I looked at the other definitions, and there seems to few people on here that actually know what they're talking about. So I thought I'd add mine, with a bit of history and background information...
1976 saw the birth of punk, bringing with it many sub-genres, sub-sub-genres, and sub-sub-sub-sub-genres. In the early 80s, punk had branched off into several different styles, and ways of taking the genre. In 1981 there was a large amount of "hardcore" bands emerging from the D.C. scene. One of these bands were called "Minor Threat", who had a very vibrant, and melodic sound.
Nearing the end of 1983, the band "Minor Threat" broke up, after the band seemed to "run out of steam", and their last 7" single "Salad Days" in 1984 finally killed the band, and the DC hardcore scene.
After that new bands emerged, taking the genre their own way. 1984 showed the release of "Zen Arcade", an album by minneapolis band "Husker Du". This interpretation showed much more powerful, intense vocals with slow, melancholy and more melodic song writing.
In Spring 1984, D.C. Hardcore band "Rites of Spring" emerged, taking inspiration from the earlier hardcore scene. The band brought a totally new vocal approach to Husker Du's original style.
Summer 1985 became known as the "revolution summer" when a whole wave of hardcore bands emerged from the D.C. scene such as Gray Matter, Soulside, Ignition and Dag Nasty. Few bands retained the original fast paced, hardcore style proposed by "Rites of Spring" and "Husker Du" but took a much more droney, melodic approach to the genre.
These bands were then labelled the "D.C. Sound" or "D.C. Hardcore", and some of them were labelled "emo".
It was never suggested by Rites Of Spring that the term "emo" was short for anything. Although it has been proposed that emo was short for "emotive hardcore" or "emotionally charged hardcore punk" in a 1985 flipside interview with the band they claimed they were "not a punk rock band" and it was never mentioned in the text that they were "emotional" or "emotive" although the term "emo" was used several times.
Again, people took the genre several ways. Some people took an "Indie-rock" approach to the genre, while others retained a "post hardcore" style.
Many emo bands were poorly paid, underground, and rarely heard of, and few records were ever released around the genre. Which is probably why today it is so easily mistaken and misunderstood.
The "D.C. hardcore scene" grew, and with it, a stereotype fashion. People with a "Mop-top" haircut, skinny t-shirts and old trainers became a classic "D.C. hardcore scene" cliche. However, not all of these were "emo fans" nor were they in any way "emo's". It is suggested that this idea was taken, and progressed through the nineties to a much more "geeky" look nowadays.
However, emo is a genre of music, argue all you like, your still wrong. Saying "I am an emo" is like saying "I am a jazz", which is not possible. Emo has been heavily marketed by magazines (Kerrang etc.) and a totally wrong idea of the genre is now being spread across youths.
The early 90s saw a last breath for emo, with a much more softer, "Indie-rock" take on the genre. After that, the rest is history. It's a shame the genre was dragged through the gutter like that.
Emo - Rites Of Spring, Dag Nasty, SDRE, Drive Like Jehu, Fugazi...
What? - GUYS IN GIRL PANTS R HOT!!!11
Anything to do with 14 year old girls instantly becomes void of the possibility of it having anything to do with emo.
Genre of softcore punk music that integrates unenthusiastic melodramatic 17 year olds who dont smile, high pitched overwrought lyrics and inaudible guitar rifts with tight wool sweaters, tighter jeans, itchy scarfs (even in the summer), ripped chucks with favorite bands signature, black square rimmed glasses, and ebony greasy unwashed hair that is required to cover at least 3/5 ths of the face at an angle.
::sniff sniff:: "The Demise of the Siberian Traintracks of Our Rusty Forgotten Unblemished Love" sounds like it would make a great emo band name. ::cry::
An entire subculture of people (usually angsty teens) with a fake personality. The concept of Emo is actually a vicious cycle that never ends, to the utter failing of humanity, and it goes something like this:
1. Girls say they like "sensitive guys" (lie)
2. Guy finds out, so he listens to faggy emo music and dresses like a dork so chicks will see that he is sensitive and not afraid to express himself (lie). He dyes his hair black, wraps himself in a stupid looking scarf, develops an eating disorder, and rants about how "nobody understands".
3. Now an emo guy, he meets Emo chick and they start dating, talking about how their well-off suburban lifestyles are terrible and depressing (lie)
4. Emo guy is just too much of a pussy. His penis is too small, he's too depressed to bathe, and has more mood swings than emo chick, and he doesn't even have a menstrual cycle. Emo chick dumps him, saying "It's not you, it's me." (lie) as she drives off with Wayne, the school jock and captain of the football team.
5. Emo guy goes home and cries, proceeds to write a weak song and strum a single string on his acoustic guitar. Another emo chick sees how he is so in touch with his feelings, and the cycle continues.
This is the sad truth of the emo lifestyle/music, and now that I look at how pathetic it really is, maybe the emos DO have something to cry about!
When she sees how sensitive and emo I have become, she'll definately go out with me!
Like a Goth, only much less dark and much more Harry Potter.
My life sucks, I want to cry.
The Difference between Emo And Goth:
Emos Hate themselves
Goths hate Everyone
Emos Want to Kill themselves
Goths Want to kill Everyone
Punk music on estrogen. Often acoustic guitar with soft, high male vocals that dwell exessively on the singer's feelings, especially melancholy remembrances of past relationships/mistakes in life. A form of music that diverged from punk in the '80s, the name "emo" is derived from the emotive style of the lyrics and music. This genre has lately been marketed heavily by the music industry to teenagers with bands such as Dashboard Confessional and Taking Back Sunday, and has seen much commercial and mainstream success. The music has also spawned a subculture which conforms to certain conventions in dress such as tight sweatshirts, tight band T-shirts and horn-rim glasses. Adherents profess to exessively melancholy temperments. Males that adhere to the emo subculture are sometimes confused with metrosexuals; indeed the line between the two is somwhat blurred, though both groups claim to be intouch with their emotional side. The ephemeral and hackneyed nature of emo songwriting suggests that its audience will be restricted largely to teenagers. the genre suffers from a lack of credibility outside the aforementioned demographic group, much like current Nu Metal bands.
girlfriend: C'mon, lets have sex.
boyfriend: I'm too sad to have sex.
girlfriend: I'm sad too; lets have sex and cry.
boyfriend: I'm already crying.
A group of white, mostly middle-class well-off kids who find imperfections in there life and create a ridiculous, depressing melodrama around each one. They often take anti-depressants, even though the majority don't need them. They need to wake up and deal with life like everyone else instead of wallowing in their imaginary quagmire of torment.
XxSlavetoAnguishxX: omg my gf just left me
acidburnedsoul: that sux man
XxSlavetoAnguishxX: i blame myself only i'm such an ass *cries*
acidburnedsoul: dude come over to my house and we can cut ourselves together
XxSlavetoAnguishxX: okay *cries*
acidburnedsoul: omg dashboard confessional has a new cd, i preordered it already
XxSlavetoAnguishxX: dude they're my favorite band to self-mutilate to
acidburnedsoul: i prefer to cut myself while watching Napoleon Dynamite on my bigscreen
XxSlavetoAnguishxX: dude that movie is so deep. i cry every time i see it
acidburnedsoul: me too. i hate myself
XxSlavetoAnguishxX: yeah we're such tortured souls, nobody understands how hard life is for us
acidburnedsoul: yeah we got it tough dude. pass the tissues
"Emo" is not short for "Emotional." "Emo" does not mean Taking Back Sunday and Dashboard Confessional, despite what MTV has lead you to believe in the last few years. "Emo" is not sidebangs, tight pants, and male vocalists who sing like little girls about their failed relationships. "Emo" is not the use of diluted, meaningless metaphors and similes such as "My arms are like pinecones," and most definitely is not the rampant use of words such as "autumn," "heart," "knife," "bleeding," "leaves," and "razorblade."more...
I just thought I'd clear that up after all of these "definitions" in which I have encountered an unbelievable amount of people who try to pass off their blatantly false pretenses as fact, and are slowly infecting others with their high-horse, holier-than-thou bullshit. Because honestly, with your ridiculous definitions, Beethoven, George Gershwin, and Britney Spears are/was "emo bands."
Now, onto the real definition.
In the early 90s there was a movement in the hardcore genre that came to be known as "Emotive Hardcore," spearheaded by Rites Of Spring. Harder-core-than-thou kids, who swore by Dischord Records a la Minor Threat, actually coined the term "Emo" as something of a put-down for the kids who really liked Rites Of Spring, Indian Summer and this new wave of "Emotive" Hardcore bands. That's right, "Emo" was once not something kids called themselves. The field exploded outwards from there - Level-Plane Records has always been the most famous Emo label....