emo music

Step Outside Your Musical Box: Emo Music

Emo music brings up a lot of, well, emotions. Starting in the early 1980s and gaining more popularity into the 2000s, emo music shifted from the background to the forefront of popular music. This month, we’re getting emotional…so get out your black eyeliner and help revive the age of emo!

I’ve been contributing to weekly music suggestions for as long as ICA has been alive. If you haven’t noticed, I often choose more “user-friendly” tunes that are on mainstream radio. Although my tastes tend to be more mainstream, I also listen to a wide range of music genres in my spare time.

I got to college in the early 2000s, became friends with the “cool kids,” and started going to shows to support the local music scene. Through the new people that I met, I learned there was more to music than boy bands and pop stars. Friends, and boyfriends, introduced me to a slew of alternative music that included Social Distortion, Sunny Day Real Estate, Jawbreaker, and more. As I delved into these new musical endeavors, I got caught up in a new, resurgent wave of music…the emo phase.

There was something so raw about emo music. It was just so…emotional. And, as a late teen/young adult, I wanted to express all of my emotions through my clothes, makeup (hello, thick black eyeliner), and opinions. All of these bands, fronted by cute boys with guitars, singing about heartbreak and pain, were so enticing. I had no idea that emo had existed since I was born, with its roots in the 1980s. But the many popular bands in the 2000s had me hooked from the first moment I heard them.

I know you’re probably thinking, “But emo music is just. so. annoying!” However, I think there is a gold mine of music that is waiting to be utilized for more than crying over exes. But first, a small history lesson.

Emo music first came on the scene in Washington, D.C., in the 1980s as an extension from post-hardcore punk music. In its beginning, emo was loud and abrasive, often called “emotional hardcore” or “emocore.” Rites of Spring and Embrace developed this new sound. It was later adopted by more contemporary punk rock bands, like Jawbreaker and Sunny Day Real Estate, through the 1990s. As it morphed through the next decade, it became softer, more rock ‘n’ roll inspired, and folded nicely into the indie scene. Emo broke into the mainstream light in the 2000s with the large successes of bands like Jimmy Eat World and Dashboard Confessional. These bands were taking over the radio scene. Suddenly, there was emo music everywhere. Bands like Simple Plan, Bowling for Soup, All American Rejects, Fall Out Boy, and Taking Back Sunday were on mainstream radio getting play beside Kelly Clarkson and Usher. Independent record labels that had specialized in the genre were losing ground with many bands signing to major record labels. By the 2010s, emo music began to fade as quickly as it had emerged, with many of the formerly popular bands disbanding, or moving away from their emo roots. Today, emo is still relatively left in the past, with only our angsty teenage memories keeping the emotion alive.

From an indoor cycling perspective, this genre of music offers a lot of variety for your riders. The songs are relatively clean, with few explicit lyrics, and span from more hardcore “screamo” to softer indie rock and even bordering on pop music trends. Because of this, I think they can offer a good beat and motivation, which are arguably the most important things I am looking for in a song for a class.

Below, I’ve chosen a few of my all-time favorites, but my Spotify list has 80 songs, so you can get in touch with your emotions for hours on end. If you’re feeling apprehensive about jumping into the ship of emotion, I suggest some of the more pop-like bands including Panic! At the Disco, Weezer, Paramore, or My Chemical Romance. Arguably, these bands don’t quite fit into the emo scene, but they are more widely recognized. If you’re more of a rock ‘n’ roll type and are willing to dive into the genre fully, then I suggest checking out New Found Glory, The Used, Jawbreaker, Thrice, or Sunny Day Real Estate.

Below, I’ve chosen eight “standout” tracks that I feel embody the emo genre and showcase its versatility. At the bottom of this post you’ll find out bucket playlist of over 80 EMO songs. 

Artist: Fall Out Boy
Song: Sugar We’re Going Down Swinging
Album: From Under the Cork Tree
Time: 3:49
BPM: 162
Available: iTunes, Amazon, Spotify

I think this song is probably one of the more popular tracks out of the emo era, and Fall Out Boy was arguably one of the largest emo bands that was able to cross over into the mainstream scene. This makes for a decent flat road with the option to have increases in pace during the chorus for an extra “oomph” of steam.


Artist: Jawbreaker
Song: Jet Black
Album: Dear You
Time: 5:13
BPM: 141
Available: iTunes, Amazon, Spotify

Jawbreaker is a more traditional emo band, and so their sound is a little heavier and a little less radio friendly. However, I think this song has a great amount of grit to it, making it perfect for a climbing track. The pickups around the chorus make for excellent opportunities to ask your riders to bring it up a notch for a surge.


Artist: New Found Glory
Song: My Friends Over You
Album: Sticks and Stones
Time: 3:40
BPM: 89
Available: iTunes, Amazon, Spotify

Again, another more classic emo artist. New Found Glory also found some fame in the mainstream sector of music. This track is a great one for holding a steady flat road with its driving beat. Can’t help but keep those feet moving with a beat like this!


Artist: Jimmy Eat World
Song: The Middle
Album: Bleed American
Time: 2:48
BPM: 84
Available: iTunes, Amazon, Spotify

This is a classic song from the cusp of the emo phase transitioning into mainstream. Jimmy Eat World continues to be a great throwback artist, and with their track “The Middle” you can get a fabulous flat road in. The beat is fast enough to get your legs moving quickly, and the track short enough that you can really push your riders’ intensity with some resistance.

Artist: The Academy Is…
Song: About a Girl
Album: Fast Times at Barrington High
Time: 3:30
BPM: 102
Available: iTunes, Amazon, Spotify

This is another great flat road song. The bpm is a little higher, but I still think it’s a fabulous, energizing track. I’ve used it as one of my “take the flat road home” type of tracks at the end of a hard workout. The sound is lighter and just asks for you to ramp your speed up.


Artist: Weezer
Song: Beverly Hills
Album: Make Believe
Time: 3:16
BPM: 90
Available: iTunes, Amazon, Spotify

Although the pace of this song would make you think it would be a flat road, the feel of it is much more of a climb. Encourage your riders through this track with three gear shifts as you climb up to the top of the peak.


Artist: Matchbox Romance
Song: Monsters
Album: Make Believe
Time: 4:03
BPM: 114
Available: iTunes, Amazon, Spotify

This song has a great amount of energy to it, and I think it’s best ridden as a flat road with surging or sprints throughout. There’s at least three opportunities for big pushes with your pace, and if you follow through it makes for a really good higher-intensity track.


Artist: Something Corporate
Song: Space
Album: North
Time: 2:56
BPM: 126
Available: iTunes, Amazon, Spotify

Something Corporate was one of my favorite bands when I was going through my “emo phase.” I still think fondly of the day I got to meet the lead singer, Andrew McMahon, who has gone on to continue with other music projects. (Currently he is going to tour as Andrew McMahon and the Wilderness, so if you like the sound of his voice, I encourage you check out some of his other tunes!) This song could be done as a climb or a flat road; I can feel it both ways. Personally, I like riding it as a lighter climb with intervals out of the saddle on the chorus. It makes for a good active recovery song since it’s short, but has enough energy to keep gear on your wheel.

Check out the rest of the playlist below!

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