Is Emo Dead? Who Killed it?
You could argue that the “deified” artist, perhaps a being perfected by Wagner and his eccentric, egotistical monuments of self-expression, entered its death throes when Marcel Duchamp signed his Fountain as R. Mutt for submission into the Society for Independent Artists. This scandalous piece, itself a humble urinal without physical alteration, was transformed into an object so far removed from the pre-conceptions of the Western world, itself in the midst of World War I, centuries of imperialist and nationalism buildup at its peak.
Yet did Duchamp really kill that bastion of artistic glory that is the one? He/She who can stand above all others? Artists in alternate mediums have toyed with the notion of who this unimpeachable figure could, or should, be, even if there is a place in the world for such an enigmatic personality. Kanye’s “I Am a God” from the aptly titled album Yeezus blurs the line between self-assured mythological being and gangster caricature, just as The BasedGod’s unflinching West Coast hip-hop simulacra distorts the hedonistic revelry of gangster rap into a curious package — equal parts unpalatable ephemera and sardonic post-2K brilliance.
In his review of MACINTOSH PLUS’ FLORAL SHOPPE, The Needle Drop’s Anthony Fantano is assaulted in the comments section belowwww by 4chan HaXoRs claiming that “vaporwave,” which the reviewer queried as a “sub-genre,” had “already died.” It would be fair to suggest that when cultural analysts such as Fantano latch onto a certain movement, be it as or within a genre, that wave of artistic development is condemned to a period where people become aware of critical interpretation and so strive to create something within the preset parameters of what they should be doing, as opposed to what comes intuitively, or spontaneously.
The extent to which these efforts following supposed landmark creations are perceived to be “contrived” is dependent upon the lasting impact of that movement’s constituent elements and what could be subjected to change in other artists’ own works. But the legacies of Vektroid’s pseudonymous FLORAL SHOPPE and its duly deified predecessor in the form of Chuck Person’s Eccojams Vol. 1 are both assured by their own creators (Sacred Tapestry and Replica, respectively) and an ever-growing vastness of gleeful contemporaries, among them James Ferraro, Fatima Al Qadiri, and Dean Blunt, who all seem to share a common interest in pursuing just what Duchamp was striving for, a simultaneous questioning of “What is art, and who is its maker?”
With this in mind, one could also argue that the world of “hardcore” or “emo” or “scene,” or however it is to interpreted, is dead to some degree. Goth, new wave, metal and skateboard styles (among many others) all seem to burn out in a melting pot of frequently stigmatized and parodied, emotionally-heavy, teenage-dominated alternative culture. This view isn’t an indictment against this behemoth of modern aesthetic, which still thrives, even grows online — the enormous, almost deifying fan base of My Chemical Romance, an active segment of the Tumblrsphere, would attest to this.
However, just like the artists mentioned beforehand in their respective styles and periods, musicians operating within this hardcore world are required to create something, that while aesthetically pleasing to (hopefully) a decent amount of individuals, must not come across as contrived or poorly conceived. To some, Duchamp succeeded and dealt the deified artist such a shocking blow that even 100 years later, Yeezy and Lil B are crafting effigies in curiously crude likeness. To others, he spat in the face of the Western art world that nurtured his creative spirit so tenderly. To some, Vektroid perfected vaporwave, in mastering the digital plaza and the virtual world of possibilities that led to the burgeoning vaporwave world we face today — to others, she furthered the descent of aesthetic in the post-internet age (though, that is essentially the point).
And so, to some, Falling In Reverse’s Fashionably Late will be a glamorous, trap-infused triumph of the angst-ridden side of the emo dichotomy. To many others, it will be an unoriginal regurgitation of immature ideas that lacks the sophistication of many of its contemporaries and those it’s indebted to stylistically. It tackles modern issues such as online life and personas (“She follows me on Twitter/ Asks me if I miss her/ #Hashtag, set me free”), the looming apocalypse (“This is the end of everything that I known”), and, of course, the hedonistic self-deifying artist (“All I do is win/ Charlie Sheen”). It throws a venerable Pandora’s box of conceited emotional conundrums like infidelity and loss of innocence at the listener, just as “angry” lead singer Ronnie Radke throws stage equipment at his unassuming fans at live shows.
On “Alone,” Radke attempts to combine his various media personas into one digestible package, but the figure who emerges in the track’s lyrics is a conflicted, desperate being who can’t decide whether he is a violent dominator who’ll “Break your motherfucking neck,” an emotional train-wreck in need of devotional care (“I don’t ever want to be alone”), or a badass MC — “White boy on the beat/ Rocking Gucci Sneaks,” “Started out in 06/ And revived the scene.” The accompanying instrumental track, a boggling mix of hardcore and trap beats, is just as confused and lacking in substance as the psychotic self-pondering Radke.
It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the excess of vague statements about “love” and false sentiments that plague this album. They obliterate any subtle expression or connection to the listener beyond low-order thinking — the band just bludgeons the listener with generic narcissistic drivel. This has been a problem for artists within the world of “Hardcore” music, with those like Falling In Reverse diluting the creative pool with half-baked pop songs aimed at those who don’t give a damn about more complex issues. Emo/Hardcore isn’t dead; in fact, just like vaporwave and the deified artist, it thrives — but if something is going to kill it, it may well be Fashionably Late.