The Golden Age of Emo

The ConorTV Playlist Vol. 2

In the late ‘90s, bands like Milwaukee’s The Promise Ring, Kansas City’s The Get Up Kids and D.C.’s Dismemberment Plan churned out albums filled with confessional lyrics that resonated with the college radio crowd.

I was a DJ at KURE at Iowa State University from 1997 – 2001, the golden age of emo. The genre became a cornerstone of my show and this Spotify playlist features the best songs from the era. They are new classics… 

The emo explosion of the ‘90s came about – some joked – because the punk kids started smoking pot. Whether or not this is true is up for debate.

In the case of Fugazi – the post-hardcore band that is often credited as being one of the founders or biggest influences of the genre – lead singer Ian MacKaye is famously straight edge, meaning he doesn’t drink or do drugs. I interviewed the Fugazi frontman in 1998 for the Iowa State Daily. He called me at 8AM on a Saturday morning for our phone interview. I was in bed when the phone rang.

The origin of the term “emo” dates back to the mid-‘80s when the DC band Rites of Spring were playing a show and someone was moved by the music, shouting out “You guys are so emo!” The term was applied to describe the intensely emotional nature of the band’s music.

The style had its big break in 2001 when emo posterboy Chris Carrabba released his album “The Places You Have Come To Fear The Most” under the moniker Dashboard Confessional. The album arrived with a single and music video for “Screaming Infidelities,” a clip that enjoyed play on MTV. That video is not online so here is “Saints and Sailors,” a better song anyway. 

Weezer’s flop of a second album “Pinkerton” was initially panned by critics. But it emerged as a touchstone for the emo movement as the emo kids latched onto its deeply personal lyrics. It would later find its place in rock ‘n’ roll history as the favorite Weezer album of many.

Emo would later be heard in the 2000s with bands like My Chemical Romance and Fall Out Boy releasing multiplatinum music dubbed emo-punk.


My Chem and FOB are included at the end of this mix not because they were particularly emblematic of the genre, but because they were inspired by all this music. Yes, please tell me in the comments that including these tracks is blasphemy.

What are your favorite emo bands? Comment below. 

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One Response

  1. Fugazi rocks! I love that you interviewed Ian! I also love that we love so many of the same bands :)



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