Most people grew out of their emo phase years ago. Though I’ve abandoned the smudged eyeliner and band T-shirt aesthetic, I still pre-order Panic! At the Disco albums, I continue to retweet Pete Wentz and I carry a torch for the bands that many have now chalked up to nothing more than nostalgic remnants floating aimlessly through their iTunes libraries. But I wouldn’t have admitted this in the past, since I’ve grown to embrace the emo that others have outgrown.
Hopping onto the latest trends was never my forte. My year-long detour into the Jonas Brothers in fifth grade was late to the game, as usual. Boys in my class would steal and hide my Jonas Brothers notebooks and pencils. My prized deluxe set of the band’s self-titled album ended up as target practice material for my younger brother. I learned the hard way that girls couldn’t admit their admiration for male bands without becoming subject to the fangirl cliché.
The idea of being viewed within the stereotype of the manic, unhinged, screaming fangirl mortified me. Even as a younger fan, I was always very aware of what I looked like sporting band T-shirts and parading my favorite albums around in my CD player. I was constantly worried that my chill persona would be stripped away and morphed into hysteria simply because I was vocal about my love for certain groups. Uncomfortable expressing my infatuation out loud, I took to detached, anonymous internet circles. LiveJournal became a safer haven than the judgmental realm of real life.
In sixth grade, I found my new favorite: Panic! at the Disco. I kept my passion near to my heart and only shared it with my closest friend, despite the fact that I was much more confident in Panic’s relative coolness. I was determined to keep it from being ruined for me as I fell more deeply in love with its debut album A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out than I ever had with an album before. A YouTube spiral landed me on the band’s infamous single “I Write Sins, Not Tragedies.” Not long after, I found myself ripping audio from the various videos until I compiled a full album that I carried with me only in the confines of my 8GB iPod Shuffle.
But keeping my favorite hidden from the world meant missing out on a lot of cool things — news, tours, physical albums. My present self looks back upon the Nothing Rhymes with Circus tour that I’ll never get to see and the Pretty. Odd. vinyl box set that I’ll never own.
Even if it was conducted in secret, sixth and seventh grades were the golden days of my emo phase. I would fill notebooks with music and lyrics between classes and spend hours practicing guitar each night. Even if my seventh grade songs were mere reflections of Fall Out Boy’s “Sugar, We’re Goin Down” and Paramore’s “Fences,” the emo bands of the 2000s were the first groups that inspired me enough to try to create music of my own. I just wish that the old me had fully embraced the emo fangirl phase as so many others had.
Maybe it’s because I’m still behind the trends, or because I really am still emo trash, but I never stopped loving Panic! at the Disco. Despite their lineup changes and genre migrations, I remain a loyal fan to this day. My inner sixth grader was still internally screaming when I met the band members this past July. But I finally grew tired of internalizing my enthusiasm after my first year at Cal.
I was tired of pretending to love musicians I only liked and there was no reason for it any longer. No one cares if I still love the emo bands of yore anymore. In fact, a lot of people I’ve met still do, too. I’m too old to let other people dictate my interests and ridicule me for things that I love.
I may not have grown out of my emo phase, but at least I’ve grown out of my embarrassment. Even if the bands I love aren’t the darlings of Pitchfork or found in the depths of Soundcloud obscurity, they have continued to inspire me with their resilience and talent over the years. If I have any regrets, it’s that I wasted so much time developing music tastes and interests that I’ll never be completely satisfied with. I spent far too many years pushing music aside for other things that I’ll never care as much about. At least now I have the opportunity to start from the ground up with the knowledge that having reservations about my passions is just a waste of time.
“Cutting Room Floor” columns are one-off, arts-oriented pieces written by Daily Cal staff members.
Contact Dani Sundell at [email protected].