Crossing the threshold from teenager to adult can be a rough transition. It’s a time in life when you’re potentially even more angsty than you were at age 15. But this time, you don’t get the Angsty Teen stage to excuse it. Fortunately, the emo anthems you used to cry your eyeliner off to are still around to commiserate with you in your angstiest moments. Because it’s not just a stage, Mom — emo is for life.
“Helena (So Long & Goodnight)” — My Chemical Romance
The only thing sadder than My Chemical Romance’s breakup back in 2013 is this grief-choked emblem of the band’s glory days. Gerard Way’s ghoulishly whispered vocals quickly erupt into sorrowful wails, lamenting the loss of his and bandmate/brother Mikey Way’s beloved grandmother. For full effect, play the music video: Let the funeral imagery, complete with an entirely black-and-red aesthetic, a dancing dead girl and a rainy casket-carrying scene, envelop you in full-fledged emo catharsis.
“Sugar, We’re Goin’ Down” – Fall Out Boy
Rumored to be the most listened-to emo song of all time, “Sugar” takes the cake for catchiest mid-2000s pop punk hit. The 2005 single solidified Fall Out Boy’s status as a break-out success. The line “I’m just a notch in your bedpost, but you’re just a line in a song” is forever etched in every millennial’s heart, harkening back to the days when Fall Out Boy’s ridiculously verbose song titles and Patrick Stump’s incomprehensibly slurred choruses were gospel.
“Lying is the Most Fun a Girl Can Have Without Taking Her Clothes Off” – Panic! at the Disco
To complete the holy emo trinity, a Panic! at the Disco song is in order. While maybe a little misogynist in retrospect, the sexy pop-punk song is the unequivocal embodiment of teenage hormones. “Is it still me that makes you sweat? / Am I who you think about in bed?” croons the then 18-year-old Brendon Urie. His sultry call to “get these teen hearts beating faster” will have you sweating like the sexually frustrated days of yore all over again.
“All I Wanted” – Paramore
Emo teens have been wishing they could steal Hayley Williams’ voice “The Little Mermaid”-style since “Misery Business” first skyrocketed Paramore to fame in 2007. It’s no wonder — the fiery-haired vocalist has one hell of a set of pipes. “All I Wanted” is the album closer from Paramore’s third album; maybe a bit of a deep cut in comparison to the ubiquitous “The Only Exception” (also on “Brand New Eyes”), but potentially one of Williams’ most impressive vocal performances on record. Soft, gloomy verses of “(waking) up early to black and white lyrics” that crescendo into heavy distortion and Williams belting the chorus — “all I wanted was you” — allow you to wallow in the deepest crevices of heartbreak.
“I Miss You” – Blink-182
While not technically classified as emo, the lyrics of “I Miss You” beg a spot for the song on every emo teen’s go-to playlist. “Hello there, / The angel from my nightmare, / The shadow in the background of the morgue,” sings Mark Hoppus, his vocals low and sweet. With references to “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and a lovesick undertone, this song will have you streaking black eyeliner down your face in no time. It makes perfect sense that Blink-182 played such a heavy influence on all your favorite Fueled By Ramen bands.