It’s been roughly 30 years since emo emerged as a musical genre, and in that time countless bands have done their duty to make it into one of the best and most popular form of music going around today. From the genre’s early days as a hardcore punk subgenre, to its later, more popular pop-punk style, emo has always been one of the best musical forms there is.
Now, as emo legends The Used drop their seventh(!) full-length album, The Canyon, we’ve decided to give you a bit of a history lesson, as we look back at 15 emo classics that helped to make the genre what it is today. Get comfy, and get your headphones, because we’re going on an emo adventure.
All That I’ve Got – The Used (2004)
All That I’ve Got was released as The Used’s second single from their second album, All That I’ve Got. Sure, the band had been around for a couple of years by this point, so we knew the sort of music to expect from them, but nothing compared to the heartbreaking tale of loss from frontman Bert McCracken that is All That I’ve Got. Backed by a severely rocking tune, you have to ask yourself, when has feeling bad ever felt this good?
I’m Not Okay (I Promise) – My Chemical Romance (2004)
For many, this was their first exposure to My Chemical Romance. It might have been the group’s fourth single, but it was thanks to this amazing track that fans got to understand on a much wider scale the level of brilliant musicianship and heartfelt emotion that My Chemical Romance had to give.
Trust us, we had to think hard about whether to include this one or Welcome To The Black Parade, but considering the important role that this track played in the formation of the group’s legacy, it quickly became a rather obvious choice.
Sugar, We’re Goin’ Down – Fall Out Boy (2005)
Ah yes, the track that saw Fall Out Boy enter the mainstream in a huge way. Back in 2009, a US journalist said that this track was “the most listened-to emo track of all time,” and we have to agree, to be honest. Responsible for helping bring mainstream attention to the emo genre, Fall Out Boy most definitely struck gold with this track.
With lyrics that gave the general public a chance to hear Pete Wentz’ absolute poetry for the first time, and a chorus that only gets better the louder you scream it, Sugar, We’re Goin’ Down is already considered to be one of the greatest tracks of emo generation, and that’s just absolutely fine by us.
I Write Sins Not Tragedies – Panic! At The Disco (2005)
Let’s be honest, you knew this one had to be here. If in a thousand years, there’s an encyclopaedia entry on the emo genre, this song is going to be right at the top under the ‘required listening’ heading. Serving as Panic! At The Disco’s second single (seriously though, what a perfect way to first hear this band), I Write Sins Not Tragedies was one of the reasons that emo became as popular as it did.
With a chorus that’s as catchy as a cold, and serving as a brilliant introduction to Brendon Urie’s songwriting, this one was destined to be a hit right from the start.
Cute Without The ‘E’ (Cut From The Team) – Taking Back Sunday (2002)
In much the same way that the piano note from the beginning of The Black Parade can result in an instantaneous “When I was, a young boy…”, Cute Without The ‘E’ does exactly the same with its own opening notes. Seriously, give it a listen and try not shouting out “Your lipstick, his collar, don’t bother angel, I know exactly what goes on” at the top of your lungs. It just can’t be done.
Despite never being released as a single, this track has gone on to be considered as one of the greatest emo jams of the last 15 years, and there’s a darn good reason for it.
Accident Prone – Jawbreaker (1995)
Jawbreaker were one of the first bands to start making emo into a popular genre, and were one of the most influential. Heck, even Fall Out Boy covered their best known tune back in 2003. But back when Jawbreaker were starting to get criticism for starting to sell out, the band dropped this amazing tune of heartbreak, loss, and despair.
When Jawbreaker announced they were getting back together this year after 21 years apart, so many fans could hardly contain their excitement, including Paramore’s Hayley Williams who loves this song so much that she just had to record her own cover of it.
I Caught Fire – The Used (2004)
With their self-titled debut record not seeing much chart success upon its release back in 2002, The Used weren’t exactly disheartened, but treated it as a learning curve, being encouraged to produce an absolutely stunning sophomore record. With tracks like Take It Away and All That I’ve Got, 2004’s In Love And Death was an absolutely brilliant album, sending the group into the forefront of the public consciousness.
I Caught Fire was a bit of a slow-burner (pun definitely intended), but eventually turned into a huge fan favourite, helping to bring The Used into the mainstream in Australia and the UK. As it stands, I Caught Fire is one of the band’s most-played live songs, usually serving as an effortless way to get the crowd pumped up for the awesome show they’re witnessing.
Misery Business – Paramore (2007)
Sure, Paramore had already released one album by the time Riot! came about, but this was undoubtedly the song that flung them right into the mainstream. While the song’s meaning is famously mysterious, there’s nothing mysterious about the phenomenal reception this track has received over the years. A classic of the pop-punk emo genre, Hayley Williams and co. should be very happy about the legions of fans they found as a result of this classic tune.
Miss Murder – AFI (2006)
While bands like My Chemical Romance and Fall Out Boy were giving emo the pop-punk edge, AFI were keeping the genre at its roots, and maintaining the alternative rock style it was known for. With Miss Murder serving as the lead single from their seventh album, Decemberunderground, fans the world over saw this as the band reaching their commercial peak. With a brilliant singalong chorus and one heck of an opening bassline, fans the world over were never going to let this tune go unnoticed.
The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows – Brand New (2003)
Brand New have a scary good track record with their music (seriously, just try and pick one bad song). Back when they released Deja Entendu (which you might just know by its other name – ‘Their Masterpiece’), the album’s lead single was the impossibly brilliant The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows. Showing off Jesse Lacey’s trademark emotion and wordplay, this track set fans up for a brilliant future from Brand New, and they delivered in spades.
Emily – From First To Last (2004)
Oh yes, the ultimate sad emo jam. Long before Skrillex was dropping the bass and touring the world as the most in-demand DJ going around, he was just plain old Sonny Moore, lead vocalist for emo group From First To Last.
With their best known track Emily serving as the perfect way to soundtrack every aspect of a relationship (or just a good way to celebrate anyone’s friendship with a really nifty person called Emily), the tune was the emo lover’s Swiss army knife – beautiful, perfectly-crafted, and suitable for just about any situation.
The Bird And The Worm – The Used (2007)
In terms of chart success, The Bird And The Worm was easily The Used’s most successful and popular track. Reaching #9 on the US charts, the track’s catchy melody and brilliant singalong chorus were always going to be huge, but no one really understood just how huge.
Backed with a brilliantly creepy video, The Bird And The Worm has managed to go down in history as one of The Used’s finest moments, capturing the moment that the group went from ‘slightly underground emo band’, to ‘world-beating emo superstars’.
Miserable At Best – Mayday Parade (2007)
Taken from Mayday Parade’s astonishing debut record A Lesson In Romantics (which somehow turned ten years old in July??), Miserable At Best is the centrepiece of the record, serving as the heart-wrenching tune to get the tears flowing before they jump back into those upbeat jams we know and love.
Seriously though, how can you not listen to a tune with “I guess that I can live without you but without you I’ll be miserable at best,” and start sobbing uncontrollably? If this song isn’t a classic, we don’t know what is.
At Your Funeral – Saves The Day (2001)
Saves The Day are often considered one of the first bands to make the pop-punk style of emo popular, helping people to make the jump from the post-hardcore sounds of old, to the more upbeat, clean-sounding tunes that would later become hallmarks of the genre. Along with other groups like Jimmy Eat World, Saves The Day were determined to sing their sad songs to fans all around the world.
Breaking into the mainstream with At Your Funeral, the group suddenly found themselves in high demand, discovering that the tunes they’d already spent years perfecting were now being screamed back at them from the front row of every gig they played.
Seven – Sunny Day Real Estate (1994)
Okay, set your mind back to 1994 for a second, when Sunny Day Real Estate released their debut record Diary. Widely considered to be the first emo album, Sunny Day Real Estate are basically the uncles of the genre. Seven was the song that shot them into the mainstream though. With poetic lyrics, and a brilliant sing-a-long chorus of “You’ll taste it, when you die,” could there be anything more emo than Seven?
The Used’s The Canyon is out today via Hopeless Records.