Emo, one of the ultimate sounds of the 2000s, was something that evolved from punk rock music, but one thing people may not know is that it really started back in the 1980s. Instead, most people see it as a relatively new thing, or at least from the last 20 years, when the entire ‘emo craze’ really started to evolve.
However, the one thing that everybody knows is that this musical genre was huge, and it has spawned some seriously big names. So, here’s a list of 45 of the best emo bands of all time.
1. My Chemical Romance
Formed in 2001, My Chemical Romance is viewed by many as perhaps the best emo band that has ever existed. They have sold millions of albums, the best-selling being The Black Parade, which alone sold close to five million copies. The sheer energy they bring to proceedings is outstanding while they also know how to create songs that hook you in. Also, they aren’t afraid to make a noise, but it’s not the type of music that blows your eardrums, leaving you wondering what’s going on. Instead, they ensure you come along with them for the ride, and what a ride they take you on.
Founded in 2004, Paramore rocked up on the scene with their debut album, All We Know Is Falling in 2005. Fronted by Hayley Williams, I just think her vocals are outstanding on every single song. Also, she can switch from high screams to low growls, adding depth to various tracks. But it’s not just about her. They certainly know how to pull together some cool choruses as well, and when you add in a whole lot of energy, then that becomes a powerful combination.
3. Fall Out Boy
Fall Out Boy were huge in the 2000s thanks to catchy tunes such as Thnks fr Th Mmrs, along with their ability to produce some fun-filled music videos. However, it’s their ability to hook you in with lyrics and infect you with their own form of softer punk rock that has led to them appearing on this list. This music is inoffensive, and it romps along with each song, leading to you wanting to listen to more.
4. The Used
The Used have been playing for over 20 years, and I love the way each album they produce is so different. They can move from traditional emo music to a more experimental sound, and because of that, you never know where they will go next. But that makes their music all the more exciting to listen to, which voyages into the unknown and is the reason why I’ve included them. I just enjoy never knowing what will pop up next, and they do this to perfection.
5. Good Charlotte
Fronted by The Madden Brothers, this band was actually formed way back in 1996, but it took a few years for them to make it big. They really helped bring emo music mainstream with their punk looks and songs full of mischief and fun. It’s almost as if they love to poke some fun at the music industry in a more light-hearted kind of way. It’s emo music for the family when it comes to Good Charlotte.
6. New Found Glory
Formed in 1997, New Found Glory has the ability to really thrash out some good tunes that will get you jiving along with them. Also, they came across as not taking themselves too seriously in their music giving their songs a really fun aspect to them. This is emo music played with the freedom and ability to send out some catchy tunes you will love.
Yellowcard has released ten studio albums since their formation in 1997, but this is not your usual emo band. Instead, they have a distinctive sound to their tunes that you just don’t get elsewhere. This is thanks to their use of a violin in their music, and who would expect that from an emo band? The answer is that hardly anybody would expect that, and yet, it adds so much to their music that it makes you wonder why nobody else does it.
8. Simple Plan
Simple Plan takes emo, punk, and pop music before blending them all together into their own sound. That means their songs, and they have produced so many tracks, manage to hit so many targets. If you are new to emo, then this band is a laid-back introduction to the genre. It’s almost like family-friendly emo music where everyone can jump around and just enjoy the way their tunes tickle your ears.
Jawbreaker is one of the original emo bands since they were formed in 1986. They still perform today, after several breaks, and even though their sound has mellowed, their early stuff was heavy and packed full of energy. Head back to the 1980s to get a sense of what they were about. When you do, you will then develop an idea of the punk origins of this movement even though their more modern stuff has certainly resulted in them toning down what they do.
10. Panic! At the Disco
Even though their sound has now evolved to more pop-rock, their emo roots were the thing that launched this band onto the main stage. Their lyrics were catchy, and so were their riffs, but if you want to experience their emo style, you need to go back to their first couple of albums. When you do, you discover a sense of excitement in their music that comes with knowing you are making that breakthrough.
11. Taking Back Sunday
It’s tough putting this band into a category as they cross between emo, alternative rock, and even emo pop. They have released seven studio albums, and their sound does vary slightly between them. I do love how they mix up tempo and styles as it keeps you on the edge of your seat when listening to them. Variation means you never end up feeling bored, and boredom is certainly not something you will associate with Taking Back Sunday.
12. The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus
Formed in 2003, this band has more of a rock emo feel to their songs, and they have remained quite consistent with their sound. They have seen continued success, but their debut album Don’t You Fake It is probably their best thanks to its rawness. Actually, that’s what I like most about them as you know what you will get, and that’s fantastic music over and over again.
13. Dashboard Confessional
Dashboard Confessional is a band responsible for so many emo anthems throughout the 2000s. Check out the song Vindicated to get a real sense of what they were about. But don’t expect too much in the way of deep emotion. Instead, they just tell it as it is, which means straight to the point and no messing around. If they have a message to put across, they will get right into it.
14. Texas is the Reason
Texas Is The Reason is a band that has been off and on more times than a bad relationship. They were at the heart of the 1990s boom, but they hated it as they wanted to remain in the underground scene. So, they split when they felt they were too big. It’s cool to then check out their music to see just how good they were back in their heyday.
15. Cap’n Jazz
Formed in the late 1980s, Cap’n Jazz has also reformed and then broken up several times. However, there’s no mistaking the impact they had on the whole emo scene. They helped pull up the underground scene thanks to their reckless approach and vibe. If you want to experience early emo, this is a band to check out, and they even give you a chance to see how the entire genre has evolved.
16. Falling in Reverse
One of the things about Falling In Reverse is their ability to create hooks in songs that have the capacity to pull you in and take you on a musical journey. I love how they pull other types of music in as well from dubstep to rap and a whole lot more. This versatility makes them exciting to listen to with it helping you experience new sides to music you may never have encountered before.
17. Brand New
I’ve included Brand New in this list for one reason, and that’s the vocals of lead singer Jesse Lacey. He has the ability to add a whole lot of emotion to each song rather than just thrashing out the lyrics. Here, he makes you think about things bringing you deeper into the music. I admit that there are times when I love when music makes you think, and this is one of those bands that manage to do that with ease.
18. Jimmy Eat World
Jimmy Eat World is fast, energetic, and packed full of fun, so what’s not to like about them? They do crossover from emo into more alternative rock and love to experiment with new sounds for their albums. Don’t just stick to the song The Middle as they have produced so much more than that. But just expect some explosions of power and angst in their music peppered with some funky lyrics.
19. Say Anything
Formed in Los Angeles back in 2000, Say Anything is now more of a rock band, but they did start off firmly in the emo culture. The lyrics are intricate and their songs incorporate different layers to them, meaning you get something different every time you listen. I just love the complexity at times, and this group makes you think about things via their music.
20. All Time Low
I had to include this band in the list because they inject so much humor into their songs that it helps them stand out from the crowd. They clearly do not take themselves seriously, and yet, their music remains put together, leading to the creation of some impressive songs over the years. I just love how this group shows they enjoy doing what they do, and it adds a whole other dimension to their tracks.
21. Mayday Parade
They have been entertaining their fans since 2006, and they are known for their energy and vibe throughout their songs. It’s more like they drag you behind them through their tracks, which is quite a cool feeling. I feel that they have perhaps not had the sort of acclaim they deserve, and that’s quite sad in all honesty.
22. Rites of Spring
Formed in 1983, Rites Of Spring were one of the real original founders of the underground emo movement. As such, I feel they deserve their place on the list as it lets you experience the origins and how the movement evolved. Chances are that you may not even recognize some of their work as being part of the emo movement, but they were right there at the outset.
23. From First to Last
Now viewed as a real post-hardcore band, From First To Last set the emo music scene ablaze when they emerged in 1999. Expect lots of drums, guitars thrashing around, and more energy than you will know how to handle. If you expect some easy listening, then this is not the group you should be listening to. They don’t do easy listening.
24. Hawthorne Heights
I love how Hawthorne Heights sought to do things their own way and worked hard to build up its fan base. They pack so much vibrancy in their music that it’s impossible to not feel as if they infect you with their approach to music.
I love what Mineral can do with their music. They wear their heart on their sleeve with lyrics and move from quiet moments to loud, explosive music almost in the same breath. Also, their sound has a refreshing feel to it, which is something I appreciate.
26. Something Corporate
Something Corporate was an emo-rock band formed in 1998, so they were at the start of the real push of emo music. They were on a par with the likes of Fall Out Boy and Panic! At The Disco, but unfortunately, they sort of fell apart, which is a shame as their music has the same infectious appeal as their peers.
27. Sleeping with Sirens
For me, the powerful vocals of lead singer Kellin Quinn are what make this band stand out from the crowd. They also started off with a seriously heavy sound, but I love how they evolved and moved more toward the softer emo-pop genre, opening them up to a wider audience.
This Canadian band is on the list because they constantly seek to introduce new sounds to their music, and I love how they do not simply produce copies of what they’ve done before. It means each album and each song is a real discovery and that sense of excitement is what will keep you coming back for more.
For me, the lyrics this band incorporates into their songs are the real standout. They don’t just produce lyrics that sit on the surface, but rather, they delve deep into the psyche and grab your emotions before wrestling them to the ground. If you want some easy listening, then this group is not for you.
30. American Football
I admit that American Football has really evolved as a band to the point where their new music is certainly far more indie rock rather than emo inspired. So, if you want to listen to more emo style, then you need to head on back in time to see just how good they were, and still are to this day.
31. Death Cab for Cutie
Formed in 1997, Death Cab For Cutie has changed its approach to music with new songs having far more layers and more thought out than their older stuff. However, I love the way their older stuff had a crazy feel to it and how they would throw everything at its production. It was fantastic.
32. Linkin Park
Even though many see Linkin Park as nu-metal, they also had strong roots in the world of emo. The introduction of rhymes along with a whole lot of energy helped them stand out and become one of the biggest bands of their era.
33. Armor for Sleep
Armor For Sleep is not your usual emo band. These punk rockers certainly have an upbeat feel to them and they produce songs with a fantastic tempo. Also, I love their ability to create a kind of atmosphere around their music.
34. We the Kings
Even though they verge on producing power pop, We The Kings were previously far more emo than you would expect when you listen to them now. However, the one thing that hasn’t changed is the sheer fun that comes from their music. This is a band that will put a smile on your face.
The cool thing about this band was that they were also a Christian band with their faith at the heart of their lyrics. They spend a lot of time working on the message they wish to put across in their music, and that intricacy is something I appreciate.
36. A Day to Remember
A Day To Remember is a band that loves to incorporate a number of riffs into their songs, and I love the energy that adds to their music. It always feels as if an album is over in an instant, such is the enjoyment you get from their tracks.
37. Of Mice & Men
With Of Mice & Men, what you get here is a band that is so full of energy and raw power. They blast out their tunes with real force, so don’t expect their songs to just cuddle you and let you know the world is fine. Instead, they will shake up what you know and expect from this music genre.
38. La Dispute
Viewed now as a post-hardcore band, La Dispute is on the list because their lyrics tend to have some depth and meaning to them that goes beyond simply being filled with angst. Some even refer to their lyrics as soul-touching, and while I’m not a hundred percent convinced about that, there’s no doubt they stop you in your tracks to really think about the message they want to put across.
Weezer is a band filled with fun and catchy tunes, so what’s not to like about them? Seriously, they have to be one of the coolest artists to have ever emerged from this scene even though they would not be the band of choice for any individual who prefers the more hardcore emo genre.
40. Twenty One Pilots
Now a musical duo, this band tends to go deep with their lyrics, and they are not afraid to shake you up with the message they put across in their songs. Also, I love that they include emotion in their music rather than simply going through the motions to produce tracks that could be hits. They also blend different musical influences together in a way that’s exciting and grabs your attention.
Evanescence took the world by storm a few years back, and for a good reason. Their music can be haunting at times before switching up to a stronger punk rock feel even in the same tune. Also, the vocals of Amy Lee just always come across as perfect on every song no matter the tempo or how hardcore she needs to be. They really were, and still are, an outstanding band.
42. Three Days Grace
Three Days Grace is one of those bands that just set out to surprise you with their music, and I feel they do this exceptionally well. They manage to move from more of a post-grunge feel in verses to quieter choruses before exploding back out with energy yet again. This sway and movement through their songs just work so much better than you anticipate.
43. Escape the Fate
What I enjoy about this band is their ability to really connect with their fans. Their electric performances leave you wanting more, and they also know how to create some fantastic melodies that grab you and don’t let go. Also, they produce a real rhythm to their songs that pull you along and leave you feeling more than happy that you spent time listening to them.
44. The All-American Rejects
This band was formed in 1999, and they achieved some real mainstream success thanks to catchy tunes that performed well across a mass audience. This was emo music for the kids, but it’s so laid-back and manages to infect you with their enthusiasm that you cannot help but find yourself humming along to their tracks blissfully unaware you are doing so. That in itself is a real trick for a band to have up its sleeve.
45. Senses Fail
I recommend going back to the early days of Senses Fail to get a better idea of what they are all about. Formed in 2002, their music from a decade after that sounds as if production levels had gone up a huge amount, and it does mean it loses some of its real authenticity. The raw vibe from their first few years managed to capture the mood of the time, and even though their music has evolved a great deal since then, I feel that the first decade is the key to understanding this band.
Barry has worked as a freelance writer for over a decade and has developed an eye for detail when it comes to unearthing cool and interesting facts.
His love of music stems from his student days checking out up and coming bands playing in the darkest corners of bars and clubs in Edinburgh.
The love of uncovering something new also remains with him. With an appreciation for music that’s best described as eclectic, his musical tastes range from Eric Clapton to Eminem through to Snow Patrol and Incubus. The memories that music can bring back to the fore is something he tries to portray in his writing.
For him, the voyage of discovery and unearthing something new is what makes this task of writing for MusicGrotto.com so interesting.