Whether you consider it third wave emo or fourth wave emo or hundred millionth wave emo or pop punk or “that pussy shit,” it’s pretty undeniable that there was something happening in mainstream music in the early to mid-2000’s that didn’t sound like pop and only sometimes sounded like rock. My iTunes likes to call it “alternative.” That’s also how middle-aged people describe me, so I guess it works.
I never stopped listening to this stuff. When I’m in control of the aux cord, or tasked with playing anything anywhere, the usual reaction is “Oh my God! I haven’t listened to this in years!” To which I can only say “Hahaha. This has a hold on me I will never escape. I listen to Panic! at the Disco every day. Hahaha.”
This music is still emotionally manipulative--simplistic in its approach and sharp in intensity. It cushioned our worst days when we were younger, and for that we should remember it, even if we haven't thought about it in years.
I understand that most of us have moved on to newer music, or at lease those of us who don’t want to live in a constant, cloying haze of soul-crushing nostalgia. However, if nothing else, I do think that most of our mid-2000s emo has a singular timeless quality to it—it’s always good to feel sad about. That’s why it was invented, really.
This song is like walking home from high school in the dead of winter, slipping on black ice and knowing that no matter how cold it gets outside, there is no pain that matches the pain of love.
Saddest Lyric: “Take the pain out of love and then love won’t exist.”
This song is like your windshield wiper passing slowly over the rain-splattered window, smearing red and yellow tail lights into paintbrush streaks that make your eyes feel glazed. You're on your way to them. You'd follow them anywhere.
Saddest Lyric: “Love of mine, someday you will die. But I’ll be close behind—I’ll follow you into the dark.”
Do you remember what it was like? You were a teenager with too much eyeliner, too many hormones, surrounded by preps and parents that just didn't understand. This song is like pulling on fingerless black gloves and screaming to yourself while you rock back and forth, trapped in a tempest of emotions and feelings and adolescence.
Saddest Lyric: “So cut my wrists and black my eyes, so I can fall asleep tonight… OR DIE.”
This song is sitting in the back of your summer love's car while he sings it to you, accompanied with his out-of-tune acoustic guitar. It's the warmth of the pavement on a summer day and rushing into someone's arms because something awful happened and you have nowhere else to go.
Saddest Lyric: “'Cause you’re my true love, my whole heart, please don’t throw that away. 'Cause I’m here for you, please don’t walk away and please tell me you’ll stay.
Northern Downpour is like walking into a room of your oldest friends. They sit around a fire. They welcome you. You warm your hands on the flames and think of how lucky you are. When you open your eyes, there is nothing there. Your oldest friends are gone. The fire is gone. It is only you, and you alone.
Saddest Lyric: “I know the world’s a broken bone, but melt your headaches, call it home.
This song feels like loss. The kind that grips you by the throat and squeezes. It arcs over you like cold water from a fountain left on too late in the season, and reflects lights from skyscrapers. It should be beautiful, but it's too cold.
Saddest Lyric: “'Cause the hardest part of this is leaving you.”
Blue and Yellow is scraping your nails against your skin as you try to stop yourself from saying the only thing you want to say. You feel snowflakes settling on your clothes and skin, but it's soft enough, so you don't mind. Your hands tremble and so do theirs. You somehow still feel the pressure of their presence, even when they turn and walk away.
Saddest Lyric: “Should have done something, but I’ve done it enough. By the way, your hands were shaking. I’d rather waste my time with you.”
How many times have you done this? You tear the same picture to shreds again and again, only to try and piece it back together when regret settles over your aching joints. This song is mean, miserable, angry, and desperate to prove itself. And so are you.
Saddest Lyric: “The truth is you could slit my throat and with my one last gasping breath I’d apologize for bleeding on your shirt.”*
*Author’s Note: The most emo.
This song is like pushing yourself away from the shore in a boat that you know will start taking on water any second, but you go on your way. You'll go down with it. It's lonely on the sea, but you've always been lonely, haven't you?
Saddest Lyric: I’ve got troubled thoughts and the self-esteem to match. What a catch. And all I can think of is the way I’m the one who charmed the one who gave up on you.”
This song is like trying to eat dead leaves and then choking when they cut your throat. Diamonds of blood issue from your throat, and you collect them and try to sell them as rubies. No one buys any. (If it doesn’t remind you of your ex, you can think about my ex, because I sure as hell am, and it sucks.)
Saddest Lyric: “If it makes you less sad, I’ll move out of this state. You can keep to yourself. I’ll keep out of your way.”
This is not easy for me to talk about, because this song makes my head fall off my body and roll into the gutter, where it lays and cries until it can gather up the strength to get back on my shoulders and cry some more. Maybe I don’t need to say much—I think this song might be genetically engineered to make you really, really sad.
It’s about the lead singer’s father, who passed away when he was really young. Sometimes, when he sings it on stage, he looks up the sky and cries. It’s heartbreaking. Oh God. I’ll see you guys later, I have to go get my dismembered head out of the rain-soaked gutter.
Saddest Lyric: “Here comes the rain again, falling from the stars. Drenched in my pain again, becoming who we are.”