The Emo Revival

Image Credit: Laoise Tarrant

Central Bank is still closed for renovation and My Chemical Romance’s Kilmainham reunion has been postponed; Andrew Nolan investigates the reality of the emo revival.

Having seen dozens of false dawns over the years, it’s hard to look at the concept of an emo revival without it feeling overzealous. It seems like any amount of time could pass and somewhere, way off in the distance, a blog-post will crop up with a link to a mid-Western math-rock band’s catalogue with vivid proclamations of how they will single-handedly revive the genre. 

Let’s say for a second that such a resurgence is possible, how would it even look today? The broad variety of what constitutes “emo” has changed drastically, and trying to imagine everyone reaching the same conclusion and accepting any one movement seems ludicrous. Though, there are a certain number of possibilities.

As much as nostalgia has become a commodity to be packaged and sold, you cannot argue with the effect older, more recognisable names have on these ideas. You can be as hipster as you like, reviling anything with a significant following, but let’s look on an objective basis; Paramore still sell records to no end, and tickets to My Chemical Romance’s outdoor reunion sold out entirely in mere minutes. Whatever opinion you may have on their sound, these are still the names many think of when the discussion about emo bands come up. 

This marketability carries its own set of pros and cons though. On one hand, they will sell albums and shows to the nth degree. Tried, tested and reliable; these names have ingrained themselves in the memory of enough people to rack up excitement at the mere mention of something new. But say a band does decide to make a fabled reunion, or produce a new record, any direction taken could go either way. One can rigidly stick to their guns (I wrote that for all two-and-a-half of you to appreciate, don’t worry about it) on the matter, and release music as if 2005 never ended. In theory, an excellent idea, right? Produce more of what people recognise, and the demand for sheer memory association will be rife. This does run on chance, however. 

Don’t be upset, but I think that time has been and gone. Bring back a pop-punk classic, let them sing about pizza, and hating their hometowns and skating, and we can have a jolly time. By we, I mean those who already have a pre-existing appreciation for this subgenre of rock. In a realistic case, though, it would be difficult to see the mass effect this would have on the modern landscape of music. Would it be enjoyable for long-time fans? Sure, absolutely. But an overall, earth-shattering return to fame for a sleeping beast of a genre? Fairly doubtful. 

The landscape has changed, and such a sound just isn’t seen in the same vein anymore. The juggernauts of the genre will hold sway for as long as their original fans are there to appreciate them. This might not exactly be enough to dislodge a fresher status quo however. Plus, the longer some of these bands stick around, the less fans can miss them. Bands like Blink 182, who have adopted Matt Skiba of Alkaline Trio fame to replace original vocalist and guitarist Tom DeLonge, have been a persistent presence in the scene throughout the years. And what has that resulted in? A newer sound that half-lends itself to mainstream attention at the cost of abandoning their root sound, doing little in reclaiming some of the magic that captured the hearts of their fanbase with their first few albums. This results in a largely middling response to later releases.

Despite some evidence to the contrary, the concept of an emo revival isn’t entirely lost. After all, old favourites always tend to crop up again after a while; Stranger Things, and artists like The Weeknd show a certain affinity to the 80’s, and mullets are back again. Cool. No matter the success of the old guard, it is entirely possible that any type of revival will come from something newer, better suited to the current climate. 

Put simply, the genre and identity are too broad to lock into any one subgenre. What makes up an emo sound in 2020; a fan-favourite reeling out the classics, or $uicideboy$ rattling off albums like My Liver Will Handle What my Heart Can’t?

The thought of that will make some of you wince, I am well aware. But ignoring the new age of artists putting out these angry, emotion-riddled songs is a form of blindness to the whole situation. These artists are putting out heavy-hitting albums with a fresh viewpoint and identity, taking inspiration in some of the more well-established artists and being able to spin it. And guess what? They resonate with people. A lot. Seriously, look at some of the comments on forums or those left under videos and look at the sheer admiration and devotion people have for them. A massive example of what I’m trying to exemplify in this article falls under this premise. While blasphemy to some, I couldn’t mention a modern version of an emo revival without talking about one artist in particular; Lil Peep. 

Making his start on Soundcloud, Lil Peep began his career making music that sounded, admittedly, safe. After aligning with different artists, his sound began to grow; the meat of his lyrics began to focus on the misery he sees within his own life. And people attached themselves to it immensely. Talking about him in relation to emo is easy; he features samples from the likes of the bands Three Days Grace and Pierce the Veil. The inspiration is clear to see. With humble beginnings, he would eventually become a torchbearer for the emo-rap scene, and the documentary of his life Everybody’s Everything even had a select theatrical release.

No matter the distance, I wouldn’t lose hope for such a revival if you’re holding out for one. To solidify this idea, I’ll leave you with a fun fact: Limp Bizkit have sold around 40 million albums worldwide. Limp. Bizkit. Mate, anything is possible.