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What happened to the emos?

The legacy of one of the last authentic youth subcultures

What happened to the emos? The legacy of one of the last authentic youth subcultures

Nowadays it would be strange to talk about labels and subcultures. The generations born after 1999 will have only a vague memory of what was the generational feud between emos and truzzi, hair over the eyes, tufts and of the whole mess that a decade ago was in our heads.

However the 25-year-olds of today have lived or at least have witnessed one of the last great subcultures of our times: the emos. 

The strange kids who populated the cities of all Italy, those dressed in an excessive way, with the Drop Dead and Emily the Strange t-shirts, the guys wearing dark makeup with the skinniest jeans in history, with the Converse Chuck Taylor or the Vans Slip On scrawled with little stars and chess, the depressed ones who cut themselves and listened to screamo music.

What happened to them? Do they still exist or did they become extinct?

Before answering this question it is useful to contextualize the movement and to understand what was really happening not only in Italy but in the world ten years ago.

The term emo started circulating in the 80s, when in the punk scene of D.C. the "emotive hardcore" began to develop, a new music genre characterized by a unique kind of sadness and emotion, by lyrics that were not afraid of exposing the weaknesses and fragility of the artists.

However it was  in the 2000s - mainly between 2003 and 2008 - that the movement reached its maximum expansion, becoming mainstream.

This happened thanks to a very powerful tool that the previous subcultures did not have: social networks.

In fact, Myspace, one of the symbolic digital platforms of the emo movement, was born in 2004, and it became the meeting point for many emerging young musicians and their potential fans. Here, through a meticulous curation of your profile, a username with some reference to death or your favorite band, and a mirror selfie (cause yes the emos had anticipated the trend), the emo community had evolved and spread throughout the world. But that’s not only that: in this social network new hierarchies were established, the first web celebrities were born thanks to Myspace - Netlog in some cases, especially in Italy - and YouTube, became real reference points and sources of inspiration for many other kids: a sort of influencer 0.1.

Social networks have been the best tool to bring this community together. With a sensitive and introverted attitude, emo kids lived a conflictual relationship with their teenage years and with society. They have always found it difficult to feel part of something, if not of their own music. Thanks to the new digital tools, it was since possible to get in touch with others of their kind. If there was no one in your neighbourhood who could understand you and accept you for who you were, you had the chance to look elsewhere for someone more like you.

One of the most interesting aspects of being emo was no doubt the rejection of every label: that's why over the years different sub-cultures were born such as that of Scene Queen, Brutal Emo, Gothic Lolita etc ..., just to escape from a simplistic categorization of the emo movement.

Being emo meant being able to embrace more cultures and more musical genres. The demolition of all taboos related to sex, and a passion for musical research regardless of genre characterized most of the young emo kids. Being emo during the teen years has probably influenced the growth process of every 25-year-old today. The choice between being emo or truzzo has in a certain sense determined the taste and attitudes developed later on. 

But like all the good things in life, even teenhood came to an end, and with it the emo period. One of the causes of the end of the subculture was probably also an excessive attention by the public opinion, a loss of exclusivity and the ease with which anyone could start becoming emo.

But, so, emos no longer exist? Have they become extinct forever? This is not totally true.

If the historic emo bands - like My Chemical Romance, Fall Out Boy and Panic! at the Disco - have evolved approaching the world of pop, the emo has begun to contaminate new musical genres in more recent times.

Among SoundCloud rappers a new genre was born, the emo rap, which in a relatively short time, thanks to artists like Lil Peep and XXXTentacion, received the attention of many. The beats that combine trap sounds with pop punk sounds, and the lyrics that explicitly refer to sadness, depression and loneliness, are the mix that characterizes the new musical genre.

The real question is if even when people were no longer talking about emo, some artists were still doing emo music. Just think of early A$AP Rocky - the one with the Clams Casino’s beats-, Travis Scott of Owl Pharaoh, The Weeknd, and the entire discography of Kid Cudi.

If emo only means wearing heavy makeup on your eyes, having a long bang that covers your face and dressing in a certain way, these artists can't be considered emo. But if with emo we refer to a way of conceiving and feeling the world and the life, with a different sensitivity to emotions, the number of emos in the world could possibly increase: and yes, I suppose we are all a bit emo.