Pop-punk and emo music has come a long way since the days when angsty teens got in their feelings to the tune of Fall Out Boy, Paramore, and Avril Lavigne in the 2000s.
Now, the genre has seen a resurgence and is resonating in a big way with Gen Z.
In fact, the 2007 pop-punk hit “Dear Maria, Count Me In” by All Time Low has become so popular, it went double platinum in March. The band released a new song called “Monster” which was No. 1 on the Billboard Top 100 for 18 weeks. All Time Low, riding this new wave of success, has announced a tour and album, as has the iconic group My Chemical Romance.
It shouldn’t be surprising that the emo movement is going strong. Bands like Taking Back Sunday and Hawthorne Heights were melodramatic, theatrical, quintessentially adolescent– everything teenagers have always been.
The music was for teens and often by teens, the only people capable of fully feeling the entire spectrum of emotions caused by teen angst. Teens today have the time, the inclination, and the internet to explore themselves and what they love.
Travis Barker backs mainstream artists’ pop-punk albums
The resurgence of emo music isn’t exclusive to bands from the 2000s that shaped the modern idea of what “emo music” is, though.
Genre-bending rapper Machine Gun Kelly announced in 2020 that his next album was going to be a pop-punk one. His album Tickets to My Downfall earned him his first No. 1 album on the Billboard 200.
The growing number of musicians switching over to pop-punk is connected to Travis Barker, the drummer in Blink-182. The Blink-182 drummer has a long history with the hip-hop scene. But in the last few years, he has become extremely active in working with both emo rappers and hugely popular TikTok influencers.
He was a producer on Tickets to My Downfall and has been collaborating with other artists such as GHOSTMANE and $UICIDEBOY$.
Tickets to My Downfall spawned a rock opera of sorts, “Downfalls High.” “Downfalls High” uses the album as the backing track to a 49-minute teen drama. The film stars Chase Hudson, a TikToker, and Sydney Sweeney from HBO’s Euphoria.
“Downfalls High” also works as the Avengers: Endgame of Barker’s TikTok-pop-punk-emo-rap cinematic universe. It features appearances from multiple major artists. Trippie Redd, rapper turned one-man emo band, and breakout Blackbear, an emo rapper, to name a few. Frequent Machine Gun Kelly collaborator Mod Sun also helped write it.
New artists emerge from… TikTok?
Along with a new appreciation of 2000s bands, songs, and music style, a wave of young pop-punk artists are coming onto the scene.
Tunes from the 2000s are now popular on TikTok, with the app filled with videos of teenagers dancing to a soundtrack of Paramore and Green Day.
TikTok stars — most notably Chase Hudson, known on the app as Lil Huddy– are breaking into mainstream music. The teen released music in the past year that is reminiscent of the early 2000s alternative. The music videos for the singles “The Eulogy of You and Me” and “21st Century Vampire” look like Hudson filmed them in 2002.
this song truly means everything to me.♬ America’s Sweetheart – LILHUDDY
Jaden Hossler, another TikTok star, is following in Hudson’s footsteps. With over nine million followers on TikTok, the few songs he’s released have been a big hit. Machine Gun Kelly and Travis Barker even made cameos in Hossler’s “So What” music video.
This connection between influencer and rock star is not new, but TikTokers like Hudson are inverting it. They’re using TikTok popularity to launch music careers.
What’s different about emo this time around
The large role that TikTok has played in creating and promoting this new revival of emo music isn’t the only major difference between old emo and new emo.
After the initial wave of mainstream pop-punk, rock, and emo that the early 2000s brought about, the community went online and underground. Over time, the internet became widely available. Suddenly, people who previously did not have a platform had the world at their fingertips.
As members of Gen Z immerse themselves deeper into emo culture, new alternative bands that reflect the diversity of their audience have become more and more popular. One is Fever 333, best known for their radical politics and imagery largely influenced by the Black Panther Party.
Pinkshift, a new emo band, is another example of the newfound diversity in the genre.
The woman-fronted band hit the alternative music scene in 2019 with the single “I’m Gonna Tell My Therapist on You.” Chris Barker of Anti-Flag has called the four-piece collective the future of alternative music.
As the genre continues to skyrocket to the top of the charts and the trending page on TikTok, it’s hard to say exactly what the future holds.
Today’s alternative fans and artists, for the most part, welcome this evolution. In the past, gatekeeping hindered the genre’s ability to experiment with its own style and audience. Genre fluidity and internet accessibility have also helped dismantle the barriers to enter the scene. Today, the alternative invitation has been extended to everyone far and wide, favoring the genre’s longevity this time around.
Because this is all happening on TikTok it’s not just a music trend or a fashion trend or a jumble of internet gossip. It’s the convergence of three at once.
At the center of the app is the For You Page, which is endlessly recommending content personalized for every user. Videos that go viral on TikTok have to be remixable. What this boils down to is music that has to sound good, but it also has to have moments that you can make videos with. It’s a full multimedia experience, even if we’re just talking about boys with floppy hair singing about heartbreak over 808s and power chords.