Emo was a movement wholly misunderstood by outsiders. Adults feared emo: it made their kids slit their wrists, dye their hair black, and encouraged their nice straight son Henry to snog other boys. The Daily Mail ran the headline: Why no child is safe from the sinister cult of emo, beginning with the line, "Hannah was a happy 13-year-old until she became an 'emo'—part of a sinister teenage craze that romanticizes death."
In reality, though, emo was much lamer than that. It meant getting a permanently cricked back from leaning sideways so as to keep the heavily L’Oreal Elnett-congested side fringe swept right across the forehead. It meant stretching the hole in your earlobe out before giving up when the cheese smell became too pungent. It meant running from girls wearing transparent black leggings and Uggs or guys with Sports Direct drawstring bags as they repeatedly asked whether you shag corpses. No, you say, secretly wishing your beliefs ran that deep. All you thought about was playing Yu-Gi-Oh and how to dye your hair leopard print.
For a moment it looked like emo was kind of dead, replaced by tropical house and alarmingly upbeat vloggers. Turns out it just looks a bit different today, instead dripping through the melancholy of Lil Peep, Lil Uzi Vert and Nothing,Nowhere. But, more than that, it’s also seeped into our pop music. One such example of this is Halsey, who said herself that she grew up on emo music, "ritualistically attending Warped Tour and lurking LiveJournal." Plus, all you’d need to do is add some guitar and screaming to tracks like "Sorry" or "Colors" and she'd sound pretty emo herself.
With that in mind, if anyone was going to be up for talking being emo in 2018, it would probably be Halsey fans. So I went down to her recent show at the Hammersmith Apollo and asked them about their all-time favorite emo albums.
Beth, 18 and Jess, 22
Noisey: Hi Halsey fans. What is the best emo album of all time?
Beth: My Chemical Romance's The Black Parade—especially the track "Teenagers." I also loved Move Along by All American Rejects. Basically anything that’s good to listen to when heartbroken.
Jess: Enter Shikari’s Take to The Skies always gets a good response when you put it on at house parties. Other than that, Taking Back Sunday’s Louder Now.
What did you do when listening to these albums? Did you look out the bus window at the rain and feel deep?
Jess: Come on, every bitch did that, everyone wanted to be in a movie, everyone wanted to go home and scroll through their Tumblr looking at the over-the-knee socks and tattoo sleeves. Sorry but it’s dead—we’re all Instagram whores now. But there are people here today who will genuinely think that there’s a poetry involved in standing about in the pouring rain. They will think "this is poignant, this is why I came here."
Do you think Halsey’s albums count as emo?
Jess: Halsey is in her early 20s, so being emo is probably a nostalgic thing for her. It's nice to know she was a weirdo at school—that’s what her audience will identify with. But it’s not like her music sounds emo, she just looks like one. In order to sell yourself you have to have an alternative vibe nowadays, you can't just look sweet and blonde.
Hetty, Avalon, and Hexan, all 18
Noisey: What is the best emo album of all time?
Hexan: Anything by Sleeping With Sirens, especially Let's Cheers To This—I love the track "Fire" from that album and how the chorus surges. It always makes me cry when they sing, "You know you can't remaaaain the same." I used to listen to it when revising and I would end up with tears over my textbooks.
Hetty: Take Off Your Pants and Jacket by Blink-182. If you're listening to emo, you have to have that winy American voice and Blink is the nth degree of that.
Avalon: You Me At Six's Take off Your Colours.
Do you reckon Halsey’s albums count as emo?
Hetty: I don’t know why people got so defensive [when she said she was emo], saying she was culturally appropriating emo. If you look at old photos of Halsey, she very much was in the emo style.
Dexan: It’s like with Demi Lovato—I have to bring her up because I stan—she used to listen to emo music and still does, but since she sings pop, people get annoyed. I mean celebrities listen to music that we don't know about, I don't have her Spotify.
Hetty: It is bad to make each artist fit into a certain box, some of the most interesting music comes from blurring genres.
Dexan: Emo is definitely coming back though, even Kendall Jenner wears Metallica T-shirts.
Eloise and Taylor, both 17
Noisey: What is your favorite emo album of all time?
Eloise: All Time Lows’s Nothing Personal—I love listening to boys that sound like girls. I did like Bring Me The Horizon sometimes, but they were too heavy, I mostly pretended to like them because I wanted to be cool.
Taylor: I never listened to emo music but I love XXXTentacion and Lil Uzi Vert. I miss X, I can't stand screaming music but I love his stuff. My favorite song is "Jocelyn Flores" or "Ayala" off his 17 album. It's emotional and chilling, at the same time as being happy and sad. Emo music only really exists in rap now.
Biggest emo crush?
Eloise: I fancied Oli Sykes. I remember seeing All Time Low and girls were throwing their bras onto the stage and the lead singer was stacking them up on his microphone, by the end it was covered. I would have thrown mine but I was an A and I was in year 9.
Taylor: Court case.
Eloise: My dad was there as well.
Are you guys going to mosh at Halsey?
Eloise: I am definitely a mosher, but Taylor isn't. I like it when you fall over at emo gigs and everyone picks you up and you fly up in the air, or when you lose your phone and everyone helps you look for it. Emos are lovely.
Dave and Richard, both 25
Noisey: All time favorite emo album?
Richard: Fall Out Boy's From Under the Cork Tree, Taking Back Sunday's Tell All Your Friends, A Day to Remember's Homesick. I still put these songs on at pre-drinks under the guise of irony, but really it's cause these albums still slap. When emo was big I was a teenager, I was going through all these deep emotional feelings, I had spots, girl problems, annoying parents. When you find music that helps you through all that it can save you.
Would you say you're still an emo?
Richard: I’m not an emo anymore, but it is part of me forever. People give you shit for it at school, so you never forget the culture… drinking loads of cider with strangers before gigs and that. I don’t think I was able to maintain eye contact for like seven years.
Worst emo fashion mistake?
Richard: You would wear one checkerboard belt that was actually functional and then you'd wear four more just to be stylish and they would constantly just get caught on stuff. Once I ended up getting dragged along by this woman half way down the road cause I was stuck on her cardigan.
Dave: I spent a good year wrecking my hair with straighteners.
Richard: It was a good time for masculinity – straight boys were very feminine in the way they dressed and more comfortable with expressing themselves.
Noisey: Hey Ellie. Have you got an all time favorite emo album?
Ellie: Panic at the Disco's A Fever You Can't Sweat Out, because "I Write Sins Not Tragedies" is obviously the best emo song of all time. I am off to see them next year, their new stuff is more pop but I'm into it—bands can't always stay making the same stuff. Their new album Prey For The Wicked shows off Brendon's voice a lot more. Paramore's new album After Laughter is also great—not sure if you could call it emo though? Sounds more like electro or synth music.
Were you ever an emo?
Ellie: We went to this all girls' Catholic school and we'd all be there with our backcombed hair and our band badges on. My friend would constantly be sent to the office to take her eyeliner off. She wore so much she referred to herself as "The Raccoon." We used to go the park in all black, scaring grannies and singing Blink-182 out of our tinny phone speakers.
Sounds pretty cool. Did you get shit for it?
Ellie: We stood out because I grew up in Essex so all around were party girls in stilettos with blonde hair extensions, all the cool girls wore those fluffy grey gilets. It made me and my emo friends closer because we were so different from everyone else.
Jordan and Jasmine, both 18
Noisey: What are (or were) your favorite emo albums?
Jordan: We weren't into screaming, it was more albums like Sleeping with Sirens’ Let's Cheers to This or Asking Alexandria’s Stand Up and Scream and Pierce the Veil’s Collide With The Sky, especially their song "King for a Day." We would blast them in this park near mine in Birmingham called The Rocket because it was next to a bus stop so it was easy for everyone to get to.
What was the best thing about being an emo?
Jordan: We drank energy drinks and blasted emo tunes and when the 'chavs' came around we were like "please leave us alone." They would give us so much shit, asking us "do you slit your wrists?" We all stopped being emo when we decided to be cute anime people, I carried around a death note from the anime Death Note film, then I gave up that and decided to be a normal person.
Was it difficult to sleep after drinking all those energy drinks?
Jordan: After all the crying I slept really well, crying really takes it out of you.
Charlie and Anaya, both 16
Noisey: Favorite emo album of all time?
Anaya: Bring Me the Horizon's Suicide Season, especially the tracks "Chelsea Smile," "Football Season is Over" and "Diamonds Aren't Forever." That whole album sounds pretty tortured. Mum and Dad didn't get it at all—they would sit me down, but it’s like, I'm not going to drown myself in the bath don't worry. But my all time favorite emo song would be "Misery Business" by Paramore.
Charlie: I personally like Blackbear’s Dead Roses. He’s not that emo, he just shares his thoughts in quite a vulnerable way.
Would you ever stretch your ear?
Charlie: I wouldn't let her do that.
Anaya: I would roll up money and put it through there.
What is your favorite thing about Halsey?
Charlie: I just love how she’s so fearlessly herself, she speaks openly about her bisexuality and is super opinionated.
Nicole and Sarah, both 20
What were your favorite emo albums?
Sarah: I loved Good Charlotte’s The Young and The Hopeless, Simple Plan’s Still Not Getting Any, Sum 41’s All Killer No Filler. I was a mega shy loner—I couldn't talk without going bright red and I would basically crumple inwards—so these songs were a refuge for me. I would put my favorite band stickers in my high school planner.
Nicole: I loved The Pretty Reckless, does that count?
She wore corsets, so yeah. Did you have any weird fashion phases during that time? Like putting concealer on your lips or wearing that burgundy American Apparel hoodie?
Nicole: No, I just lived in jeans and a T-shirt.
Sarah: You’ve always had your shit together.
You have a McDonald's on you, what did you get?
Sarah: Quarter Pounder with cheese.
Nicole: Like four chicken mayos. Basically the whole of Halsey's fan base was in that Maccies tonight—you could tell because they all had pink eyeshadow on and blue camo, so I guess that’s what emo looks like nowadays.
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This article originally appeared on Noisey UK.