[Photos by Hayley Williams/Lindsey Byrnes, Poppy/YouTube, Waterparks, All Time Low/Jimmy Fontaine]
The start of the Rawring ’20s—a decade that we anticipated would be a glittering revival of the golden age of emo, complete with painfully skinny jeans and hanging out at the mall as part of a cultural tradition—hasn’t gone completely to plan. It’s hard to believe we had high hopes for this year back when it all began. But at least our music didn’t disappoint on returning classic emo vibes to our 2020.
In celebration of the songs that have kept us going throughout this year and the output that’s fueled the spirit of the emo revival, here’s a collection of the most dramatically emo lyrics this year has gifted us. 2020 had to do something right, after all.
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Creeper – “Poisoned Heart”
Lyric: “In the dark, I’ll creep to your heart/And soon, you’ll drink the poison, too”
We know a perfect AIM away message when we see one, Creeper. Delivered in a morose rock style fitting of country-emo, their album Sex, Death & The Infinite Void gave us several quote-worthy emo tracks back in July. A lot’s changed since we got our hands on this record, but its immersive retro rock styles have kept us distracted from the dumpster fire of 2020. And it threw us back into the depths of our emo phase.
YUNGBLUD – “weird!”
Lyric: “Hide self-deprecation up your sleeve and self-serving friends who leave when you are sinking”
A late addition to our 2020 catalog, YUNGBLUD’s sophomore record, Weird!, is packed to the rafters with classic emo lyrics, but none are as poignant as the neon title track. Confronting the demons that “god save me, but don’t drown me out” drugs itself up to avoid, this track will make a lasting mark as an emo moment when we needed it the most.
Machine Gun Kelly – “body bag”
Lyric: “I’m not mad, I just cover up my temper/You’re supposed to love me better, baby/So put me in a body bag”
The most overdramatic emo contribution to the surprise deluxe drop of Machine Gun Kelly’s scene-stealing album Tickets To My Downfall proudly sassed its way through guest spots from YUNGBLUD and the Used’s Bert McCracken. Let’s face it: After a breakup fueled by leaving someone out of our Myspace top 8, we’d all sneak these lyrics into our profile page with a few pixelated GIFs if we could. Emo couldn’t get much more melodramatic than “body bag.”
Hayley Williams – “Simmer”
Lyric: “Rage is a quiet thing/You think that you’ve tamed it, but it’s just lying in wait”
The first single from Petals For Armor introduced us to a radically different facet of Hayley Williams all the way back in January. But its departure from high-octane singalongs didn’t remove her songwriting from Paramore-worthy emo lyrics. “Simmer”’s soundtrack to calming down in the face of rage and frustration provided us with a stark reminder that internalizing your anger only leads to a breakdown further down the line.
Black Veil Brides – “Scarlet Cross”
Lyric: “My mind remains my pain/I’m tied down to this chain/It spirals as I ache/To find holy embrace”
Black Veil Brides have flown the flag for emo since the early days. But that doesn’t mean they’ve run out of steam on producing dramatic lyrics. While we’ll have to wait until 2021 to hear exactly how emo the rest of their new album, The Phantom Tomorrow, gets, the boys introduced us to their new era with “Scarlet Cross” in November. Its emotive lyrics should keep us guessing about its accompanying concept until release day.
twenty one pilots – “Level Of Concern”
Lyric: “’Cause I told you my level of concern/But you walked by like you never heard”
2020 suddenly became the year everybody turned emo in quarantine. twenty one pilots’ infectious ode to COVID-induced paranoia “Level Of Concern” not only offered us an earworm we were happy to keep hold of, but it also gifted us some iconic lyrics to channel all the emo vibes we’ve been singing since the ‘00s. If we’re not able to dance around our houses in the middle of a pandemic, when are we?
Bring Me The Horizon – “Teardrops”
Lyric: “I’m running outta teardrops, let it hurt till it stops/I can’t keep my grip, I’m slipping away from me”
Bleeding the techy-infused frustrations of their amo era with Sempiternal’s rage behind gritted teeth, Bring Me The Horizon’s “Teardrops” channeled all the golden-age emo themes we weren’t at all prepared for. Taking a vastly different approach to the rest of the content on POST HUMAN: SURVIVAL HORROR, this insular anthem gave us enough emo lyrics to scrawl all over our textbooks.
Poppy – “Concrete”
Lyric: “Bury me six feet deep, cover me in concrete/Turn me into a street”
No, we’re still not over Poppy’s I Disagree from way back in January. Nothing 2020 could throw at us would take our minds off the mind-bending content from an ever-evolving artist who tested her heavy-metal chops in the extraterrestrial “Concrete.” If we’d had these kind of lyrics back in the day, we’d have this playing on our Myspace page as a warning or an invite to any haters.
All Time Low – “Some Kind Of Disaster”
Lyric: “I crashed down from a high that felt so real/I never knew how much it would hurt to feel”
Looking in the mirror to find fault like their own worst critic, All Time Low started 2020 with the insecure “Some Kind Of Disaster.” And they helped us remember how to feel throughout a traumatic year. As catchy and self-deprecating as their hit tracks from the height of emo, these scene mainstays refuse to leave that golden age in their past by packing Wake Up, Sunshine with enough self-loathing to fuel Myspace for a week.
Waterparks – “Lowkey As Hell”
Lyric: “I just cried into a shirt I could never afford last year”
Removed from its not-so-subtle bragging context from the rest of the song, Waterparks’ “Lowkey As Hell” is emo but not quite as we know it. Now it grew up, is getting a proper job and is paying bills. Self-deprecating at the same time as maturing past the preadulthood concerns of teenage scene phases, crying into a shirt we couldn’t afford last year is as emo as we’ll get in 2020. And that’s exactly the kind of overdramatic and frustratingly catchy anthem we needed in 2006 too.
Palaye Royale – “Tonight Is The Night I Die”
Lyric: “Surrender to my pain, locked inside my cage/Could I be a prisoner for the voices in my brain?”
Palaye Royale’s May effort, The Bastards, refused to disappoint when it came to ultra-emo lyrics. Extravagantly melodramatic and fit for a blockbuster superhero movie, “Tonight Is The Night I Die” soundtracked our preview to the American Satan spinoff series Paradise City. And it simultaneously provided us with enough emo quotes to caption our photos for the rest of the year.
PVRIS – “Dead Weight”
Lyric: “I’m staying numb to my feelings, dodge ’em like novocaine”
If you’ve not been grooving along to PVRIS’ Use Me, now’s the right time to start. Adventuring toward the melodic, the 2020 output has stayed true to PVRIS’ emotive origins and expertly produced an infectious emo floor filler with the introspective “Dead Weight.” Lynn Gunn has been a modern emo icon this year, and we’re here for PVRIS’ new era.
The Amity Affliction – “Soak Me In Bleach”
Lyric: “Turn me inside out, soak me in bleach.”
The Amity Affliction’s Everyone Loves You… Once You Leave Them is arguably the most lyrically emo record of the year. It expresses feelings of introversion, insecurity and inadequacy across the board. With perhaps the most emo handwashing instructions we’ve ever heard, “Soak Me In Bleach” ultimately takes the crown for its devastating content.
The Word Alive – “MONOMANIA”
Lyric: “Does anybody even care?/Is anybody listening to me?/I’m lying here invisible/Feeling all your empty stares through me”
Trust in the Word Alive to keep the emo pumping through 2020 with their sixth effort, MONOMANIA. Particularly through its moving title track fueled by crippling insecurity, a common theme for many of us through this uneventful year. Laying its concerns and anxieties bare through the band’s exploration of their talents with a new haunting vibe, every word of “MONOMANIA” speaks up for those who have lost their fight.
The Used – “Darkness Bleeds, FOTF”
Lyric: “Cover me in the silence you left/Cover me up in what you never said”
The Used revisited their contagious emo potential with 2020’s Heartwork, producing anthemic material that wouldn’t sound out of place on 2007’s Lies For The Liars. “Darkness Bleeds, FOTF” is a beautiful mashup of the outfit’s signature polar opposites. From scream-along choruses to understated stripped-back balladic tones blended together with gut-wrenching lyrics, this is the sound of the emo icons reclaiming their style.
Halsey – “You should be sad”
Lyric: “I’m just glad I made it out without breaking down/And then ran so fucking far that you would never ever touch me again”
Bitterly emotive and drawing from deeply personal experiences, Halsey poured her heart out on “You should be sad” for a truly emo condemnation of toxic relationships. We still haven’t grasped the depth of this Manic song’s meaning behind its empowering lyrics. But thanks to its accompanying music video, we’re in need of an emo hoedown as soon as it’s safe and possible.
Asking Alexandria – “Antisocialist”
Lyric: “I don’t wanna hear about your life/You make me wanna eat a bullet”
Asking Alexandria may sound vastly different from the Stand Up And Scream days, but their output is still as lyrically cutting as ever. Armed with its razor-sharp tongue harmonizing with a swaying melody, “Antisocialist” showcases Danny Worsnop’s entrancing cleans and their rock mastery with some truly powerful emo lyrics. With both middle fingers aloft, AA are proving their traditional sentiments still remain.
Neck Deep – “Sick Joke”
Lyric: “Sometimes I wonder if life is some sick joke/Will I wake up and it’s over?/No, I’m still here and I’m not dead”
At least Neck Deep are thinking that 2020 is some kind of “Sick Joke,” too. Tinged with their usual deceptive colorful vibes, this ode to giving up when life throws a few too many punches is everything we needed this year. And we’ll likely need these lyrics to get through next year, too. Now, who’s telling us Life’s Not Out To Get You? Either way, we’re definitely with you on this one, Ben Barlow and co.
As Sirens Fall – “The Wide Awake Club”
Lyric: “Of all the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most”
Let’s face it: 2020 has kept us painfully conscious for all the wrong reasons. So we safely fit in with “The Wide Awake Club” this year. An anthem to the dwindling scrap of sanity left by the coronavirus, As Sirens Fall brought us an emo take on this year. It’s a contagious singalong that will hopefully stay with us long after the pandemic. Of all the lyrics in this list, we’d get these tattooed unironically across our wrists.
Phoebe Bridgers – “ICU”
Lyric: “I’ve been playing dead my whole life/And I get this feeling whenever I feel good, it’ll be the last time”
In the same heartfelt vein as Death Cab For Cutie, Phoebe Bridgers has brought the laid-back vibes of textbook emo to the fore with her sophomore effort, Punisher. Touching, haunting and evocative in her own simplistic way, “ICU” charges with lyrics such as this one to revive the hollow emotional ache that emo has always instilled in listeners. If 2020’s been hard on you, we’d recommend grabbing a box of tissues before playing this.