The Artists Redefining Emo

By Joe Price

The evolution of emo, from scruffy flannel shirts and Mineral to commercial success with the likes of My Chemical Romance, has always been difficult to grasp. With three distinct waves already in the past, the current fourth wave of the genre is more diverse than ever before. The gatekeepers of “real emo” have been lamenting stylistic shifts ever since emo entered the mainstream lexicon. Just as we're seeing with old school hip-hop heads criticizing the new wave of rappers, some of it can be attributed to the fear of losing something they were once able to claim as their own.

Originally evolving from a Midwestern and Pacific Northwestern sound built on the foundation of hardcore from the late ‘80s, emo shifted as bands like Promise Ring and Sunny Day Real Estate pioneered a more focused, emotional sound, challenging the masculine bravado of rock music of the ‘80s. Not long after, in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, emo found its pop moment with acts like Saves the Day and Jimmy Eat World. Each of the movements had distinct and easily identifiable traits, but this new wave of emo is harder to define.

The last five to ten years have seen emo influenced artists from more varied backgrounds, offering fresh perspectives and experimental approaches that haven’t been seen since the initial flourish of indie acts singing about their feelings. Arguably the biggest emo icon of the past few years is Lil Peep, a rapper and singer far removed from the grainy aesthetic of the ‘90s, but very much informed by its lasting impact. More than anyone else, he’s personified the shift in ownership.

More queer artists and artists of color have been making emo than ever before, and as the bands that birthed the genre grow old, young artists who were raised on their music have remolded it in their own image. As a result, emo is in great shape in 2018. Here are some of the artists making sure of that.