Looking on the ‘Brightside’ of things
Adam Ramos | Wednesday, October 4, 2017
Throughout early to mid-middle school, smack-dab in the prime of my awkward phase, I was what a mid-2000s aficionado may refer to as an emo kid. No, I never dyed my hair, painted my finger nails or self-harmed in any way. But despite my aesthetic distance from the emo scene, I still undeniably found some much needed refuge in the now-defunct and cringe-worthy ethos of the movement (if you can even call it that.)
At the time, emo as a genre of music was moving away from the underground acts that helped create it, making way for a more pop-oriented and approachable sound. Bands like Fall Out Boy, All Time Low and We the Kings, with their catchy pop-punk hooks and emotionally saturated lyrics, gave emo a new mass appeal. Yet the culture behind the music was mostly static, characterized by skinny jeans, long bangs, and above all else, teen angst.
Looking back, my attachment to the emo scene makes a lot of sense — I was, and still am, a sensitive (angst-y?), music lover. The newfound accessibility of the genre was inviting and its philosophy hit just the right emotional chord for an impassionate, albeit naive, middle schooler. Emo was something I could own, and it quickly became part of my identity for a brief period.
Fortunately, like most misguided adolescent fads, the emo wave passed me by probably sometime before high school. My music tastes, along with my not-so-awkward-anymore body, grew. My hunger for new and diverse music also began to develop around this time, and now as a college senior and amateur music writer, I can’t even really delineate my musical tastes into genres.
Still, I never forgot emo. My foray into the genre helped shape the way I approach music fandom, and even today I often catch myself wanting to head bang upon hearing that mid-2000s pop-punk sound. However, there is one song from the era in particular that almost never has this effect on me: The Killer’s 2004 smash hit “Mr. Brightside.” While more electronic than many of its song peers and maybe not even technically emo, “Mr. Brightside” is a hallmark of the emo era.
The Killer’s instantly iconic track is undeniably catchy, but it’s inescapable persistence shakes me at my core. The song should function as a periodic throwback and yet there is a bar in South Bend that shall remain nameless that plays the track every single night without fail. Every time that saccharine chord progression rears its head, seemly every friend group reacts as if the bar is “like totally playing our song.” And it bugs me. Well it, used to bug me. Hearing “Mr. Brightside” in a bar always felt like a strange appropriation of my emo past. As if the all the excited listeners neglected the emotional depth required to truly appreciate a song of that nature.
But now I’m looking on the bright side. I am coming out of my cage of condescension and believe me, I am doing just fine. Growing up is about learning from the past, not festering in it. Having a history with emo may make hearing certain songs today a little strange, but that’s just the price I pay.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.