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019 :: SELF HELP

019 :: SELF HELP
Apr 28, 2023 ยท 8m 59s

FEATURING Self Help by Future Teens, released by Triple Crown Records in 2022. / - - TRANSCRIPT Sometimes music helps us realize something about ourselves. And...

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Self Help by Future Teens, released by Triple Crown Records in 2022. Listen / Buy direct


Sometimes music helps us realize something about ourselves. And what this music made me realize is that I'm still a sucker for emo pop.

We all have our nostalgias, and I guess this is mine. I don't know if this music has universal appeal. I don't know if any music has universal appeal. But for me, this music immediately brings me back to the music of my youth, to those formative works that, for better or worse, first shaped my taste.

All the essential elements are here: the hooky melodies, the narrative lyricism, the yearning vocals, the distorted power chords, and an absolute headbanger of a chorus. This just does it for me. I feel like I'm sixteen again, and loving it.

And the funny thing is, I didn't even think I liked emo pop anymore. For years I've been thinking of it as a genre I had grown out of: once important, but since surpassed; a guilty pleasure if there ever was one. I don't even much go back to those favourite records of my teenage years, and when I have they've landed differently.

Because here's the thing about the emo pop of the late 90s and early 2000s: it's kind of cringe. And that's what I really love about this record: it doesn't just take me back to the glory days of emo pop; it takes what was best about the genre and leaves behind what was worst. It's emo decoupled from the male gaze, from the whiny entitlement, from all the melodrama. But it's still emo through and through: raw but melodic, confessional but anthemic, a cathartic soundtrack to outsize feelings of longing and melancholy.

But this music is more than just a throwback. Its version of emo pop is not just more palatable than the emo pop of the past, but also more mature and contemporary. It wasn't just a coincidence that emo pop's original fanbase was awkward teenagers like me. Its emotional preoccupations were those quintessential teenage feelings of unbelonging and unrequited infatuation. And so, what I feel like I've outgrown is not so much emo's musical stylings as its lyrical concerns. The music still speaks to me, but I can no longer relate. And I feel like this band somehow recognized this, and found a way to age emo up by ten or fifteen years, transposing its emotional contours into a more adult, and more millennial, key.

Here the emo pop sound is used to chronicle the malaise of early adulthood and its ever-present ennui. Gone are the high dramatics of failed romances and relationships, and in their place are the quotidian struggles of just getting through another day. The tone is still emotional, but the stakes feel more real. These are songs about the hollow allure of self-medication, and the self-destructive tendencies that so often stand in the way of our own mental well-being. These are songs built around lines like "I did nothing but skip another meal and walk around a Target" โ€“ because these songs recognize that, at a certain stage of life, this may very well be the most you can say about your day.

And the funny thing is, I don't presently relate to these concerns, either. But I can recognize their veracity. What I hear in these songs is that feeling of disillusion that comes with growing up and seeing that this is what adult life looks like. And what I love about these songs is that they serve as a reminder that this experience is just as much a site of emotional intensity as anything we experienced in our youth. And in so doing, these songs expand the emo pop sound and show that it isn't just a teenage phase. If life can still make us feel this way, then music should too.
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Author Willie Costello

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