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Emo /eee-moe/ (short for emotional) is a genre of punk rock music. The term was originally applied to bands in the Washington DC punk scene who played a more raucous and emotional form of punk than the norm. There are many legends concerning the origin of the term "emo", but one of the most prevalent is that at an early DC show, a fan shouted "You're emo!" at a band (though the myths differ as to which band — some say Embrace, some say Rites of Spring).

The genre (or, at least, the classic "DC sound," pioneered by bands such as Faith, Rites of Spring, and Embrace) has its roots in punk rock. Perhaps the biggest influence over the genre was Minneapolis, MN's Hüsker Dü, whose 1984 album Zen Arcade provided the blueprint for early emo: complex music with intense vocals and deeply introspective songwriting. The influential early emo (or "emocore", as it became known) band Rites of Spring sped up this style.

The next stage in the genre's evolution came in 1982 through 1992 with bands such as Indian Summer, Moss Icon, Policy of Three, Still Life and Navio Forge. The "quiet/loud" dynamic often heard in the music of recent bands such as Saetia and Thursday was pioneered by bands such as this. Vocally, these bands intensified the emocore style. Such bands were often left crying or screaming at the end of their performances. This led to many hardcore punk fans putting down emo fans as "wimps", or "weaklings".

Just as emo added a new found intensity to the original emocore style, the style of hardcore emo brought the intensity to a climax. The scene had its beginnings in 19911992 with bands such as Heroin, Portraits of Past and Antioch Arrow, who played chaotic hardcore music with abrasive, emotional vocals.

After building to a climax in terms of chaos and intensity with hardcore emo, the genre began to slow down. Bands such as Sunny Day Real Estate and Mineral came forth playing a slower but still frail and emotional style of emo, mixing the early, emocore sound of Rites of Spring with the post-hardcore innovation of Fugazi.

Today the term "emo" continues to become increasingly ambiguous. With the success of bands such as The Get Up Kids, Jimmy Eat World and The Promise Ring, the mainstream media became ever more interested in the genre, tending to label many indie-rock bands as emo. The term has become a catch-all encompassing many guitar-pop bands that have emerged from the underground, and bands as diverse as Thursday and Taking Back Sunday being referred to in the same breath as Dashboard Confessional and the New Amsterdams.

However, the phenomenon of "emo" has also started to extend beyond music. Saying someone is "so emo" usually refers to someone that gets depressed or cries a lot. Saying you are feeling "emo" has become a synonym for depression. This has come out of the form of emo that has broken away from the distorted punk sound to quiet acoustic guitars, the most representative of today being Bright Eyes or anything on Saddle Creek Records.

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Not to be confused with Emo Philips.