what is emo

Emo – Definition, Meaning & Musical Culture

Emo is an abbreviation of the two terms hardcore and emotional; the word Emo has taken its place in the music world. It is a sub-genre of punk and became around 1980 a unique musical culture characterised by its description: a culture of emotional and sentimental music.

Emo by simple definition

The word Emo can have several definitions which we will group together. You could then define it better and have different definitions. Find here multiple interpretations without really breaking away from the basic definition.

Emo is a state of mind

Emo defines a way of thinking. The people classified as following this musical culture are expressive and emotionally confirmed people. So melancholic that we assign them the depressive character. The Emo way of thinking is one that discloses the love of nature, death and romance. However, as unimaginable as it is, they have values such as listening to feelings, tolerance and non-violence. This makes Emo people happy through their states of mind.

Emo according to its potential excesses

The terminological definition of Emo states that an Emo is a person who is driven by his or her feelings. All the time melancholic and particularly egocentric, three other definitions add to the clarification of Emo.

Emo an emotional person

Emotion indicates both gloom and cheerfulness. Emo refers to a person who is morose as much as it refers to a person who is full of joy. It is the extent of his emotion that qualifies a person as Emo. Whether he is very nostalgic or very happy, this is what makes his attitude an Emo person.

Emo is also a style

Emo people have their own characteristic features that distinguish them from others. They have a common appearance, which consists of similar types of clothing and accessories. We can mention :

  • Bracelets
  • Long hair covering the face and sometimes dyed
  • Jackets and jumpers
  • Flat shoes or converse
  • Skinny jeans
  • Black T-shirt with message print

Every culture has its own dress codes. The same is true for the Emo subculture. Among these dress codes we can define that a person adheres to the Emo culture, if they have hair that is dyed an attractive colour and that stretches all the way down their face to give them a heavy appearance at first sight.

In addition to this, the outfits are specific and mostly black in colour. Emo girls and boys show off their subculture through the use of clothing such as tight T-shirts, skinny jeans, shirts, ties and other additional accessories such as bracelets and belts. They also dress alike. This means that it’s perfectly normal for Emo boys to wear eyeliner or tunics, which most people think are for girls.

Emo is a musical genre

The Emo music genre expresses what happened to them. It is also melancholic as it is an expression of what people feel, but want to hide. The  Emo music repertoire is a perfect description of their state of mind. The sadder a person is, the more music they listen to. This will tone up the dark mood they convey. Punk, pop-rock and hardcore are typical Emo music genres. They embody the expression that an Emo without music is a dead Emo. However, it is necessary to note that there is Emo music that is consoling and expresses cheerfulness. The background is always based on the emotional aspect that this kind of music evokes.

Emo in all its facets

The term Emo has several meanings. The people are Emo; the appearance is Emo; the style of music is still Emo. We will then try to give some specifications that relate to each of these meanings.

What does Emo mean ?

Pronounced as imo, the term Emo is a simple contraction of the word “emocore”. The word itself is derived from the two English terms “emotional and hardcore”. The term became popular in the United States in the 1980s and 1990s. It is a punk subculture and is based on expressive, emotional and frequently confessional speech. Its morality is distinguished by sensitivity, sadness, joy, anguish and sometimes even death.

Emo in its Emo fashion guise

Emo people have their own specific outfits, the main colour of which is black. Their clothes are very similar to gothic clothes. The bright and fuzzy colours make Fashion Emo special. Purple and fuchsia pink are additional colours, but are essential to them.

Dark skinny jeans are part of their basic outfit, an essential part of the Emo outfit. The slim-fit T-shirt is also a complementary garment; all T-shirts must have a Slim fit. Every piece of Emo clothing follows this subculture. The shoes are almost platforms and converses. They have a special ornament such as a metal cross or a closure.

Appearance is a key element for Emo people, as being Emo is easily recognisable from top to bottom. Underneath the straight hair and the oh-so-asymmetrical fringes lies a pale, moody appearance. They express themselves with their hair cut and become very imaginative. The asymmetrical shape is the basis of this hairstyle. The asymmetry accentuated by streaks and accessories defines the appearance of the turmoil of emotion in the heart. Finally, putting on make-up becomes a moment of infinite happiness, as Emo’s can even stay in front of their screen indefinitely to immortalise the blandest look they want to convey to others.

The Emo music side

Emo can also express a style of music that is a sub-genre of punk rock. It is emotionally charged and relates a state of mind. This musical style declares several feelings such as terror, enjoyment, depression and other moods such as death. It uses at most guitar, bass and drums to show its affiliation with rock. These instruments form a faster paced vocal melody and are close to electro like the music style of iconic singer Avril Lavigne or Évanescence.

Review of Emo music culture

If you want to know more about the identity of a person or a state of mind, it is more than necessary to know its history, its founder and its foundations. Here is a brief chronological overview of the Emo music culture. Thus, knowing the legends of this subculture would allow one to better discern this musical culture and its facets without having to judge its proponents from a petty and incomprehensible point of view.

Who started the Emo culture ?

Emo is a genre of music that serves to accentuate the rock theme. Since its birth, Emo has conducted itself with its own way of sporting the hardcore punk genre. Technically, there are various styles for the rock music genre, but each of these sub-genres of music is distinguished by its culture.

Currently, Emo culture is spreading not only in the United States, but in Western countries. Its features are also visible in African countries and young people are the most influenced by this musical culture. The emotional rock genre was created in the 1980s and began to be successful in the 1990s by famous emocore. The Emo culture was started by one of the members of the band Minorthreat and Fugazi. We are talking specifically about the young Ian Mackaye. Previously, his name was more associated with the following terms :

  • Pitcher
  • Singer
  • American guitarist

Some people know him from the duet he shared with the band “the evens”.

The basic style of Emo music

Emo is a genre of music that conveys rock. Moreover, they stand out with their songs. However, their lyrics are very touching as they soften the intrinsic aspect of everyone. Some songs are written to describe a past history and others to console the brokenhearted. All songs are created to be emotionally captivating. From an internal point of view, Emo style is based on how people feel, but from an external point of view it is based on rock and electro with their rhythmic and somewhat violent areas. It has a unique and exceptional style. Pop punk being the foundation with a melodic hardcore filling.

The top five Emo bands


Thursday is one of the most popular Emo bands. They are an old band that has been active since 1999. However, they started to gain more popularity in the music scene after the release of their second album entitled “full collapse” in 2001 and especially after their third album entitled “war all the time” in 2003. Thursday is a six-piece band with each member playing their own role in the band. Each musician gives their best to brighten up each song. The band members are :

  • Tom Keeley
  • Tim Payene
  • Geoff Ricky
  • On drums was Tucker Rule


Weezer is the name of a band that has been known for its alternative rock music style. It is a band from America. Like all punk bands, Emo Weezer adopted the standard constitution of a band consisting of :

  • Singers
  • Musicians
  • Choristers

This band has left its mark on the world of Emo music, selling 18 million albums over the course of their careers.

Escape the fate

Escape The Fate is an American Emo band conveying post hardcore. For them, their launch was their source of popularity. Their first album entitled “Dying is your latest” was a real success. It even reached number 12 on the Billboard charts and also reached number 18 on the Top Independent album charts. Escape The Fate started in 2004 and became very popular in 2006.

My Own Private Alaska

The more chronic style is assumed by the group My own Private Alaska. The elegance in the sound of the singers’ voices swirls in the hearts of Emo people. The names Mikia from Psykup and Agora Fidelio accentuate the fluctuation of emotions in the Emo soul. My own Private Alaska benefits from the experience of the great director and promoter Ross Robinson accompanied by Ryane Boesh and Alan Douches.

My Chemical Romance

My Chemical Romance is among the top five most popular bands in the Emo world. They are an American band, born in the town of Belleville, New Jersey. In 2004, the band released their album ‘Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge’ which was a real success. It was the most important album in the popularity of this Emo band.

Example of the most popular Emo music

Emo has its most widespread songs as popular music. There are a large number of them, including :

  • “Welcome To The Black Parade” by My Chemical Paradise
  • “Welcome home” by Coheed Cambria
  • “The Middle” by Jimmy Eat Out

These are songs classified mostly as alternative rock, classic rock and progressive metal. All three have been ringing in Emo ears since 2001. We can’t ignore :

  • “Ohio is for Lovers” by Hawthorne Heights in 2004
  • “Thanks for The Mmrs” by Fall Out Boy produced in 2007
  • “Hands Down” by Dashboard

The Emo subculture is a musical culture that brings together different values. The term Emo, too, can define several things and thus appears in different facets. This culture is so rich and expresses more than the melancholic aspect spread by the Emo boy and Emo girl set.

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