I recently stumbled across this article on Spin.com listing the 21 best pop-punk choruses of the 21st century. And it pissed me off. I first took issue with the site effectively listing songs performed by boy bands with guitars. Don’t get me wrong – the likes of Good Charlotte and Simple Plan held a special place in my heart when I was 14. But then puberty happened and I developed a deeper respect and knowledge for pop-punk, emo, and punk music. I would never go so far as to say that “The Anthem” is one of the best choruses of the 21st century. It’s not even the best chorus on the Good Charlotte discography. My second issue came from the lack of actual punk music on the list. Sure, Against Me! Are solid, but where’s the NOFX? The Distillers? Anti Flag?!
Assuming I was perhaps taking this list a little bit too much to heart, I sent it to a friend who then confirmed my second issue with the list – these choruses are shit. I’m no demographer but I feel fairly confident in saying everyone in the world – neigh, the universe – would agree a good chorus is defined by lyrics that are only done justice by screaming them at the top of your lungs with every fibre of your being. Because what’s the point if you’re not? Sugarcult sat atop my list of favourite bands between ages 15 and 20, but I do not credit them with terribly profound lyrics or emotive melodies. I love them, but their Bouncing of the Walls chorus does not belong on this list.
So I write tonight to list my own list of top choruses from my personal favourite subgenre of rock music – emo.
- Yellowcard – Empty Apartment
“Take you away from that empty apartment/You stay and forget where the heart is/Someday if ever you loved me you’d say it’s okay”
This chorus is its own is solid, and then paired with the build up of the bridge in the latter half of the song epitomises pop-punk/emo. Of course, many would have had an affinity with this song after seeing the ever cool Peyton Sawyer scrawl the lyrics all over her red bedroom walls, but broody blondes aside, this is one of those choruses you belt post-break up with every ounce of strength you can muster together.
2. Taking Back Sunday – Cute Without the E (Cut From the Team)
“And will you tell all your friends/You’ve got your gun to my head/This all was only wishful thinking/This all was only wishful thinking”
Okay, so Spin.com got this one right. Look through the CD collection (yep, CD – we’re goin’ way back) of any emo fan from back in the day (still now for me, admittedly) and it will be full of Taking Back Sunday albums. These guys are the godfathers of emo and boy, I would never go against the family. Adam Lazzara certainly has a way with words, and so many of this band’s choruses need to be belted out, but this one really connects people. My own fond memories of this one include half yelling, half slurring it on my way out of a weekly punk club night – you know, wallflower stuff.
3. The Used – On My Own
“Without it all/I’m choking on nothing/It’s clear in my head/I’m screaming for something/Knowing nothing is better than knowing it all”
Now this one doesn’t resemble punk music in sound, but the lyrics scream emo. And funnily enough, so does the band. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t or hasn’t referred to this one as ‘their’ song – present company included.
4. Dashboard Confessional – Vindicated
“Vindicated/I am selfish/I am wrong/I am right/I swear I’m right/Swear I knew it all along/I am flawed/But I am cleaning up so well/I am seeing in me now/The things you swore you saw yourself so clear”
Dashboard loyalists (you know who you are) will tell you that the best tracks are those pre-band, when Chris Carrabba wrote and recorded his emo tunes on his acoustic guitar, with no bass, electric or percussion support. I don’t disagree. However, if ever there were a DC chorus worth screaming at the top of your lungs, it’s this one.
5. Hawthorne Heights – Ohio is for Lovers
“And I can’t make it on my own/Because my heart is in Ohio/So cut my wrists and black my eyes/So I can fall asleep tonight or die/Because you kill me/You know you do, you kill me well/You like it too, and I can tell/You never stop until my final breath is gone.”
This song dropped in primo emo time – such fond memories for my friends and I. (Sidenote – my best friend and I creatively re-worked part of the chorus to ‘you know you do/you do me well/you like it too and I can tell’. I think no matter how far away from the emo scene you might be now, this gem always has a place in your little black side-fringed heart.
6. Red Jumpsuit Apparatus – Face Down
“Do you feel like a man/when you push her around/do you feel better now/as she falls to the ground/Well I’ll tell you my friend/One day this world’s going to end/As your lies crumble down/a new life she has found”
Another poster emo band and a poster emo tune. Definitely a powerful chorus the best of us belted out whenever it was played at a punk-emo club night.
7. Brand New – Seventy Times 7.
“Everyone’s caught on to everything you do/Everyone’s caught onto/I can’t let you let me down again”
Brand New is tricky. My favourites of their don’t follow the conventional verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chrorus pattern of song writing (Degausser and Okay I Believe You But My Tommy Gun Don’t being prime examples). But I digress. This one is a perfect moody melody and Jesse Lacey bursts away from his typical mumble style of singing for each chorus and it’s only appropriate to do the same. The real power in this one comes in the bridge (“so have another drink and drive yourself home/I hope there’s ice on all the roads/And you can think of me when you forget your seatbelt/And again when your head goes through the windshield”).
8. Jack’s Mannequin – The Mixed Tape
“Where are you now/As I’m swimming through your stereo/I’m writing you a symphony of sound/Where are you now/As I rearrange the songs again/This mix could burn a hole in anyone/But it was you I was thinking of”
JM frontman Andrew McMahon has to be the emo music scene’s favourite guy. Before forming Jack’s Mannequin, he fronted Something Corporate, which reigned in the thick of emo popularity (Seriously, if Konstantine wasn’t once your MySpace profile song, were you ever really into emo?). He shattered the hearts of so many when he was diagnosed with leukaemia, but warmed our hearts with his head on approach. His song writing has always hit home and given me the feels, but this one in particular is something special.
9. Fall Out Boy – Sugar We’re Goin’ Down
“We’re going down, down in an earlier round/And, sugar, we’re going down swinging/I’ll be your number one with a bullet/A loaded God complex, cock it and pull it”
Oh, Pete Wentz Fall Out Boy. So many perfect options for this list. So many wonderful choruses. So many sharp lyrics. This one is definitely the one that stands out the most (not for me personally, but in a very extensive survey of three people, this one was the resounding winner). Possibly their biggest pre-radioplay song and a chorus you can’t help but help out along with Patrick Stump’s distinctive voice.
10. From First To Last – Note To Self
“Note to self/I miss you terribly/This is what you call a tragedy/Come back to me/Back to me/To me”
Before there was Skrillex, there was Sonny Moore and his emo fringe and his emo band. I smashed Dear Diary, My Teen Angst Has a Body Count like you wouldn’t believe when I was sixteen (which my black emo fringe). The whole album epitomises what post-hardcore is and the lyrics are rich with emo value. It was Sonny Moore’s first album with the band, and he definitely took the band to another level.
11. The Getaway Plan – Where The City Meets The Sea
“If I’ve learned anything from this/It would all be gone, it would all be gone/And I will take away your breath/Just to turn me on, yeah you turn me on/Down where the city meets the sea/I sit and daylight speaks to me/She carries me away”
Other Rooms, Other Voices was the second major release from this Melbourne band and arguably their most commercially successful. It was release riiiiight on the band end of the emo trend. In the midst of scene kids around Australia trying to cling to the remnants of emo and black and white checkered Vans, Where The City Meets The Sea gave us all one last hurrah.
12. Bright Eyes – Lover I Don’t Have to Love
“I want a lover I don’t have to love/I want a girl who’s too sad to give a fuck/Where’s the kid with the chemicals/I thought he said to meet him here but I’m not sure/I got the money if you got the time/You said ‘it feels good’/I said ‘I’ll give it a try’”
You actually cannot get moodier or sadder than Conor Oberst and Bright Eyes. I admit, I find much of their discography hard to swallow on the best of days, but this track is a winner, and definitely one every scene kid had in their backpocket.
13. A Day To Remember – I’m Made of Wax Larry What Are You Made Of
“Don’t blink/They won’t even miss you at all/And don’t think/That I’ll always be gone/You know I’ve got you like a puppet in the palm of my hand/Don’t you let me down”
This absolute gem was release when emo was making its transition from black skinny jeans and one electric guitar to post-hardcore/metalcore. Of the few emo/punk/metal club nights we had left in Melbourne at the time of its release, this song always brought people to the dancefloor for us to bounce around to like..well, like this
14. Say Anything – Wow, I Can Get Sexual Too
“I called her on the phone and she touched herself/She touched herself, she touched herself/Called her on the phone and she touched herself/I laughed myself to sleep”
Okay, I’ll give you this one. This one being on the list is more about the whole song, rather than specifically the chorus. This was definitely the song where everyone got sleazy at the punk-emo club nights in Melbourne. Everyone sang along and beer-goggle eyed off someone over the other side of the room to mack on with. This tune just kind of brought out that side in everyone.
15. Panic! At The Disco – I Write Sins, Not Tragedies
”I chime in with a “haven’t you people ever heard of closing the god damn door?”/ No, it’s much better to face these kinds of things/With a sense of poise and rationality/I chime in/“Haven’t you people ever heard of closing a goddamn door?!’/No, it’s much better to face these kinds of things with a sense of..”
I’ve always likened Brendon Urie’s dulcet tones to those of Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump (which is probably no surprise, as FOB are responsible for PATD’s big break). This was the band’s breakout hit and was catchy as fuck. The band has since gone on to have minor to moderate success, but nothing quite as big as this gem. Emo kids and top 40 lovers alike would ban together to sing this one out til their little black’s heart content.