Today I'ma hit you with some 90's alternative that some might call the OG "emo" sound, though a fair number of bands from the late 80's certainly figure into things. Popping up mainly in underground scenes in Flagstaff, Chapel Hill, and Omaha during the early 90's/late 80's, "emo" music set the stage for the power pop of today in a number of ways (Jimmy Eat World started as underground emo band!), though its then uncommon implementation of extreme vocals could be considered the hallmark, along with volume dynamics and arpeggiated guitar melodies. Whether the singer screamed until his voice grew hoarse or effeminately crooned high pitch notes until one questioned his gender, the expression of the music was the focus; in other words, emotional communication was the reason. Not Texas, as some would have you believe
The term "emo" itself is said to have originated during early shows at which bystanders would label the band "emo" after witnessing them play and sing so strongly that they literally cried during the effort.
Due to the emphasis being on authenticity of expression rather than genre sign-boarding, many emo bands have starkly different sounds, and thus many fall unto different sub categories. But I digress and happen to agree with critics that suggest that sometimes, over-labeling things only muddles up the fun. Here are some of my favorite songs, and although they are all more or less "emo", they are all from different genres, time periods, and scenes.
This last one is a perfect example of when expression and authenticity clearly trump musical quality. In any case, I've made some generalizations and taken some liberties with definitions, so if you've got a bone to pick with how I've labeled things, want to shit on all the nonsense screaming, or simply want to add your favorites, please feel free! Next time, I'll go back to the early 80's and trace even the roots of emo, looking to how hardcore and punk music changed how society heard rock music.