In Defense of Emo Music

Being a teenager is rarely a pleasant experience, and my life was no different. From around age 13, I began to experience depression and body dysmorphia. And I felt incredibly lost. At that point in my life, I had very few friends and we rarely spent time together outside of school stuff. As I got older and my mental illness worsened, I found myself becoming even more isolated. Although in sheer time spent with others, it might have seemed like I had a good support system, I refused to speak about my mental health issues with them. It was something I kept tamped down within me. It was shameful. It was embarrassing. I didn’t want to talk about it, so I didn’t.  

But around the time that I began to experience mental illness, I found a different support system. Not friends, although that probably would have been better for me. But in the unwilling state I was in, I turned to the one thing I knew I could speak to without judgement, without fear. Music.

My first love was My Chemical Romance. Then there was Fall Out Boy, Death Cab for Cutie, Panic! at the Disco, and Linkin Park.

I didn’t think it was possible for people to understand me, but this music did. I know it’s such a stereotypical teenager response. Clichéd as it is, I really did feel as though no one could understand me. So, it was amazing when I found that there was music out there that did understand me, maybe better than I understood myself. And that made me feel like I’d found a home.

I don’t know how many times I cried to emo music. But I know that it felt like a hug, a hug I wanted in this time that I couldn’t stand to be touched. It understood me. It sympathized. It showed me that I wasn’t alone.  

Maybe this is pathetic. Maybe I should have just talked to someone. But I was so afraid of hurting those around me. I was sure I was a bad person, and so it was better to just hide. But I wasn’t hiding alone, because I had my music.  

Emo music is easy to dismiss. Its fanbase is primarily young women and girls, and we as a society love to dismiss young women and girls. But I think relegating it to a middle school phase and dismissing it does a disservice to all those it has helped. It’s popular during that period of people’s lives because it’s relatable, because middle school and high school suck and the music makes us feel like maybe some else gets it. That we’re not alone. That someone is there for us who understands.  

I could end this article by saying that I’m done now, that my music tastes have changed, but that’s not really true. A good friend once told me that our music tastes don’t really change, they just expand. You find more music that you like, but you don’t dislike your old music. I think that’s very much happened to me. I listen to a lot more musicals now, and whatever genre you’d consider that sound that a lot of queer women singers have. Basically, I just listen to a wider variety of gay music.  

But emo music has never really left. I discovered Marianas Trench while searching for music about eating disorders, and I’ve really fallen in love with them too. They sound like the stereotypical emo band, but sometimes that’s just what I need. It’s a comforting sound, and it’s a sound that tells me that I am understood and supported.