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Late to the Emo Scene, But Early to my Wake

AKA: The Backing Track to my World Burning Around Me

By Canan DevorakPublished 3 years ago 9 min read

Here is a quick warning for those unaware of what this playlist might entail: my life has been the epitome of a villain's tragic backstory, so there is an unhealthy amount of pain associated with some of these songs. Per contra, anyone who has a teenage angst playlist from middle and high school has associated an unhealthy amount of pain to their music, ergo, it should already be expected of such a collection. Regardless, if you are sensitive to certain topics, I would advise you to find different music to listen to.

For those who already know where this is going, here is some context regarding when in my timeline this rabbit-hole discovery took place and the events and emotions that guided it. I grew up in a very protected and Christian household that raised me with love and a relatively healthy parenting style. When I entered the 7th grade at a new school, I was on my way to being the perfect child: top of the class, musically talented, well liked by her peers, and brimming with positive energy and motivation. Taking note of the topic of this article, it's blatantly clear that it did not end that way. By the time I reached eighth grade - and thankfully changed schools again - I had experienced bullying, catcalling, and the typical social pressures to date and look a certain way for the first time in my ridiculously sheltered life.

The year was 2015, long after the emo craze had "risen and fallen", when I first listened to My Chemical Romance and got hooked. From there, it was a slippery slope into the explosive world of emo, punk, screamo, and rock music; however, when I looked around me for people who were the same, many had already left that world behind. And as much as I wanted to escape to the internet to make friends, my conservative household didn't trust me with unsupervised electronic time. Most of the bands that I had listened to had already broken up and moved on, there was so much terminology that I had yet to understand, and when transferring to a new small town high school, social groups had already formed and solidified. I was out of the loop. In a world of outcasts, I was an outcast. The music was my only company.

1.) Skylines and Turnstiles (My Chemical Romance)

This was one of the first songs by My Chemical Romance that I listened to; more importantly, it was the first song of theirs that I had connected with on a deeper level.

"Skylines and Turnstiles", first released in 2002 with the album I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love, is about the nation-shaking event that transpired on the 11th of September. The lead singer, Gerard Way, was present at the catastrophe and witnessed the collapse of the Twin Towers with his own eyes. This pushed him to create My Chemical Romance and inspired this song.

"And in this moment we can't close the lids

On burning eyes

Our memories blanket us with friends we know

Like fallout vapor

Steel corpses stretch out towards an ending sun

Scorched and black

It reaches in and tears your flesh apart

As ice cold hands rip into your heart

That's if you've still got one that's left

Inside that cave you call a chest

And after seeing what we saw

Can we still reclaim our innocence?"

The lyrics seem closer to poetry to me with its metaphors and deep questioning, which only fueled my love for this song. Although the tragedy of 9/11 was yet another thing I couldn't truly be a part of and understand, considering I was only born a year after the event, the horror and visceral emptiness that is conveyed through these words was something I understood. It was the first time I heard the pain that I had kept to myself put into words. The experience was conflicting: uncanny yet comforting, horrifying yet warm. From this point forward, this genre was my very lifeblood.

2.) Monster (Skillet)

As I continued to explore, I quickly found an unending supply of passionate, angry music with loud and aggressive guitars, vocals and drums. This song in particular was played on repeat and really triggered the "No one understands me!" phase of my journey.

"Monster", released in 2009 with the album Awake, focuses on how our current society will degrade and fear those who are different from the "norm" until they start to believe it. Being an American Christian Rock band, a theological perspective of the words is also intended, i.e., the nature of sin, of the divine, the dual nature of Christianity. After it was released, it quickly gained popularity and is currently the biggest digital single in the history of Christian music.

"It's hiding in the dark, it's teeth are razor sharp

There's no escape for me, it wants my soul, it wants my heart

No one can hear me scream, maybe it's just a dream

Maybe it's inside of me, stop this monster

I feel it deep within, it's just beneath the skin

I must confess that I feel like a monster

I hate what I've become, the nightmare's just begun

I must confess that I feel like a monster"

As I continued to further realize how different I was from the people who surrounded me - this included the way I dressed, my distaste for makeup, the music I listened to, and, as I would soon learn, my gender, sexuality, and religion - I related to the words of this song on an ever-increasing number of levels. It helped me to feel less alone in my struggles to understand why I was different and why people hated me for it. Eventually, that evolved into a question of why I hated myself. "Monster" began my journey towards self-understanding and acceptance, though it would be a long one with many dangers.

3.) Wolf in Sheep's Clothing (Set It Off)

Although this song was not a part of a monumental step for me, it continued the pattern of seeing myself in this genre of music. Released in 2014 with the album Duality, the theme of "Wolf in Sheep's Clothing" is evident in the title. It describes the the mask that cruel people will put on in public to conceal their true intentions and warns them of what will be their demise. The bridge, specifically, uses profane language and barely-restrained threats which many people wish they could say directly to their own opposers, thus allowing the song to resonate with its listeners and gain popularity.

"So could you

Tell me how you're sleeping easy

How you're only thinking of yourself

Show me how you justify

Telling all your lies like second nature

Listen, mark my words, one day (one day)

You will pay, you will pay

Karma's gonna come collect your debt"

Personally, I directed this song at two people: a best friend who said they hated me to my face and a significant other who went around spreading rumors about me. "Wolf in Sheep's Clothing" acted as an outlet for my anger, stress, and frustrations, as I'm sure it did for many others with similar experiences. Eventually though, my repression started to catch up to me and by the 10th grade, I had full-blown social anxiety and depression, though it had not yet been diagnosed, or even noticed.

4.) Migraine (Twenty One Pilots)

At this point in time, I was in a constant state of overthinking and panic, even if I didn't recognize it at the time. I began to put more and more time into the music I listened to, soon spreading into the indie and alternative genres.

"Migraine", released in 2013 with the album Vessel, talks about the wars one has with their own minds and describes it as a migraine that will not go away. Both members of this two-person group, Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun, have discussed their personal struggles with anxiety and depression and have confirmed that those struggles have influenced the themes in some of their songs. This song in particular is more direct and graphic than others, and the bluntness and extremeness of it really caught my attention. I remember having completely memorized the song over the course of one weekend.

"Freeze frame , please let me paint a mental picture portrait

Something you won't forget, it's all about my forehead

Deny what is important, holds back contents

That make Pandora's box contents look non-violent

Behind my eyelids are islands of violence

My mind shipwrecked, this is the only land my mind could find

I did not know it was such a violent island

Bullet tidal waves, suicidal crazed lions

They're trying to eat me blood running down their chin

And they know that I can fight or I can let the lion win

I begin to assemble what weapons I can find

'Cause sometimes to stay alive you gotta kill your mind"

Looking back on it, this should have been a signal for me or anybody else that something was really wrong. It's funny now, my obliviousness, but at the time, I related to "Migraine" as I had with the many, many angsty songs that came before it. In regards to the musicality of it, most of the song is spoken in rhythms where certain syllables are emphasized, which was new to me. The first time I had considered anything close to rap as music was about a year prior when the Broadway musical Hamilton was released. Now, I can surely say that I was missing out on good music.

5.) Sarcasm (Get Scared)

With this introduction to more graphic imagery, I began exploring the horror / gore genre of media, which I ended up thoroughly enjoying. Most forms of media that I consumed were movies and literature, but I quickly found that there is some in music as well.

"Sarcasm", released in 2011 with the album Best Kind of Mess, is written in backwards format, which I consider to be genius. In literal form, the lyrics describes a relationship between two people that has gone sour where the singer expresses that he is in the wrong and proceeds to talk about himself in the typical emo format regarding death. However, because the song is entitled "Sarcasm", the intended meaning of the lyrics is the opposite, where the singer is blaming the other person in the relationship.

"You've got me shaking from the way you're talking

My heart is breaking but there's no use crying-"

"-If this is love I don't wanna be loved

You pollute the room with a filthy tongue

Watch me choke it down so I can throw it up."

Those are the most viewer friendly lyrics of the song, so one can imagine how angsty the rest of it is. After four years of despising myself for being so different and monstrous compared to the rest of the world, I intrinsically decided to separate myself from it as much as possible. This meant taking the things that made me different and amplifying them as much as possible. I had secluded myself entirely.

6.) The Light Behind Your Eyes (My Chemical Romance)

This is another song by My Chemical Romance, but I had only just discovered it in my timeline because it was a part of an collection of songs that had not made it onto their previous albums. I found it at the most inopportune time.

"The Light Behind Your Eyes", released in 2013 with the compilation album Conventional Weapons, is written as a letter from someone who is depressed to the point of no longer wishing to live for someone they wish to have the strength that they did not. The community and myself considers it to be one of the most, if not the most, tear-jerking songs that My Chemical Romance has ever released. The music that plays behind the vocals matches the tone of the lyrics perfectly. It begins really softly with just acoustic guitar, and as the song continues and the lyrics become more painful, a little bit of electric guitar and synthesized sounds are added behind it.

"Be strong and hold my hand

Time it comes for us, you'll understand

We'll say goodbye, today

And I'm sorry how it ends this way

If you promise not to cry

Then I'll tell you just what I would say

If I could be with you, tonight

I would sing you to sleep

Never let them take

The light behind your eyes"

Though the song really hit home for me, it was a little too late to help. I ended up writing a similar letter halfway through my 11th grade year, but I survived it. Now, although it still hurts, I have been properly diagnosed and have received the help and support I needed to get myself back on my feet. If you take anything from this, know that life gets better.

When I look back on these songs, I continue to find new meanings in them and I allow them to help heal rather than destroy myself further. Regardless of the meanings I find in them, they are meant to be interpreted by the individual, so I would highly suggest listening to some of the songs and their artists.

song reviews

About the Creator

Canan Devorak

I am an amalgamation of many things - some weigh me down while others lift me up - which makes me a mess. Yet, despite all odds, I am still here.

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    Canan DevorakWritten by Canan Devorak

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