Top 5 All-Time Emo Bands

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Listing the top five emo bands of all time assumes the word “emo” can be defined. The term has acquired a certain social stigma, and calling any band “emo” guarantees a chorus of loud protest that the band named is in fact “post-hardcore” or “indie rock” or “pop punk”—but most certainly not “emo.” But to be fair, all these protests seem driven less by musical differences and more by the desire to disassociate from a particular, stereotyped look most associated with black nail polish and a particular store found in most American shopping malls.

5 Jimmy Eat World

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Another mid-’90’s band, Jimmy Eat World jumped into emocore with its 1999 sophomore release “Clarity,” widely considered a seminal album in the genre. Its third studio album went platinum on the backs of strong singles “The Middle” and “Sweetness,” cementing the band as an emo/pop punk powerhouse that would continue to influence and inspire artists for years to come. The band has a fresh studio album, “Damage,” set to hit stores on June 11, 2013.

4 Sunny Day Real Estate

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When the rest of the city was taken by grunge, Seattle’s own Sunny Day Real Estate was forging its own path, combining hardcore’s blistering delivery with emotionally evocative vocals that would become the signature sound of the emo genre. While the band broke up without ever seeing a hit, acts to follow continually list it as a major influence, even though lead singer Jeremy Enigk remains skeptical. The band reunited in 2009 and toured around expanded versions of its first two albums, which were reissued.

3 The Get Up Kids

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The Get Up Kids emerged in the mid-’90s as a force to be reckoned with in the growing emo scene, and for years was seen as the quintessential emo band. Like many others that followed, band members spent years trying to distance themselves from the iconic, glitzier image of watered-down mainstream emo. What do you expect? Punks are protective of their cutting edge, underground status—as soon as their style becomes popular, they’re sure to protest they have nothing to do with that and apologize all over the place for contributing the sound that sparked the movement.

2 My Chemical Romance

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My Chemical Romance is not emo. That’s what you’re saying, because that’s what the band spent years trying to tell people. You can say whatever you want, but the band is widely credited with mainstreaming emo music, and is broadly associated with the genre by everyone except the band and its fans. Although the band broke up in March 2013, its 12-year tenure and multiple platinum albums did much to define the genre’s sound—even if band members won’t admit it.

1 Rites of Spring

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There’s pretty broad consensus that without Rites of Spring, there would be no “emo.” The D.C. band broke onto the city’s punk scene in 1983 and stayed together just long enough to put out one album and start a new genre before splitting. Half the band later formed the band Fugazi, which no one has considered emo ever. Rites of Spring pioneered a new offshoot of hardcore punk, with lyrics that focused more on personal relationships and introspection than political rebellion or feelings of social marginalization.

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