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  • Writer's pictureColin Barnicle

The Three Waves of Emo

1st wave, 2nd wave, and 3rd wave emo? What do these mean?


Three waves of emo history, in just two hours. Join Jake and Colin as they explore the deep dark depths of emo music and learn everything there is to know about emo! We’ll answer all your questions in depth , such as:How did emo start?


What are the differences between the 3 main waves?


Did Jimmy actually eat a planet?


Let's lay it out for you:


First Wave


It started in the dark basements of the Washington DC underground. Hardcore music apparently wasn’t angsty enough so teens made it more worse, filling every pore of songs with rage and agitation. Rage-itation? Filled with driving bass lines, biting guitars, and whiny vocals, this era was the start of emo music today and is full of history. This was the start of not only a wave, but an era.


Second Wave


The rage and moodiness that characterized the 1st wave is suddenly replaced with melancholy twinkling guitars, and of course, American Sports. Seriously, what is up with all the sports? Bands are still focused on the emotion of the song, but there’s an added level of artistry. They poured their very souls into producing the most emotionally potent music they could, and just hearing their passion is inspiring. Instead of the harsh, raw tones of the first wave, the second is decorated with scintillating guitars that sound as serene as the stars themselves.

Third Wave


Getting closer to modern times, emo music is now more varied. It incorporates a wide variety of genres, from folk, to twee. No two bands are alike in any way, but no matter what, they all pour their hearts out when singing and playing. In essence the spirit of emo remains the same, but it is now inhabited by a wider variety of genres. Rage-itation goes global!


Here all of the songs that make up these three waves of emo on WLTL during the special hosted by myself and Jake! Catch it on December 30 at 6pm and again on January 3 at 3pm! Listen on 88.1 FM, online here or on the free Audacy app!



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Adel Blake
Adel Blake
Sep 21, 2023

emo actually has five waves, fourth wave being a call back to midwest emo of the 90s but more folky with bands like modern baseball, mom jeans, the front bottoms, ect. fifth wave is more influenced by first wave (more hardcore, being more fast paced, and dc being one of the big spots for fifth wave right now), ska (mainly jeff rosenstock) and 90s screamo with bands like origami angels, pictures of vernon, and oolong. counter intuitive records is the main record company for all things 4th and 5th wave. also first wave was very political, helped to revolutionized DIY culture, ect saying it and the dc hardcore scene to just "teens being angsty" is reductive.

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