List, Top 10, Emo, Alternative

The 16 Best Emo Bands of All Time

With deep and dark Spooky Season in full swing and the first-ever edition of the When We Were Young festival right around the corner, we've been thinking a lot about emo bands lately. There's been a resurgence of the genre over these last few years thanks to the lasting legacy of bands present in the 90s and early 2000s. We realize we've never dug deep into our love for emo music on this blog before, and so today we're finally bringing you a list of our favorite emo bands of all time.

Before we get into it, we need to explain one thing: emo music is a spectrum. 90s emo is very different from early 2000s emo. The definition of "emo" has evolved over time to include a pop-punk sound – a sound we prefer to call "emo pop." Don't worry: we've got bands on here that will cater to the emo purists. But we also have acts that will be accepted by the newer generation of emo kids.

However, we didn't just include every cool act to wear black and have emo haircuts. We established boundaries. For example, we had to eliminate bands that treaded into metal territory (like Avenged Sevenfold), bands that are too pop-punk they're barely emo (like blink-182), and emo solo artists (like Avril Lavigne). We pored through hours of listacles, Spotify playlists, YouTube commentaries, and searches in order to get this list as accurate as we could. And now, we're ready to present it to you.

So without further ado, here's our list of the 16 best emo bands of all time.

1. My Chemical Romance

To kick off this list, we're just going to get the "Big 4" emo bands out of the way. First up is My Chemical Romance: the posterchild for emo kids everywhere. Not only has My Chemical Romance influenced the sound of emo, but also its aesthetic. The band's current lineup consists of powerhouse lead vocalist Gerard Way, lead guitarist Ray Toro, rhythm guitarist Frank Iero, and bassist Mikey Way. They're one of the many awesome emo acts to come out of New Jersey. If "Welcome to the Black Parade" isn't enough for you, these guys also have the hits "Teenagers," "Helena," "The Foundations of Decay," and "Na Na Na" to their names.

2. Paramore

Next up is Paramore: another major headliner at the first When We Were Young. This band has now forayed into more alternative rock territory, but their first three albums All We Know Is Falling, Riot!, and Brand New Eyes are emo kid staples. (Hopefully we get some emo roots back on their upcoming record, This Is Why!) Paramore's gone through a number of lineup changes over the years. The band currently consists of Taylor York, Zac Farro, and the epic "Great Orange Hope" vocalist Hayley Williams. Paramore's work is deep, fun, and oh-so earwormy.

3. Fall Out Boy

This emo pop band incorporates aspects of alternative rock, electropop, electronic, R&B, soul, funk, blue-eyed soul, hip hop, and hardcore punk to craft songs that are very easy to dance to. Citing The Get Up Kids as a major influence, Fall Out Boy formed in Wilmette, Illinois in 2001 and rose to prominence throughout the decade into the mid-2010s. Their old-school hits include "Thnks fr th Mmrs," "Sugar We're Goin' Down," and "Dance, Dance," while more recent jams include "Centuries," "Immortals," and "My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light Em Up)."

4. Panic! At the Disco

Okay, so maybe Panic! At the Disco is more of an "emo phase for a night" band, but their short stint in the genre did help pioneer its sound. Panic! at the Disco is now the solo project of singer Brendon Urie, but originally it was a band from Las Vegas, Nevada, formed in 2004 by childhood friends Urie, Ryan Ross, Spencer Smith, and Brent Wilson. They recorded their first demos in high school and eventually put out their debut studio album, A Fever You Can't Sweat Out (2005). Popularized by the hit second single, "I Write Sins Not Tragedies," the album was certified triple platinum in the United States.

5. Taking Back Sunday

Now that we've got the Big 4 out of the way, let's get into Taking Back Sunday. These Long Island legends are known for their moody hits "MakeDamnSure" and "Cute Without the 'E'". The band was formed by guitarist Eddie Reyes and bassist Jesse Lacey in 1999. The lineup is currently Adam Lazzara (lead vocals), John Nolan (lead guitar, keyboards, vocals), Shaun Cooper (bass guitar), and Mark O'Connell (drums), accompanied by Nathan Cogan (guitar) for live performances. Among the band's former members include Lacey, Reyes, and guitarist and vocalist Fred Mascherino. Their most recent album was Tidal Wave in 2016, and despite all the feuds, the group has managed to stay afloat thanks to their musical innovation.

6. All Time Low

Maybe the most feel-good of all emo acts, All Time Low was a Warped Tour mainstay during their heyday in the early 2000s. They were formed in 2003 in the suburbs of Towson, Maryland. Consisting of lead vocalist/rhythm guitarist Alex Gaskarth, lead guitarist Jack Barakat, bassist/backing vocalist Zack Merrick, and drummer Rian Dawson, the band took its name from lyrics in the song "Head on Collision" by New Found Glory. Notable songs from this band include "Dear Maria, Count Me In," "Weightless," and "Remembering Sunday."

7. Jimmy Eat World

Want to feel like you're back in a mid-90s teen movie? Re-listen to some Jimmy Eat World. Consisting of Jim Adkins, rhythm guitarist and backing vocalist Tom Linton, bassist Rick Burch, and drummer Zach Lind, this 100% pure emo band were hotshots when they first arrived on the scene. Several of their hits come from the 2001 album Bleed American. The record included the song "The Middle," which is a classic track that can still be heard across radio stations today.

8. Sunny Day Real Estate

This list would not be complete without a nod to Sunny Day Real Estate: the OG emo band. If it weren't for these Seattle trailblazers back in the 90s, we would not have the emo we know and love today. With their masterpiece album Diary, they essentially paved the way for all the acts that came after them. ALL HAIL THE PATRON SAINTS OF EMO!

9. New Found Glory

So many bands on this list – including Paramore and All Time Low – have been influenced by the mighty New Found Glory. Their hits include "My Friends Over You," "All Downhill From Here," and their super-emo cover of "Kiss Me" by 90s act Sixpence None the Richer. They formed in 1997, but didn't break into the mainstream until the early 2000s. The band currently consists of Jordan Pundik, Ian Grushka, Chad Gilbert, and Cyrus Bolooki, and they're still out touring today.

10. Good Charlotte

Good Charlotte's The Young and the Hopeless is one of the defining emo albums of the early 2000s. With classics like "The Anthem," "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous," and "Girls & Boys," this band has endured in the emo scene for quite some time. Influenced by Minor Threat, Rancid, and Green Day, they made a big splash on MTV thanks to their rebellious videos. Good Charlotte is another band that was formed in Maryland in 1996. Since 2005, the lineup has consisted of twin brothers Joel and Benji Madden, Paul Thomas, Billy Martin, and Dean Butterworth.

11. Simple Plan

Don't worry – we didn't just limit this list to American acts. We knew we had to include the Montreal-based Simple Plan. Formed in 1999, these guys are known for their songs "I'm Just a Kid," "Perfect," and "Welcome to My Life." No Pads, No Helmets is arguably their best album. The band's lineup consists of Pierre Bouvier, Chuck Comeau, Jeff Stinco, and Sébastien Lefebvre, with all four performing with the group since its inception. We recently caught them at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park this summer, and trust us: they've still got it.

12. Dashboard Confessional

Another OG emo act that is "Hands Down" amazing. Headed by singer/songwriter Christopher Carabba, this group hails from Boca Raton, Florida and includes members Scott Schoenbeck, Armon Jay, Chris Kamrada, Dane Poppin, and Abigail Kelly. The name of the band is derived from the song "The Sharp Hint of New Tears" off their debut album, The Swiss Army Romance. Dashboard Confessional still has the wailing guitars of other emo acts, but their music isn't afraid to be more chill and laid-back in places – and that's what makes their work so poignant.

13. The All-American Rejects

Can we claim that The All-American Rejects are the most mainstream emo band? Possibly. Their songs "Gives You Hell," "Dirty Little Secret," and "Move Along" can still be heard over the radio and at public events today. Their fiery sound has a magical way of riling up crowds. Formed in Oklahoma during 1999, the band consists of lead vocalist and bassist Tyson Ritter, lead guitarist and backing vocalist Nick Wheeler, rhythm guitarist and backing vocalist Mike Kennerty, and drummer Chris Gaylor. The All-American Rejects' music is full of young adult angst, and we've always been here for it.

14. Pierce the Veil

One of the only emo acts to incorporate screamo in a way that doesn't sound too metalcore, Pierce the Veil is an emo band that didn't arise until 2007. It was all thanks to the buzz generated from their debut A Flair for the Dramatic. Hailing from San Diego, California, Pierce the Veil was founded by brothers Vic and Mike Fuentes after the disbandment of the group Before Today, which was formed out of the San Diego punk rock scene. Their songs have a sense of urgency, rawness, and crackling electricity, and they're still very relevant thanks to their recent hit single "Pass the Nirvana" (2022).

15. Yellowcard

Okay, so maybe the major success of "Ocean Avenue" was enough reason for us to sneak Yellowcard onto this list. But at the same time, Yellowcard is more than just "Ocean Avenue." They're an American band that formed in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1997 and was based in Los Angeles beginning in 2000. During their time together, the group managed to release ten studio albums, with its final self-titled record released on September 30, 2016. Rest in peace to this great act; we'll always have Where We Stand, One for the Kids, Ocean Avenue, and Lights and Sounds to hold on to.

16. Mayday Parade

Ah, Mayday Parade. Super overlooked, yet always played at Emo Nites across the world. Mayday Parade is one of those underrated emo bands that deserves a lot more credit than they get. That's why we bumped up this list from fifteen bands to sixteen, just for them. If you've never heard of them, we recommend listening to their records A Lesson In Romantics, Monsters In the Closet, and their self-titled debut. We promise you, you'll be smitten in no time.

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Article Image: Gerard Way from My Chemical Romance performs at the Big Day Out Festival in 2012, Adam Lazzara sings with Taking Back Sunday at a 2017 show at The Observatory, Chris Carraba of Dashboard Confessional smiles and holds an acoustic guitar during an outdoor show iin 2005. (CC BY 2.0[C BY 2.0],Caitlin Ison [Available through Public Domain] and Will Fresch [CC BY-SA 2.0] via Wikimedia Commons.)

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About Kathryn Milewski

  • New Jersey