“Emo” means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. As a result, former and current emo kids have a variety of meme-worthy material and bands to pull from.
Some fans equate emo to mid-’90s-esque alt-rock bands like Modern Baseball, while others think of theatrical punk rockers like My Chemical Romance. Then, for some people, emo isn’t so much a sound as a time machine back to Hot Topic’s heyday. It takes them to when the store specialized in band shirts and Tripp pants instead of Marvel attire and Funko Pop figures.
Whatever your definition of “emo” is, it’s still fun to take a trip down memory lane and make fun of the scene’s more questionable musical and aesthetic choices. Here are the best emo memes to warm your black heart and help you relive your middle school glory days.
The best emo memes only real emo kids will understand
1) “Real emo” memes
For as long as emo has existed, pedantic emo fans have clamored to tell you why your definition of the subgenre is wrong.
Some fans trace emo back to the emotional hardcore and screamo scene of the early ‘90s. Some cite “midwest emo” and alternative rock bands like Sunny Day Real Estate and American Football as the genre’s true forebears. Others acknowledge the validity of both but dismiss mainstream 2000s pop-punk acts like Taking Back Sunday and My Chemical Romance. Still others accept that the definition of “emo” is constantly changing and attempts at gatekeeping are elitist and futile.
The “real emo” take on the “galaxy brain” meme makes room for all perspectives. The meme ultimately concludes that maybe “real emo” bands don’t exist because emo isn’t real at all. Boom.
2) “Not every single long sentence…” meme
Overly long song titles were either a crucial element or the creative nadir of mid-2000s pop-punk, depending on your perspective. Look no further than Fall Out Boy’s seminal From Under the Cork Tree, which boasts nonsensical titles such as “I’ve Got a Dark Alley and a Bad Idea That Says You Should Shut Your Mouth (Summer Song).” Or turn to Panic! at the Disco’s A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, which includes the head-spinning “There’s a Good Reason These Tables Are Numbered Honey, You Just Haven’t Thought of It Yet.”
This Tumblr emo meme expertly spoofs both bands’ penchants for verbosity and reminds emo kids that you don’t have to turn every long sentence into a song title. But, to paraphrase Panic!, it’s better if you do.
3) “You can only pick 3” meme
The “You can only pick 3” meme is pretty self-explanatory: You’re given 10 or so related items, and you’ve got to pick your top three while discarding the rest. People have applied the “You can only pick 3” meme to a variety of circumstances over the past month, including touchstone emo albums.
The meme will reveal what type of emo bands you hold dear, be it the progressive post-hardcore of Coheed and Cambria, the brash pop-punk of Paramore, or the anthemic alt-rock of Taking Back Sunday. Choose wisely, because you can make damn sure you’re going to have to tell all your friends which albums rank in your canon.
4) “Mr. Brightside” memes
The Killers were not an emo band by any reasonable stretch. The Vegas quartet had ties to the early-2000s post-punk revival scene and dispensed fizzy glam-pop anthems on its 2004 debut, Hot Fuss. Still, its biggest hits resonate with angsty millennials in the same way many 2000s emo classics do.
As a result, when the signature guitar lick to “Mr. Brightside” kicks in, fans have no choice but to sing along with Brandon Flowers’ iconic opening salvo: “I’m coming out of my cage and I’ve been doing just fine.” The band’s lyric launched a thousand emo night mosh pits and memes, and we’re all the better for it.
5) Emo Patrick Star
The Evil Patrick meme exploded in 2018, giving social media users an outlet to express their most deviant and petty thoughts. You see your friend’s text message preview and leave them on “read” for six hours? Evil Patrick. You leave the dish in the sink for your roommate to clean because it “needs to soak”? Evil Patrick!
You grab the aux cord from your homies knowing full well you’re going to interrupt their RapCaviar playlist with some vintage Dashboard Confessional? Say hello to Emo Patrick, a straight-haired, guyliner-wearing spin on the malevolent meme whose emo kids ways are here to bring the mood of your kickback way down.
6) March 22 memes
For many emo fans, March 22, 2013, is a date that lives in infamy: the day My Chemical Romance announced its breakup with a curt, six-sentence statement on its website. The Killjoys were gutted, demanding a better explanation and longing for the day their favs would return to the stage.
Nearly seven years later, their wishes came true. My Chemical Romance played a comeback gig in Los Angeles in December and announced a massive comeback tour for 2020.
Still, the old wounds remain. As the coronavirus pandemic forces countless acts to postpone their tours, MCR fans are feeling a sickening sense of deja vu as they grapple with the notion that they might once again miss out on seeing the band.
7) “Rawr/XD” memes
If you spent any time in emo or emo-adjacent subcultures in the late 2000s (or, let’s be real, if you just walked around Hot Topic a lot), you picked up on a vernacular that sounded utterly alien to anybody outside the fray. A staple of this language was “RAWR.” Depending on your interpretation, it either meant “I love you” in dinosaur or signified that you dyed your hair six different shades of purple and teased it to the high heavens.
These days, “RAWR” and its emoticon companion “XD” are two of the most cringeworthy pieces of internet slang to originate over the last two decades. But one glance is all it takes to whisk you back to Friday nights in middle school, cruising the mall in your pink Rude skinny jeans and Cute Is What We Aim For shirt.
8) “I Write Sins Not Tragedies” lyrics meme
Panic! at the Disco became an overnight emo sensation with “I Write Sins Not Tragedies.” It’s a Vaudevillian dance-punk anthem about a wedding gone awry when everybody learns of the bride’s infidelity.
Among the song’s myriad lyrical zingers is, “What a shame the poor groom’s bride is a whore.” The line has been censored by countless radio stations and memed by countless emo fans. What’s that about the groom’s bride? She’s a s’more? A horse? A Thor? Somebody get Emo Patrick on the case.
9) “Defend pop-punk” memes
By the beginning of the 2010s, the term “emo” in mainstream culture had become vague and diluted to include just about any artist with coiffed hair or tight pants. This included a glut of sugary, Billboard-courting pop-masquerading-as-punk bands, much to the chagrin of other bands in the scene.
This dilution inspired New Jersey’s Man Overboard to coin the ubiquitous “Defend Pop Punk” slogan. But defend it from what, exactly? Fans of the genre championed Man Overboard’s quest to restore pop-punk’s emotional hardcore (“emo”) roots, but the slogan earned its fair share of detractors, who dismissed it as a war not worth waging.
Scene veterans will surely be telling their kids about the battle to defend pop-punk years from now. Perhaps the real achievement of the band’s slogan was the memes it spawned along the way.
10) Blink-182’s “I Miss You” memes
Emo and pop-punk vocals have always been an acquired taste, as many of the genre’s singers adopt a nasally sneer or contort their vowels until it sounds like they’re singing in a different language.
For proof, look no further than Blink-182’s Tom DeLonge. His nasally whine made pop-punk anthems like “All the Small Things” and “I Miss You” instantly recognizable. In this popular spin on the “Link stares at a chicken sandwich” meme, when DeLonge demands, “Where are yooouuuu?” in “I Miss You,” no fan can resist answering with, “And I’m so soorrryyy!”
11) “Welcome to the Black Parade” G-note intro
It takes a special type of song to cut through the clutter and hook listeners with its first note. My Chemical Romance’s “Welcome to the Black Parade” does it with gusto.
Fifteen years after its release, the song’s single, mournful “G” note played on the piano can uncork the tear ducts on the most stone-faced emo fan. The ensuing glam-punk epic is a guaranteed hit at any emo night or karaoke party.
12) “I hate this town” memes
One prerequisite of being an emo kid—and especially playing in an emo band—was hating your hometown, where the stores closed at 8 p.m. and your neighbors quivered at the sight of a guitar amplifier. If you could only leave your suburban prison and make it to the big city, things would be better!
Never mind the fact that most were just projecting their own feelings of inadequacy and self-loathing onto their perfectly average hometown and were woefully unprepared to leave their parents’ house. Hating “this town” lit a meme-worthy fire in the belly of every emo kid, and they clung to it until they moved to the next town (and started hating that one).
John Mulaney is one of the most famous comedians on the planet. His goofy, thoughtful delivery makes him both hilarious and relatable. His standup material also applies perfectly to 2000s pop-punk bands, as demonstrated by @yikes_itsaut’s 2019 Twitter thread. The Mulaney compilation went viral, proving that fans of emo and pop-punk bands are always thirsty for emo memes that speak to their aching hearts.
14) Aging punks at shows
Let’s be real: Going to shows is exhausting. It usually requires staying up late on a weeknight, listening to a bunch of terrible opening bands, and paying $7 for a stale Bud Light just to pass the time. Time catches up to all of us sooner or later. Eventually, even the most resolute mosh pit warriors find themselves staring down 40 and scrambling for the outskirts of the crowd as a pit opens up.
Don’t worry, aging punks: You’ve served your scene dutifully. You’ve earned the right to watch the band from the soundboard.
15) “Normal people scare me”
Normal People Scare Me is a 2006 documentary about autism produced by Joey Travolta. However, the title phrase surged in popularity when Tate Langdon wore a shirt sporting the slogan in American Horror Story.
The title has become a bit of a meme at this point, shorthand for disenfranchised emo kids who felt their peers didn’t understand their eccentric fashion sense or band preferences. If you spotted somebody wearing a “Normal people scare me” shirt in public, you knew you were in good company.
16) “It’s not a phase, mom”
If we’re all being honest here, your emo phase definitely included some… “questionable” fashion choices, to put it generously. The neon skeleton hoodies, the suffocating animal print skinny jeans, the quarter-inch-thick rubber bracelets that ran from your wrists to your elbows. (Lord, the sweat those things produced…)
Pair those fashion disasters with an iPod Shuffle playlist that varied wildly in quality, and your parents rightfully hoped your emo phase was just that, a phase. But you insisted it wasn’t! This was who you were, mom, and you were never going to change!
In hindsight, you probably changed a little bit. You’ve likely ditched those leopard-print skinny jeans, but you still hold your emo phase dear to your heart. This meme is an ode to the dedication of the former emo kid.
17) “Turn up the volume” memes
The “turn up the volume” meme is a masterclass in simplicity. You hear a banger, you crank the volume, you scream along. The “turn up the volume” meme has existed for years. While it was not created specifically with emo bands in mind, it fits perfectly with their screamable lyrics. So go ahead: Put on Paramore’s “Misery Business,” crank to 11, and scream till you’re hoarse. We won’t judge.
18) Mommy/Daddy/Sports band names
Not sure what to name your new emo band? Here’s a simple two-step solution: Pick a member of your family, then pick a sport you’ve probably never played. Wedge them together, and voila, you’ve got a Tumblr-famous emo band in the making!
If you don’t believe us, just check out this Venn diagram meme of emo bands whose names include sports, family members, or—in the case of Soccer Mommy and Hockey Dad—both. It’s only a matter of time before a new emo band goes full meta and names itself Sports Reference Family Member and we have to cancel the scene forever.
19) So many ways to say “I’m sad”
Emo has always been a lyrically introspective genre, and a new school of emo revival bands has put its own spin on the sound with soul-searching, irreverent songs. Some emo revival bands are sad; others mask their sadness with weed; some express their misery with bloody, melodramatic metaphors; some just want to say “fuck it” and throw a punk rock pizza party. Several decades after its inception, emo is still giving musicians a variety of ways to say they’re sad.
20) The emo teen glow-up
The best thing about going through a teenage emo phase is you learned how to laugh at yourself, mostly as a coping mechanism when the rest of the world was laughing at you. But the joke’s on them, because emo teens glow up into suave goth twenty-somethings.
This meme illustrates the emo kids who abandoned those straightened bangs and ghastly Attack Attack! shirts for clean undercuts and black button-ups. Don’t throw away those Hot Topic shirts just yet, though. There’s always time to bust them out at the club’s next emo night.