We all had that early-to-mid 2000s emo phase, and I’ll be the first to admit that we haven’t necessarily all outgrown it. I sure haven’t. I still find myself listening to the same music I loved from the darkest days of middle school. We swore it wasn’t a phase over a decade ago, and here we are now proving it. Sure, some of the messages in those songs haven’t exactly aged well — emo dudes had a tendency to be pretty problematic, unfortunately — it’s almost impossible not to sing along whenever we hear some of these certified bops. There’s a reason parties like Emo Nite LA are so popular, and similar events are continuing to pop up across the country. What can we say? Adulting is hard, but nostalgia is fun.
We might’ve stopped laying the eyeliner on thick and ditched the asymmetrical haircuts, but despite changing our appearances, it’s hard not to love these songs no matter how much time has passed. Here’s a trip down memory lane with some of those songs you definitely still jam to when no one’s around.
My Chemical Romance is peak emo, and The Black Parade is their greatest masterpiece. You can’t go to an Emo Nite without spotting at least one attendee decked out in frontman Gerard Way’s iconic black marching band uniform, complete with black and white makeup. Those first few piano notes from “Welcome to the Black Parade” are still enough to make any former emo kid stop dead in their tracks and belt out the anthem of our sad generation. And the theatrics in that video are almost literally to die for.
Be honest: how long did it take you to learn the lyrics to Fall Out Boy’s “Dance, Dance”? What about the dance number? We all connected to the video’s portrayal of high school students struggling to fit in at the school dance, and now the song has the power to take us right back to high school. Arguing about the almost incoherent chorus and Patrick Stump’s mumbling was half the fun of this song. I stand by my interpretation: “We’re fondling a bug to halftime.”
Fueled By Ramen
Panic! at the Disco is currently killing the mainstream game, and their style has changed a lot over the years. While “High Hopes” might be an absolute banger, nothing will compare to the band’s first hit single, “I Write Sins Not Tragedies.” Who could forget being introduced to Brendon Urie in that red jacket and black top hat like a circus ringleader chastising a wedding party for leaving the door open. Did I ever really understand this song? No. But do I still know every word? Absolutely. Brendon’s never been afraid to push boundaries, and we love him for it.
The biggest rival to My Chemical Romance when I think “peak emo” would have to be The Used. From their lyrics that alternate between sad and angsty, to their dark almost-always-all-black style, and their iconic (emo) imagery like the heart hanging from a tree on the cover of their 2004 album In Love and Death, The Used was every emo kid’s dream band. “The Taste of Ink” is one of their most well-loved songs, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a millennial who doesn’t still scream “IT’S 4 O’CLOCK IN THE F*CKING MORNING!” along with Bert McCracken.
Taking Back Sunday or Brand New, you have exactly ten seconds to choose and your answer will absolutely determine whether or not we could ever be friends. Kidding, but honestly who could forget the feud between TBS frontman Adam Lazzara and Brand New frontman Jesse Lacey. Emo kids were loyal to their favorite bands to a fault, so a decade ago, lines really were drawn between friends choosing opposing sides in the war. I was always a Taking Back Sunday girl myself. While Tell All Your Friends was their most iconic, purely emo album, “MakeDamnSure” was their most mainstream hit, and it still holds up as a banger to scream along to.
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Fine, you don’t actually have to choose. Both Taking Back Sunday AND Brand New are good, and both were vital to our development as angsty adolescents. “Seventy Times 7” was the song you had on repeat after your first breakup. And maybe after your second. Or maybe you still blast it now every time someone even remotely hurts you, and you just wish they would have another drink and drive themselves home, and maybe their head would go through the windshield. (Did I say emo dudes could be problematic already? Seriously...)
The All-American Rejects’ self-titled debut album is still to this day one of my favorite albums and I have no shame in admitting that. No Emo Night is complete without “One More Sad Song” (because duh, how much more emo can you get than that title?). Unfortunately, that album seems to get overlooked in the shadow of their 2005 follow-up album Move Along. “Dirty Little Secret” was everyone’s jam, and maybe it’s your dirty little secret that you still listen to it regularly while you're crafting postcards to send into Post Secret.
Simple Plan was likely the band that first introduced you to the concept of “emo,” as their songs were popular enough to be featured in movies like Cheaper by the Dozen and Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen’s New York Minute. They sound more pop-punk, but you can’t argue that lyrics like “I’m just a kid and a life is a nightmare” isn’t emo. They were one of the biggest draws for Vans Warped Tour’s final cross-country tour last summer, so clearly we are all still kids and life is still a nightmare.
Davey Havok screaming on that rooftop in AFI’s “Miss Murder” video was at one point my favorite thing, and I remember teaching myself how to embed YouTube videos into my MySpace profile back in 2006 solely for that reason. Despite falling out of the mainstream shortly afterward, AFI is still around making new music and touring, but “Miss Murder” will always get the loudest reaction from any crowd. Let’s not kid ourselves, the song absolutely still slaps and we all still scream along with it.
Paramore has outgrown “Misery Business,” but that does not mean we have. Frontwoman Hayley Williams apologized in 2017 for the controversial anti-feminist lyric, “Once a whore you’re nothing more, I’m sorry that’ll never change,” explaining that she was only 17 years old when she wrote the song, and understands now that she was buying into a lie she was fed about the need for competition between women. In September of 2018, she announced that the band would no longer perform the song live. However, it will always be an emo anthem of our generation, and it’s an angst that all teenage girls have felt at some point or another. It’s possible to reject that line and still love the song.
Thirty Seconds to Mars is actor Jared Leto’s band. Fight Club is my favorite thing he’s ever done — he plays a super blonde guy who gets his baby-face irreparably damaged in a fight, for those of you living under a rock who still haven’t seen it — but “The Kill” is a close second. In the video, Jared finds himself in a hotel filled with doppelgangers, where he’s forced to confront “himself,” while singing “What if I wanted to break?” It’s theatrical and fun, albeit a little confusing, but weren’t all '00s emo videos like that?
“Face Down” was the debut single from Red Jumpsuit Apparatus back in 2006. Fun fact: both “Face Down” and Thirty Seconds to Mars’s “The Kill” spent an entire year on Billboard’s Modern Rock Tracks chart without hitting the number 1 spot. The song (and video) depicts a relationship plagued by domestic violence, with a young woman ignoring her pain until she’s finally had enough to get out. “Do you feel like a man when you push her around?” frontman Ronnie Winter asks the woman’s abuser. That cuts deep.
And then for some more heavy feels, we have Say Anything’s “Alive With the Glory of Love,” which frontman Max Bemis wrote about his grandparents’ relationship during the Holocaust. That’s right, this upbeat catchy tune is about being in love during one of the most horrific events in history. You might have put that together if you watched the music video and caught all the Holocaust imagery. Thankfully both of Max’s grandparents survived, or else we wouldn’t have Say Anything today.
New Found Glory’s 2002 hit “My Friends Over You” off their third studio album Sticks and Stones is the epitome of angsty emo meets pop punk. It ranked on Billboard’s Hot 100, as well as in the top 5 of the Modern Rock Tracks chart, and it can still be heard every Emo Nite 17 years later. Frontman Jordan Pundik wails about self-sabotaging a relationship, while Brody Dalle of the Distillers, and Travis Barker, Tim Armstrong, and Rob Aston of the Transplants make cameos in the music video.
The Academy Is… had a lot of great songs in their career, but it’s hard to argue that any of their later releases could top their 2005 debut album Almost Here, with hits like “The Phrase That Pays,” “Checkmarks,” and of course, “Slow Down,” (which you might have spent years referring to as “Hollywood Hills.”) You have to love a song with the line, “You kiss me like an overdramatic actor who’s starving for work, with one last shot to make it happen.”
Mayday Parade’s “Miserable at Best” is the epitome of emo: sad, sad, and even more sad. Which you would expect, as the name is pretty self-explanatory. It may not be a banger or a bop, so it’s probably not something you’d ever hear at an Emo Nite dance party, but purely sad songs need love too, and this one’s near the top of the list. Sometimes you just need to cry because no one understands you and you’ll never be whole without that one specific person in your life. Or at least that’s what we believed as tweens.
Jimmy Eat World definitely had better songs than the slightly cheesy “The Middle,” (see: “Bleed American” or “Sweetness”) but that’s the one that made them a household name back in 2001, and credit will be given where it’s due. The song peaked at number 1 on Billboard’s Alternative Songs chart, 2 on the Adult Top 40, 4 on the Mainstream Top 40, and 5 on the Hot 100. It was a bop when it first came out 18 years ago, and it’s still a bop today.
A lot of the most popular emo bands from the 2000’s straddled the line of pop punk, and Motion City Soundtrack is no exception. They played sad music that you could still dance to. That’s basically emo in a nutshell, which would explain why our generation was so drawn to it during puberty. Commit This to Memory was not only the band’s best and most widely well-received album, but also their most emo album, thanks to hits like “Everything Is Alright,” in which frontman Justin Pierre is quite literally asking for someone to tell him that everything is alright.
Jack’s Mannequin frontman Andrew McMahon never seems to get tired of reinventing himself. Before Jack’s Mannequin he was the frontman of alt. rock band Something Corporate, and now he’s performing solo as Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness. Jack’s Mannequin’s debut album Everything in Transit was released in 2005, and you may remember “The Mixed Tape” from the soundtrack of One Tree Hill, or the reverse of that, Hilarie Burton’s One Tree Hill character Peyton Sawyer starring in the music video for “The Mixed Tape.” This song has all the feels.
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Coheed and Cambria is still actively one of my favorite bands, and while their last album Unheavenly Creatures was just released in October 2018, their 2003 album In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3 will forever be their best. “A Favor House Atlantic” is one of the band’s most upbeat yet still emo songs, and it’s probably only second in mainstream popularity to their much-less-emo hit from 2005 “Welcome Home,” which you probably remember destroying on the videogame Rock Band.