The Resurgence of Emo Music and Subculture

Ariana Powell


Some credit the first rock ‘n roll song as Ike Turner’s 1957 "Rocket 88," sung by Jackie Brenston, and others swear the origins go as far back as the mid-1800s with the formation of the Original Monstre Rock Band. Over the years, rock has progressed through multiple stages and subgenres: classic, glam, progressive, punk, alternative and ska, to name a few.

It has even paved the path for other forms of rock, such as rapcore, metal, and emo. The latter is a shortened version of the subgenre’s true nature: emotional. It originated in the 1980s with the band Rites of Spring and has since caused a cultural phenomenon -- one that influenced an obsession with long bangs and red highlights, caused a run on black hair dye, and sparked the style of black skinny jeans and oversized T-shirts.

Those who became a part of this subculture, then and now, seem to resonate with bands and songs that exude angst, depression, and sadness, formed from self-doubt and frustration with society and oneself.

Emo became especially popular in the 2000 to 2010 with the formation of emo legends such as My Chemical Romance in 2001 and Panic! at the Disco and Paramore in 2004.



Songs like MCR’s "Welcome to the Black Parade," P!ATD’s "I Write Sins Not Tragedies" and Paramore’s "Ignorance" have influenced millennials and Gen Z-ers alike. However, since hiding behind fringe isn’t really accepted in society, emos have had to “grow up.” As have emo bands apparently.

The emo graveyard began with the fathers of emo, Rites of Spring, and has only grown bigger as other popular bands like Something Corporate, Finch, Midtown and MCR have died out. Emo music began to fade only after a couple of decades, making way for the style of R&B, pop, and hip-hop songs that currently grace the Billboard charts.

Some emo bands, like Paramore, The Used and Fall Out Boy, however, have proved that emo music isn’t completely dead just yet, as more bands have started to rise from the grave.

Most notably MCR, who broke up in 2013, tried to start a reunion tour in 2020, which had to be postponed multiple times due to COVID. The band then released their latest single, "Foundations of Decay," a response to the 21st anniversary of 9/11, which was a key influence for the band's start.


Midtown also played again for the first time since they broke up in 2005, opening for My Chemical Romance during their 2022/2023 reunion tour. The band additionally embarked on their own Resurrection Tour in 2022.

Other bands like Something Corporate have announced that they will perform at the 2023 When We Were Young Festival -- their last tour was in 2010. Say Anything has also announced that they will performing at the festival. This comes five years after Max Bemis, the band’s frontman, released a 10-page "Goodbye Summation" detailing a temporary hiatus for the band.

Live performances are one thing; however, releasing new music is another. Some past emo bands that haven’t officially “broken up” have resumed releasing albums, EPs, and/or singles starting around 2020. The Used released their album “Heartwork” in 2020, a three-year gap since their prior release in 2017.

The All American-Rejects released their album “Me vs. the World” in 2020, and “Stab My Back” in 2021. Pierce the Veil released two singles, "Pass the Nirvana" and "Emergency the Contact" in 2022, and another single, "Even When I'm Not With You," on Jan. 13.



PTV previously released their “Today I Saw The Whole World” EP in 2017. A song from their album “Misadventures” was released in 2016.

Falling in Reverse, who have been consistently releasing music since their start in 2008, released a revamp and a reimagining of their two most popular emo songs, "I'm Not A Vampire" and "The Drug In Me Is You," in 2020 and 2021 respectively.

As enthused as elder emos probably are for the reunion of their favorite bands, along with new music, one question pops into mind: Why are these bands suddenly deciding to rejoin the music world?

This could simply be the latest wave of reunions that have occurred over the past few years across rock genres. The Jonas Brothers, Rage Against the Machine and Pink Floyd, to name a few, have reunited in the past five years, even if for brief tours only.

Artists like MCR and Midtown could potentially provide a sense of mental relief to their fans who grew up with or who have some form of mental and/or emotional attachment to their music.



The artists could also be granting themselves the same form of mental relief, or possibly a sense of catharsis -- especially in our current political and social climate. A revival of what used to be could be a way to relive the glorious past.

The emo decades have impacted multiple generations. Emos still exist, spreading their angst and keeping businesses like Hot Topic and Spencer’s in business. A resurgence of emo music, and the emo lifestyle, could prove to be a good emotional outlet for current and future younger generations. As our society breaks down in the face of climate change, war and bias, American youths today are probably angrier and more confused than Gen Z and millennials were. Perhaps these emo artists have lessons to teach future generations.

Author Bio:

Ariana Powell is a contributing writer at Highbrow Magazine.


For Highbrow Magazine


Image Sources:

--Gerard Wasabi (, Creative Commons)

--Mojo-Jo-Jo (, Creative Commons)

--Rufus Owliebat (, Creative Commons)

--Vit Hassan (Flickr, Creative Commons)


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