During the twentyeleven days, I listened to a lot of emo and pop punk music. I listened to a lot of other music as well (my taste in music is eclectic), and my friends in high school introduced me to a variety of indie artists as well. But I still listened to a lot of pop punk, and it was the primary source for most of the mix CDs/playlists I made at the time (ex. this playlist I posted on twentyeleven).
Even then I knew that pop punk and emo music was fraught with exaggerated emotional lyrics, and that the scenes and situations described were ridiculous at best. The relationships described in the lyrics of most songs in these genres are pretty toxic, and overly saturated in twisted idealism. The formula for these songs is fairly simple: The “hero” in the song was dumped on his ass, and now his former lover is seeing someone else, and that sucks because the “hero” was a nice guy who really loved her (ex. “Miserable at Best” by Mayday Parade). If you’re a jaded dude who thinks girls are mean because they won’t date you, this kind of shit is gold. If you just got dumped on your ass, this kind of music will make your feelings of betrayal and injustice (because your ex had the audacity to move on) seem valid*.
One of the things I’ve noticed as I’ve grown in years is that folks of a certain maturity level don’t continue to listen to these genres– at least not on a regular basis, anyway. (Perhaps that’s just the isolated bubble of people I’ve surrounded myself with, but I wouldn’t be surprised it was true for people outside my social circle as well.) I think the reason people abandon listening to this music is that it lacks authenticity. Sure, the artist in the song probably is feeling those emotions of betrayal, sadness, and grief– but are they justified? Are they justified enough to base an entire album around those feelings? Where is the other person’s perspective to this love gone wrong song?
The lack of depth, lack of female presence within the genre, and lack of realism kills the basis for the emotions that saturate the lyrics of this genre. Emotions are strong and powerful, and clearly a key part of music lyrics, but they have to be authentic. Why should we respond to what these emotional lyrics represent if they aren’t real? Listeners want music that makes them feel something; the lyrics that pervade most of these songs just feel shallow.
Part of growing up is recognizing that the things you used to love aren’t nearly as perfect as they once seemed. The world is a problematic place. People are flawed, and the art they produce is also flawed. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s just something we have to acknowledge, recognize, and think about as we continue to navigate the weird journey that is life.
This weekend is going to be super busy for me, but I will have another new post up here on Monday. I hope you guys have a wonderful weekend. Feel free to let me know your thoughts about my post in the comment section. See you soon!
* There’s nothing inherently wrong with listening to this kind of music after a breakup if it helps you move on (though I would firmly contain listening to it within the “denial” portion of your stages of grief).