What does "emo" mean?

I was thumbing through a recent issue of Rolling Stone and in about three different headlines they used the word “emo” as an adjective of some sort. From the context, I’d guess it means “nerdy cool,” but are they putting us on by introducing a new word that has no real street meaning? Or has this been around a while without my noticing it?


“emo” stands for emotional. I think I wrote a post on this awhile ago, let me go check.

Emo is what happens when punks get sentimental. It’s a slippery slope that has them become hipsters.

Stay far, far away.

I feel dirty for quoting myself but whatever. Bust explanation I can think of:

Short form of “emotional music.” Emo refers to the group of now-trendy soft-rockers defined by crying, wearing girls shirts on guys, black retro square framed glasses of the '50s, an urge to look up at the stars, and an over lack of the profoundness they think they own. It is sometimes hard to distinguish and Emokid from an Indiemusic Snob but both will usually be found in a downtown coffee shop. Emokids, as they call themselves, are often seen wearing adopted punk styles of earlier generations. The mall is too cool for such kids so they buy all their clothes from thrift stores like Goodwill. Emo music is characterized by acoustic guitars, wailing voices on the verge of crying, and lyrics such as “My dying foot withers, cold flowers upon the blood stained brother, white crack up his nose, urine in your soup, why don’t you love me anymore.” Any artist who claims to be Emo is, by default, prententious or atleast full of themselves because all music is created with emotions and no one can use “more emotions” to make their music. Emotion is qualitive, not quantative, meaning you can only measure the depth of emotion used and not the actual amount present. Origins of Emo music can be placed at the hands of kids with a bloated sense of self-worth who accidently listened to an indie rock singer-songwriter and decided that this music was the epitomey of music to cry to.

Resources: http://www.dashboardconfessional.com/

All the ones I see wouldn’t be caught dead near a Goodwill. They get their mommies and daddies to buy them designer clothes that look like they’re from the Goodwill but have tags that say things like Diesel and Dolce & Gabanna.

Wow Zebra, that was undoubedly the best answer to this question I’ve ever seen. Good work.

I’ve also heard ‘emotional hardcore’. I suspect that not everyone who wears box-frame glasses and thrift-store-looking clothes (that are probably really designer-label clothes made to look retro or thrift-store-like) actually is interested in the music, or goes to concerts. For many people, the look is, (quoting a salesperson at a clothing store) “something you can wear to the office and then go out for cocktails”. These people probably mostly listen to whatever they’re told to listen to, and it’s probably generally more popular/mainstream than even emo is. I draw this conclusion because, at emo concerts, most people are not dressed in the emo style. The crowds, at least here, are mostly people in less expensive clothes – skater clothes, nerdy clothes (but not emo-nerdy), and ordinary casual wear. T-shirts with band logos are more common than light-colored shirts with vertical stripes. Also, there is a political aspect to emo. It generally includes standard punk left-wing views, and I imagine a lot of real emo people are vegans. The final defining aspect of emo is that it is all sung in a sad, whiny, somewhat nasal voice.

For a non-cynical take on emo, it is a musical style that focuses on poetic lyrics (often difficult to decipher), changing tempos, and vocalists that, well, whine. Sunny Day Real Estate’s Diary release has always seemed like an emo album that encapsulates the qualities most obviously, but other bands are arguable. I’d count Ian MacKaye’s side project Embrace as emo, and probably Rites of Spring (which is an awesome CD for anyone in the punk tradition). Cap’n Jazz is definitely emo, and definitely tends towards poetic lyrics over strict substance. A more recent release was probably Engine Down’s Demure, though I’ve heard some people qualify it is post-hardcore, which is probably just a new name for emo since there was a trend to think emo was shit.

I think it is quite good. I don’t know about any emo style of person.

erislover’s description of emo makes me think that the band Radiohead fits the profile, but I’ve never heard them referred to as emo. I’m so un-hip - I hear that happens when you’re in your 30’s. :wink: So would it be reasonable to classify Radiohead as emo, or am I missing something more subtle?

IME, emo is only used to describe punk bands, and Radiohead is not punk.

:smiley: :smiley: :smiley: That was exactly the band I was thinking of when I opened this thread.

From Allmusic.com

Any genre that includes Hüsker Dü can’t be all bad (although, I never thought them to be close to that…)

I am wanting to say “emo” is a self declared genre. Many bands that would fit the descriptions above are not actually emo unless the band has declared themselves to be so, in my experience. That is where my cynicism of the genre comes in: bands describe themselves as emotional which thusly turns them into “elitists.” How can you declare yourself to portray more emotion in your music then another artist? and all of that.

Heh. Back in my day, they called it “grunge.”

Neither are any emo bands.

Emo is a small community in north-western Ontario. Anyone know how it got its name?

How could we forget Emo Phillips?