Saturday, January 27, 2007

Screamo: Music of Humanity.

When you read the title of this blog, objections will no doubt pop into your brains automatically. Suffer me to ask you to put those away for just a few minutes. You, the reader, are no doubt one of two (possibly three) types of people: those who love the genre of music entitled screamo, those who are disgusted by it, or (the third type) those who have never yet experienced it (though the word "screamo" will most likely push you into one of the former two camps). To those who love screamo: please, do not be offended. Do not let your passionate hearts suffocate your brains and strangle the writer of this humble piece with wounded words. To those who hate screamo: read on. Save your objections till after the show.

I write this, because I love screamo. On certain days, the sound of Norma Jean, Showbread, or UnderOath is actually rather comforting (odd though it may sound). It is in my nature to defend that which I love, even though the arguments against screamo (as we will discuss later) are great. I'd like to attempt to defend screamo on a personal level rather than on a cultural level. But, either way, it's pointless to try to defend something without knowing what the meaning of that thing is. Thus comes the definition.

"Screamo", as many of you might have guessed, evolved from the genre "emo" (emotional rock). The word "emo" constitutes a very hard concept because it is used to describe so many things. It is almost impossible now to use the term. The word "emo", however, was first used to describe a musical movement in the early 1990's centralized around Washington, D.C. It was started by disgruntled punk and "indie" rockers who didn't like 1980's metal. They wanted more melody in their music (see here for a fairly in-depth article), and thus they started something new. It didn't gain popularity till the mid-to-late 1990's and boomed in the early 2000's. It is now marked by bands like Fall Out Boy , Jimmy Eat World, Dashboard Confessional,and Taking Back Sunday (which I love). Many of those who know how emo started grow to dislike some of the newer bands who gain the title of being emo and tend to refer to them as "whiny cry-baby wussy boy[s] with... acoustic guitar[s] and too many feelings" (spelling edited; see here for a not so in-depth but humorous article).

"Screamo" is yet another touchy genre. For example. Showbread is considered to be screamo, but UnderOath and Norma Jean are not (Underoath is considered to be post-hardcore, and Norma Jean metalcore). However, for the purposes of this discussion, I here-by deem these petty differences stupid and irrelevant to this discussion. But, I will warn you that there are those that are very adamant about this, so be careful who you talk to. Whereas emo was the promotion of melody and the rejection of 80's metal (which I can understand), screamo stems from emo but is a throwback to metal. Generally, it uses screaming (as the name suggests) to show forth emotion rather than melodic guitars.

Hopefully that will give you a brief idea of what emo and screamo are (to solidify the idea, I would recommend using those links to listen to "Dance, Dance" by Fall Out Boy [pardon the sexual references within the song] for a good idea of a song commonly recognized by the masses as "emo", and "Mouth Like a Magazine" by Showbread for a good idea of a commonly recognized screamo song). Next: the objections.

The objections, the objections, oh the objections. Believe you me, I know the objections. The most common of which is "it's just ugly". That's a hard one to get past. Honestly, it is. I don't think that I can refute that. But the fact that I cannot refute that objection is exactly the fact which inspired me to write this. You can't fight a catchy tune! No matter what you do, some things always, or at least often, will be appealing. Lack of maturity? Perhaps. But that does not solve the situation. One might say "oh, just let your senses mature". Great. Now what? I still like screamo. I still sing along to "Memphis Will Be Laid To Waste". I recognize that there is no competition between Chopin and Showbread, but there's got to be some reason why I like it (other than the adrenaline rush). Even if it is not beautiful, can there be truth and goodness in screamo?

But, alas, I am getting ahead of myself. I agreed to answer the objections before providing my own case, and so I shall. "It's just ugly". It often is ugly, true enough. But just because one man in a song is screaming at you, does it render the song worthless? One man screaming at you... what a loaded phrase. That sums up the ugly argument rather nicely doesn't it? Screamo is often seen as so abrasive, abusive even. Alert! Ear abuse! But does that one instrument, a man's voice, seemingly malfunctioning in a screamo song, disrupt and destroy the entire song? Is the musical, instrumental talent shown in one song negated by screaming? And this question can be put to metalcore, post-hardcore or any of the other bizillion genres piling up under the broad style of rock. But the word "screamo" is loaded too. The word makes you shudder. Screamo. Brrrh. What makes it so enticing?

I confess, I often listen to this when I'm filled with angst. That perhaps is one of the problems. Tonight, Dr. David John Seel, Jr., in his lecture at my school, St. Andrew's Academy, noted that our pop-culture's delight in angry metal and rap music makes us wallow in our angst rather than confront it. We need to attack our anger and drive it from our minds, rather than let it abide.

So, after all these objections, I ask again: is there any merit to screamo? It's hard to think of any, isn't it? At one end, one could say that it is a useful tool for portraying emotion, but that would seem to contradict Dr. Seel's remark. On the other end, we could disregard it completely and tell ourselves to just never listen to it, and perhaps we'd be better off. Please remember that I'm am writing about the problem of screamo on a personal, not cultural scale. Thus, avoiding it and yet living in our culture might be hard.

What about something slightly in between? What if we agreed that screamo does in fact portray emotion. Simple concession. I would argue to take it one step farther than that. I would argue that it is the music of the human mind. Ever since the fall, we have been cursed with naturally bad dispositions. We don't tend to act like happy little elves. We don't (or at least most of us don't) frolic down the streets with wide grins, singing merrily just because it's a Monday. Screamo probably more accurately portrays how we feel most of the time. It's human. Now, that's based on the fall. Now we have the joy of Christ. Can the joy of Christ be portrayed in angry screamo music? (I must note that it is incorrect of me to recognize all screamo as being really angry, "So Selfish It's Funny" by Showbread is, oddly enough, quite funny.) But, given an average angry screamo or metalcore song, I would say that no, it cannot portray the love of Christ. Why? I don't know, maybe because Christ didn't scream salvation at us? Yes, he screamed at the merchants in the temple, and yes, he probably screams at us when we don't listen to him, but do we want to eternally dwell in that relationship with Christ? I don't.

What is the final word? I'm terrible at final words. Remember the post on feminism? Yeah? Lack-of-final-word syndrome! But I shall try to be decisive on this shaky subject. Should we always listen to screamo? No. Listen to Tchaikovsky. It's much better for you. Should you ever listen to screamo again? Probably not. Going to a screamo concert in some big, open area that doesn't give you claustrophobia and where you can just kinda of sit back and hang out or go out and be crazy (which isn't my cup of tea) probably wouldn't hurt. The trick, as Dr. Seel would say, would to not let screamo control you. Don't dwell on screamo. Dwell on the joy of Christ, which can be portrayed elsewhere. Yes, screamo can remind us that we aren't happy-go-lucky anti-humans who no longer have to deal with emotions or trials or tribulations, but that's about it.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


I was thinking about dating and teenage relationships (yes, I know, I think about the subjects often), and it occurred to me that marriage, in a sense, it about ownership. This is purely a selfish reason, of course, but think of it! Man wants woman. Woman wants man. They get married. Each are each others. Theres comfort in that fact, the fact that when you are married, your spouse is yours and only yours (hopefully). I'm only speculating, I really have no idea what marriage is really like, only guesses.

But we teenagers, we do not have the authority to give ourselves. We can't make the commitment. That is not to say, that we teenagers out to live lives of sexual havoc because we cannot commit ourselves to one person. Quite the contrary! We cannot commit ourselves to anyone in the sense that marriage is a commitment. We are under the guardianship of those who are in authority over us, and till our time has come, we are not the ones to make the decisions concerning who we give ourselves to and how.

This all seems rather stupid and simple when printed on the screen, but I think it's a fact that we teenagers overlook. We're wrapped up in our desire to be individuals and we are being told by the culture that our desire is reality. But it isn't! The truth of the matter is, we are students. Despite constant, burning feelings and desires, we are not at liberty to do anything outside of what our teachers see fit for us to do. We've grown so proud that we've clean forgot our God-ordained place in life! We haven't graduated, and many still haven't even after leaving high school, I'm sure. We need to quit being individuals, and start being students.
The Creator