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An alt-girl’s origin story: emo beginnings

As everyone does, I was going through a particularly angsty time as a teenager, from getting bullied to growing pains to trying to figure out who I was, and I highly identified with the lyrics and rhythms of emo bands and songs
Live from the World Contamination Tour. Photo taken by Penny Howle and courtesy My Chemical Romance.

Growing up I listened to whatever my parents listened to. My parents love telling the story about how as a baby I fell asleep to Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb.” I also listened to a variety of country, pop and classic rock songs.

Then when I was five years old, I started playing violin, and from there dabbled in piano, guitar and vocals, with a focus primarily on classical and fiddle/Celtic music.

However, all of that was over once high school hit. Once I swapped out my pink, sparkly platforms for knee-high Converse with purple ribbon laces, a change occurred. My first group of friends in high school introduced me to music I hadn’t really listened to before, and I became enamored.

As everyone does, I was going through a particularly angsty time as a teenager, from getting bullied to growing pains to trying to figure out who I was, and I highly identified with the lyrics and rhythms of emo bands and songs. They gave me stories to identify with, rock out to when no one was listening and attempt to heal myself.

If you’re trying to get into the emo rock scene, here are the top seven gateway artists I started with:

  1. Twenty-One Pilots

Twenty-One Pilots is a band that formed in 2009 in Ohio. Their most popular song was “Stressed Out” off their 2015 album “Blurryface.”

While Twenty-One Pilots isn’t fully emo — though if you consider most of their lyrics … they kind of are — they were my gateway band to finding more emo-type musicians. 

“Stressed Out” was the first Twenty-One Pilots song I’d listened to, thanks to my friends, and I was immediately hooked. However, I found their other popular songs like “Heavydirtysoul” and “We Don’t Believe What’s On TV” — both off the same album — were a little too scene for me.

But I did gravitate toward the more explosively emotional songs, such as:

  1. Fall Out Boy

Fall Out Boy is a 2001 rock band out of Chicago. Their most popular song is “Sugar, We’re Going Down” off their 2005 album “From Under The Cork Tree.”

Again, Fall Out Boy is not the most emo band, but I heard a lot of my high school classmates talk about, so out of curiosity I started looking into their more commonplace songs like “Immortals” and “Centuries.” While I wasn’t and have never been a fan of the lead singer’s vocal style, I love the stories their songs tell.

These songs especially:

  1. My Chemical Romance

My Chemical Romance formed in 2001 in response to 9/11 and everything that followed it. Their most popular song is “Welcome To The Black Parade” off their 2006 album “The Black Parade.”

Of course, all emos can be summoned by the first few notes of this song, and I am one of them. “Welcome To The Black Parade” was one of the first MCR songs and music videos I watched. I loved their music video-style and I became obsessed with watching them, which led me down an MCR rabbit hole that I’m still falling down.

These were the first few songs I came to love in high school:

  1. Black Veil Brides

Black Veil Brides, a reference to the black veil brides in Roman Catholicism, came to be in 2006. One of their more popular songs is “In The End” off their 2012 album “Wretched and Divine: The Story Of The Wild Ones.” 

It all began with my friend who always drew Black Veil Brides’ symbols on his notebooks and folders, and thus started an intense obsession. After listening to every single one of their albums and learning everything I could about the band, they officially became my life. I was even influenced to present on them for my history of rock class, during which I quickly learned everyone hated them because of how emo they were.

Though they are more surface-level songs, these were my initial favorites:

  1. Three Days Grace

Three Days Grace was formed in 1997 in Ontario, Canada. Their most popular song was “Animal I Have Become” off their 2006 album “One-X.” 

My infatuation with Three Days Grace was kind of a fluke. I discovered them after getting bored with the bands I was currently listening to, and they quickly became my background music. Since most of their songs are highly repetitive, that’s really all they’re good for.

The exceptions are songs like these, which really exaggerate the angst common to their songs:

  1. Falling In Reverse

Falling In Reverse formed in 2008 in Las Vegas. The band reached the“Billboard Hot 100” for the first time with their 2023 single “Watch the World Burn.”

This band was another one that my friends listened to a lot. Originally, I wasn’t a big fan of the band, except for a select few songs, but eventually it grew on me and now it’s in my top five favorite bands.

These songs were the ones that helped the band grow on me:

  1. Royal Blood

Royal Blood is a UK band that started in 2013. One of their more popular songs “Figure It Out” was released on the 2014 album “Royal Blood.” 

To be honest, I only started listening to Royal Blood to annoy one of my friends, but the songs off their “Royal Blood” and “How Did We Get So Dark?” albums began to resonate with me due to their unusual musicality. 

Until recently, I didn’t really delve deeper into the band, so these were my favorites:

  1. The Used

The Used is a pop rock band formed in 2001. They reached the Billboard Top 100 for the first and only time in 2005 with their MCR collaborative cover “Under Pressure.”

The aforementioned cover was how I found The Used. I was still falling down my MCR rabbit hole when “Under Pressure” led me to The Used. Not long after discovering them, I immediately put their entire “In Love and Death,” “Lies for the Liars” and “Artwork” albums on my playlist.

These songs are still on my repeat:

Of course there are also individual emo songs to rock out to, including:

Ariana Powell can be reached at [email protected] or [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Ariana Powell
Ariana Powell, Editor-in-Chief
Ariana Powell is in her fourth year at Chico State as a media arts (criticism) and journalism (news) double-major. Now in her fourth semester on The Orion and having assumed the editor-in-chief position, she is prepared to continue helping upcoming journalists and endeavors to continue building her repertoire of multimedia and writing skills. In her free time, she enjoys writing, watching and analyzing films, reading and spending time with her loved ones.

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