In the mid 80s, a derivative punk movement called Emotional Hardcore grew out of the American Midwest. It took about 20 years for this culture and style of music to break into the mainstream, and it had to mutate in order to do so. It wasn’t until the early 2000s that Emo bands like Dashboard Confessional and Jimmy Eat World wound up charting in the top ten on Billboard (the American charts). By then, the music blended Punk with Indie Rock and Pop music.
Emo had a huge impact on fashion, culture and people’s attitudes. If you are not familiar with Emo, you will likely know its fashion. Emo was responsible for skinny jeans, spacer earrings, dark makeup, bright dyed hair with long layered bangs, and tight, short-sleeve t-shirts. Emo shaped the sound and style of bands like Blink 182 and Avril Lavigne who took Emo into multi-platinum sales with a more Rock variation musical style, now called Pop Punk.
One of my favourite bands from the Emo era, and the first to bring Emo into the platinum sales figures and #1 on Billboard, was Jimmy Eat World. They were truly Emo, which from a musical sense meant looking at the seemingly dark issues that teenagers can face with more heightened emotional sensitivity than most Punk, mainstream Rock or Pop tracks did at the time. This emotive sensitivity can be heard predominantly in the vocals, the bright style guitar playing and drums. Emo’s sound can range from a pining lament to an unapologetic “take-no-prisoners-hear-me-roar” soundscape, all in the space of one song.
On Jimmy Eat World’s third, full-length record, called “Clarity”, they had mastered the Emo sound. It was full of emotion, and in my opinion, it was perfectly hard and tenderly soft.
At first listen, the album “Clarity” may not seem to be an expression of “I AM” or music in the Positive Possibilities. However, for a 17 year old, who is stumbling along, trying to find his/her way in the world, the music’s adamant insistence on “I AM” reaches into their experience and helps to express what they may be feeling. Regardless of the perhaps juvenile issues of ‘lost love’, or ‘I didn’t know what to do’ sentiments, the music reveals honesty and sensitivity, communicating raw and real experiences.
What I love about Jimmy Eat World, and much of Emo music, is that it takes a look at human issues and tries to work them through. For personal, emotional teenage issues, Emo takes Punk’s rage a step further by exploring rage and asking, “why?”.
For a spiritual aspirant, understanding one’s self is paramount to transcendence. Understanding comes with asking “why?” and being open to the possibility of change. For me, Emo music helps people look at themselves honestly and openly, giving permission to go to perhaps uncomfortable places and find release.
So since this is the Christmas issue, I am leaving you with a Christmas Emo song by Jimmy Eat World. It is not my favourite track from their album “Clarity”, but it illustrates the point that I am making. The song is entitled “12.23.95”. If you wish to listen to the song, you can do so here:
Here are the lyrics if you feel like singing along:
“I didn’t mean to leave you hanging on.
I didn’t mean to leave you all alone.
I didn’t know what to say. [Repeat]
Merry Christmas, baby. [Repeat 3x]”
Wishing you a merry Emo Christmas.
Rishi Gerald is the CEO of Kupid’s Play Records. He describes Kupid’s Play like this: “Kupid’s Play is the Sound of the I Am Revolution. As an international record label devoted to raising global consciousness we bring awakened artists to the commercial mainstream. Our vision extends beyond a traditional record label. We know impossibilities are not real and build non-traditional revenue models by embracing new technologies in the current economic landscape. We know music is everywhere. Kupid’s Play actively seeks out creative opportunities to get its artists’ music to their fans in new ways ensuring that the Sound of the I Am Revolution is heard.” With two decades of experience in the music industry, Rishi has been nominated for numerous marketing awards and earned a Gold Record in the music industry for management.