What's the Deal with Emo Music?

My Chemical Romance 300

My Chemical Romance is often called an emo group — regardless of whether the band members like the label. Scott Gries/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Scott Gries/Getty Images

Emo music sprang from the Washington, D.C., hardcore scene in the mid 1980s.

Most people trace the genre back to just one band: Rites of Spring, which gets credit for mixing hardcore's vitriol and hard-edged sound with personal, "emotional" lyrics. They got tagged as "emo-core," and though the band still disavows the label, their influence can be felt over the next two decades of emo music.

Musically and geographically, the genre started to spread out in the 1990s. Bands in the Midwest and on the West Coast took the blueprint of emo-core and tied it to a softer sound. In its new incarnation, the singers delivered more tortured, quivering vocals. Newer bands like Sunny Day Real Estate, Weezer and Fall Out Boy have come to define the emo genre, even if they don't care to be associated with it.

Emo Fans March on London's 'Daily Mail'

On Saturday, fans of emo — the shortened term for "emotional hardcore," a sort of Goth-influenced rock — will march from London's Hyde Park to the offices of the Daily Mail. The fans say the newspaper has been unfairly attacking emo music, which it refers to as a "suicide cult."

The protest is once raising the age-old debate over the impact of art, in this case a form of music, on life — in this case a form of humans known as teenagers. Last year a teenager in Kent, England, hanged herself from her bunk bed. Her parents said emo music may have played a big role in her suicide. According to her mother, the 13-year-old started listening to an emo band, My Chemical Romance, two weeks before to her death.

That's when the newspaper likened the music and its listeners to a suicide cult, prompting the fans to speak out.

"The people who listen are very intelligent," says James McMahon of the British music magazine NME, "and they're just sick of being misrepresented."

McMahon thinks fans have a strong case against the Daily Mail, pointing out that rock has traditionally addressed depression and dark themes and that people have been committing suicide long before My Chemical Romance.



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