall Out Boy returning from hiatus in a trap-pop firestorm, Paramore’s self-titled record sparking a new era for the band and Panic!’s electropop fusion Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die! thriving, emo had clearly evolved, and attracted a new generation of fans, poised to take over yet again.
Finally, we met Halsey.
Halsey’s 2015 debut solo record Badlands is an emo-pop paragon. It pulsates with angst, forebodes melodrama with looming synths and boasts dark, edgy and bountiful lyrical imagery.
At the centrepiece of Badlands there were characters, new worlds and ideas - a post-apocalyptic oasis for fans to gather in. Much like her emo heroes, Halsey created a sanctuary for outsiders to join, ultimately fostering a sense of community for like-minded individuals - an essential aspect of emo.
Twenty One Pilots’ record-breaking 2016 release Blurryface was a similar rally cry for outsiders to unite. Whilst its reggae and trip-hop leaning tendencies may urge the closest Sunny Day Real Estate fan to scoff, the album's relatable themes, aesthetic and quirkiness are undeniably emo.
It’s the only record ever to have every track receive gold certification by the RIAA and has sold 1.5 million copies worldwide; they clearly tapped into what Gen Z are in need of.
By 2017, the world was swept under former scene kid turned sad boy Post Malone’s emo R&B, with every club night he played reverberating with the infectiously catchy ramblings of his beloved Panic! hit, I Write Sins Not Tragedies.
Meanwhile, Lil Uzi Vert’s XO Tour Lif3 warbled with regret and teenage boredom, accruing over 1 billion streams in under a year, the rapper name-dropping Paramore and Marilyn Manson as his two biggest influences.
In 2017, the late Lil Peep’s hit Awful Things boomed with trendy, icy trap beats, a warbling lo-fi guitar riff ripped and vocals that mirrored the Madden Brothers' half-sung/half-rapped timbre that dominated the airwaves in the early-'00s. His low-key demeanour and referencing of artists like Underoath and Mineral made him one of a kind - a true subculture-bending millennial muso.
Now that we’ve experienced more waves of emo than Taking Back Sunday line-up changes, it’s exciting to imagine what form the genre and culture will take next. With Billie Eilish’s recent success making a nod to our collective obsession with the dark side, it’s clear emo exists with no creative boundaries.
It seems as a society we’ve become more in-touch with our emotions, and for both millennials and Gen Z’ers, emo has inadvertently played a huge part in everyone’s coming of age - and that’s truly something to write home about.