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Emo is a rock music genre characterized by an emphasis on emotional expression, sometimes through confessional lyrics. It emerged as a style of post-hardcore from the mid-1980s hardcore punk movement in Washington, D.C., where it was known as emotional hardcore or emocore and pioneered by bands such as Rites of Spring and Embrace. In the early–mid 1990s, emo was adopted and reinvented by alternative rock, indie rock and pop punk bands such as Sunny Day Real Estate, Jawbreaker, Weezer and Jimmy Eat World, with Weezer breaking into the mainstream during this time. By the mid-1990s, bands such as Braid, the Promise Ring and the Get Up Kids emerged from the burgeoning Midwest emo scene, and several independent record labels began to specialize in the genre. Meanwhile, screamo, a more aggressive style of emo using screamed vocals, also emerged, pioneered by the San Diego bands Heroin and Antioch Arrow.
Often seen as a subculture, emo also signifies a specific relationship between fans and artists and certain aspects of fashion, culture and behavior. Emo fashion has been associated with skinny jeans; tight t-shirts with band names; studded belts; and flat, straight, jet-black hair with long bangs. Fans of emo music who dress like this are referred to as "emo kids" or "emos". Emos are known for listening to emo bands like My Chemical Romance, Hawthorne Heights, The Used, and AFI. The emo subculture is stereotypically associated with emotion, sensitivity, misanthropy, shyness, introversion and angst, as well as depression, self-harm and suicide. Its quick rise in popularity in the early 2000s inspired a backlash, with bands such as My Chemical Romance and Panic! at the Disco rejecting the emo label because of the social stigma and controversy surrounding it.
Emo entered mainstream culture in the early 2000s with the success of Jimmy Eat World and Dashboard Confessional and many artists signed to major record labels. Bands such as My Chemical Romance, AFI, Fall Out Boy and the Red Jumpsuit Apparatus continued the genre's popularity during the rest of the decade. By the mid 2010s, emo's popularity had waned, with some groups changing their sound and others disbanding. Meanwhile, however, a mainly underground emo revival emerged, with bands such as The World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die and Modern Baseball drawing on the sound and aesthetic of 1990s emo.
Emo originated in hardcore punk and is considered a form of post-hardcore. Nonetheless, emo has also been considered a form of indie rock and pop punk. Emo uses the guitar dynamics that use both the softness and loudness of punk rock music. Some emo leans uses characteristics of progressive music with the genre's use of complex guitar work, unorthodox song structures, and extreme dynamic shifts.
Lyrics, a focus in emo music, are typically emotional and often personal or confessional, dealing with topics such as failed romance, self-loathing, pain, insecurity, suicidal thoughts, love, and relationships. AllMusic described emo lyrics as "usually either free-associative poetry or intimate confessionals". Early emo bands were hardcore punk bands that used melody and emotional or introspective lyrics and that were less structured than regular hardcore punk, making early emo bands different from the aggression, anger, and verse-chorus-verse structures of regular hardcore punk.
According to AllMusic, most 1990s emo bands "borrowed from some combination of Fugazi, Sunny Day Real Estate, and Weezer". The New York Times described emo as "emotional punk or post-hardcore or pop-punk. That is, punk that wears its heart on its sleeve and tries a little tenderness to leaven its sonic attack. If it helps, imagine Ricky Nelson singing in the Sex Pistols." Author Matt Diehl called emo a "more sensitive interpolation of punk's mission". According to Merriam-Webster, emo is "a style of rock music influenced by punk rock and featuring introspective and emotionally fraught lyrics".
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