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Emotional-punk music evolved out of the punk movement spreading throughout the United States in the 1990s. The same "shun authority" approach applies to both emo and traditional punk music, and both share the high energy level characteristic of punk and post-punk material.
Emo differs from traditional punk in that an extreme emphasis is placed on raw emotion, which is conveyed through heartbroken and sometimes angry lyrics (as in "screamo") and through emotionally-charged chord progressions and high-energy beats. The music is designed to be highly dramatic, taking the listener through a series of powerful ups and downs with constant lyrical reminders of the heartbreak and pain the music is meant to reflect. Harmony is used more so in emo than in punk music, particularly to accent certain words and concepts, and emo music on the whole tends to emphasize melody and lyricism, certainly more so than does traditional punk music, which is designed to anger and move to action rather than depress or emphasize vulnerability.
Perhaps the most distinct difference between emo and traditional punk music is the former's repeated use of loud-soft contrasts, reflective of the singer's mood changes between heartbreak, anger and confusion. Before emo, almost all punk music held a steady volume perpetuated by rhythm guitar. Emo often cuts the rhythm guitar suddenly, opting for a more intimate organ, bells or other softer, more contemplation-provoking type of sound.
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This site last updated April 21, 2003.
Copyright Emily Seawell 2003