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Top 38 Best Emo Songs Of All Time

It’s been more than a decade since the first Emo Music scene erupted in Washington, DC, thanks to a handful of obscure bands. The genre has since become a worldwide phenomenon with specialized labels and world-conquering bands. 

Emo might be characterized by a variety of things, the lyrical content being the most obvious. That being said, there’s a look and feel to great Emo music that you can’t easily define. Although, most fans would agree you know it when you see and hear it.

But, I’ve decided to put the hairstyles and make-up aside and take a look at some of the best Emo songs of all time. These tracks are in no particular order or ranking.

Best Emo Songs Of All Time

Top 38 Best Emo Songs Of All Time

The Anthem by Good Charlotte

Album: The Young and The Hopeless

Some might argue that this doesn’t qualify as an Emo tune. But, the purpose of this article is not to define the genre. The song was written by the identical twin music duo of Benji and Joel Madden. At its heart sits a message about being who you want to be and not who you are expected to be. 

The track is one of the band’s biggest hits, reaching #10 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart. Eventually, it became Good Charlotte’s second Top 50 hit on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #43. “The Anthem” has been certified Gold in the USA, Australia, and the UK. 

Blue and Yellow by The Used

Album: The Used

This track is the third single from The Used’s debut album. The group has never taken to the Emo label. But, they did help bring the sound of Emo to the masses through songs like “Blue and Yellow.” 

The subject matter revolves around friendship. This goes to show that Emo doesn’t always have to be negative or depressing. 

“Blue and Yellow” has become one of the band’s most enduring songs. It peaked at #23 on the US Billboard Alternative Airplay chart. 

When Paula Sparks by Copeland

Album: Beneath Medicine Tree

This track is one many would regard as another defining song of the Emo sound. The beautiful way the guitars on this song were mixed conveys an atmosphere of empty melancholy. Listen to the first few chords on some earphones, and you’ll know what I mean. 

The entire album features prolific use of medical imagery. Aaron Marsh drew inspiration from the hospitalization of his girlfriend. “When Paula Sparks” has been described as the emotional centerpiece of the album; it revolves around waiting at a loved one’s bedside in a hospital. 

I’m Not Okay I Promise by My Chemical Romance

Album: Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge

Of course, there are going to be MCR songs on this list of the best Emo songs of all time. So, we might as well start early. The band has since crossed over into more styles than can be named. But, they were still making Emo mainstream on their second record.

This track might have been a mantra to you if you were in high school around the time of its release. The range of insecurities covered in the lyrics represented the entire world of a teenager. 

Combine the lyrics with that awesome intro riff and those raunchy power chords, and what do you get? You get a recipe to make young hoody-covered heads go up and down.

Lucky Denver Mint by Jimmy Eat World

Album: Clarity

“Lucky Denver Mint” was sent to radio stations before Clarity was released. And the track’s popularity helped to convince the label to release the album. On this track, you can hear the beginnings of what would eventually be molded into a sound that would conquer the world.

The track wasn’t a chart-topper. But, it did gain a lot of airplay on US radio. The song was selected for the soundtrack of the 1999 film “Never Been Kissed.”

Thnks fr th Mmrs by Fall Out Boy

Album: Infinity On High

This track’s title was a nod to the band’s record label. The label told them their song titles were too long. It’s a hard-rocking ode to an old flame that has so much drama you can’t help but pay attention. “Thnks fr th Mmrs” was composed by Patrick Stump with lyrics by bassist Pete Wentz.

The song is one of Fall Out Boy’s biggest and most enduring tracks. And is a very successful Emo song. It was a Top 20 hit, peaking at #11 on the Billboard Hot 100. Additionally, it was a Top 10 hit in Australia and Belgium. 

It also charted well on several other US charts. “Thks fr th Mmrs” has sold more than two and a half million copies. 

MakeDamnSure by Taking Back Sunday

Album: Louder Now

This hardcore commentary track is the third single from the band’s third album. Musically, the track is a fantastic showcase of the talent in the group. The start/stop nature of the guitars and drums during the verses makes the chorus’s wall of sound hit that much harder.

Lyrically, the track is an exploration of man’s inherent habit of criticizing and resenting others. Often merely because they are happier or more successful than we are. The vocal delivery helps imbue the words with a sense of true anxiety. 

MakeDamnSure is one of the group’s most successful tracks. It peaked at #48 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #8 on the Alternative Songs chart.

Bleeder by Alkaline Trio

Album: Alkaline Trio

This band’s success defies all the rules known in the music industry. Yet, I would wager that the most endearing part about the group is their relatability. Their songs often deal with the ragged, stitched-together way our lives appear to us sometimes.  

This track has a thickness to it. Relentless thumping drums, combined with muffled distorted guitars, make for a song that has a lot of mud on its feet. Then, throw in that frayed vocal delivery and lyrics about having unhealthy ways/habits of coping with issues.

The result is one of the most well known Emo songs ever released. Therefore, it just has to also be one of the best Emo songs of all time.

A Boy Brushed Living in Black and White by Underoath 

Album: They’re Only Chasing Safety

One of the best things about Underoath’s fourth album is the dynamism in their sound. This extends not only to the instrumentalism of the players but to the tone of the vocals. Clean and growling vocals often appear in the same song. This track is an excellent example of these dynamics.

The track features verses sung by the group’s drummer, Aaron Gillespie, which contrast beautifully with the growls from Chamberlain. The lyrics revolve around morality and the consequences of turning your back on your principles. 

Burial Society by Have A Nice Life

Album: Unnatural World

I would advise listening to this track and the album under the right circumstances. It is quite a visceral exploration of some very dark themes. “Burial Society” leads you in with a lightly-distorted drum machine and a heavily-reverberated piano that set the tone perfectly.

The vocal sounds like it’s delivered from a great distance through a hosepipe or something similar. But, it works so well within the context. The idea of suicide is given a very “shoe-gazing” feel in this haunting little track. 

Helena by My Chemical Romance

Album: Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge

We return to that fantastic second album by MCR, this time to visit a different Emo anthem. “Helena” is the third single from Three Cheers For Revenge and has become an unofficial closing number for the group’s live shows. 

The song was inspired by Gerard Way’s grandmother. He expressed a lot of self-criticism for the fact that he wasn’t there during her last days. The track is an “angry letter” to himself. 

The profound exploration of this theme has made this one of the most memorable Emo songs. “Helena” went to #1 on the UK Rock and Metal charts while peaking at #20 on the UK singles chart. 

I’m Just A Kid by Simple Plan

Album: No Pads, No Helmets…Just Balls

This might be considered a coming-of-age Punk Rock ballad. However, there’s enough of a dark streak in the line “nobody cares about me” to push into Emo territory. 

Navigating the uncertainties of life as a young person can be heavy enough to stay with you forever. So, songs like this might serve as a reminder of what the younger you endured and give you courage for the future.

The track was featured in the films “Grind,” “The New Guy,” and “Cheaper By The Dozen.” “I’m Just a Kid” has been certified platinum. 

Dance Floor Anthem (I Don’t Want to Be in Love) by Good Charlotte

Album: Morning Revival

Ah yes, that lovely feeling of denial that sets in right after the ending of a long relationship. One tries to project the image of someone who “doesn’t need love” and is “better off now.” Good Charlotte perfectly embodies this facade in the third single from their fourth album. 

Musically, the song was a bit of a dive into new territory for the band. But, it paid off because it’s one of their catchiest numbers yet. 

Commercially, Dance Floor Anthem is Good Charlotte’s most successful single. It peaked at #16 on the Billboard Mainstream Top 40 chart and made it into the Top 30 of the Billboard Hot 100. The track has been certified platinum in both the US and Australia. 

Adam’s Song by Blink 182

Album: Enema of The State

Initially, the group’s bassist, Mark Hoppus, wanted this song to be left off Enema of The State. He felt the subject matter was too depressing, but his bandmates were already taken by the song. 

“Adam’s Song” was inspired by a suicide letter that Mark read in a magazine. It has since been regarded as a highlight of the album and the band’s entire catalog. The track peaked at #2 on the Billboard Modern Rock chart; it also charted well in Canada and Italy. 

Unfortunately, “Adam’s Song” became the subject of controversy when it was found to be the last thing a victim from Columbine High School had been listening to. Bandmembers have expressed that the song was intended to help those struggling with loneliness and depression. 

Dirty Little Secret by All American Rejects

Album: Move Along

If this song doesn’t transport you back to your poster-plastered bedroom as a teenager, then you may be suffering from amnesia. This Punk-influenced, angst-ridden hit is the lead single from the group’s second album. 

The track explores the universal theme of having secrets. One of mine is that I never admitted to my girlfriends how much I like this song.

“Dirty Little Secret” was well received by critics and fans alike. It became the first single by the band to reach the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100, where it peaked at #9. It was the group’s second Top 20 hit in the UK, peaking at #18. “Dirty Little Secret” has been certified platinum. 

Lying Is the Most Fun a Girl Can Have Without Taking Her Clothes Off by Panic At The Disco

Album: A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out

This bizarre number is the fourth single from Panic At The Disco’s debut album. Additionally, it features a strange music video where people have fish tanks on their heads. If you’re looking for entertainment or a great go-to for the end of a crappy relationship, this will be sure to satisfy you.

“Lying is the Most Fun…” was a Top 30 hit in the US and Australia, where it peaked at #28 and #26, respectively. The song gained great popularity after release and has since become one of the group’s most memorable tunes. It has been certified Platinum in the US. 

Boulevard of Broken Dreams by Green Day

Album: American Idiot

Billie Joe Armstrong escaped to a cheap flat in New York for a few weeks when he stumbled across this track. He has said that the title was taken from a Gottfried Helnwein painting of James Dean. Lyrically, the track explores the theme of loneliness from which one is incapable of escaping. 

“Boulevard of Broken Dreams” is one of Green Day’s most successful singles. And it has become one of their most enduring songs. Likewise, it is one of the most popular Emo songs of all time. The track peaked at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and topped many other charts in the US and overseas. It has been certified platinum in five countries. 

For a Pessimist, I’m Pretty Optimistic by Paramore

Album: Riot!

The perfect vent for a teenager who experiences the disappointment of misplaced faith in someone else for the first time. It was reworked many times before the final cut was laid down. But, when you listen to the strained vocal performance, you can understand why. 

The track is possessed of an edginess. Something that just makes it perfect for an angry air guitar session behind a closed bedroom door. 

The Kill by Thirty Seconds To Mars

Album: A Beautiful Lie

“The Kill” is a wonderful, gut-wrenching pile-driver of a song. It served as the second single from Thirty Second’s second album. The track features a great music video inspired by the film “The Shining.” 

Thematically, the song is about coming to terms with your innermost fears and making peace with who you are as a person. 

“The Kill” was a hit on Alternative and Rock stations in the US. It also charted well in the UK and Australia. The song peaked at #65 on the Billboard Hot 100 and has been certified double-platinum in the US. 

With Me by Sum 41

Album: Underclass Hero

One of those days right? You can’t get that certain someone out of your head no matter what you keep busy with or how loud the club noise around you is. This is the perfect song to help you get through the longing and get on with your life. “With Me” is the third single from the band’s fourth album. 

The track starts by giving the impression that it’s a straight-up ballad with a simple acoustic and vocal arrangement. As the track progresses, it builds into one of the band’s most powerful and hard-hitting anthems. Big chords and big vocals that you can scream into your pillow. Better now, right?

The Quiet Things that No-One Ever Knows by Brand New

Album: Deja Entendu

Here’s one of the saddest Emo songs from the now disbanded Brand New out of New York. The track’s music video is particularly saddening. 

It revolves around a man who gets into an accident with his girlfriend. He then goes through the trauma of going with her to the emergency room, where she eventually recovers. The music video ends with the main character still on the ground at the accident scene. It hits you right there, believe me.

The song was Brand New’s first single ever to chart in the US. It made it to #37 on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart. In the UK, it peaked at #39 on the National Singles chart. 

Dance, Dance by Fall Out Boy

Album: From Under The Cork Tree

Arguably one of Fall Out Boys’ biggest and baddest hits, right? This hardcore, bass-driven anthem is about conflicting feelings for the girl that you fancy. Interestingly, that great baseline was written on an acoustic. Patrick Stump said he had David Bowie’s “Modern Love” in mind when he put it down. 

“Dance, Dance” became one of Fall Out Boy’s biggest chart performers. It crossed over from Rock charts to Pop and Alternative radio, where it spread like wildfire. 

Eventually, it peaked at #9 on the Billboard Hot 100, making it the group’s second Top 10 hit. It achieved the same success in the UK. “Dance, Dance” has been certified triple-platinum.

Numb by Linkin Park

Album: Meteora

or

Num (feat. Jay-Z)

Album: Collision Course

Whether you prefer the original or the crazy remix collaboration with Jay-Z, “Numb” is one of those songs that’s just so loaded with emotion and raw power that it can’t be ignored. If you’ve had a bad day, this track will be there like an old punching bag for you to unload on. 

“Numb” is one of Linkin Park’s biggest anthems. It gained great praise from both fans and critics alike. As a result, it’s one of the biggest Emo songs ever. And, without question, it’s one of the best Emo songs of all time.

It stayed on the top of the Alternative chart for twelve weeks. Eventually, it peaked at #11 on the Billboard Hot 100. The track was also an international hit and was eventually certified multi-platinum in three countries. 

Scars by Papa Roach 

Album: Getting Away With Murder 

Lead singer, Jacobi Shaddix, said that he wrote the lyrics for “Scars” based on the Hanibal Lecter quote from the film “Red Dragon.” “Our scars remind me that the past is real.” 

This track revolves around not being able to help someone else deal with their demons. The process is never pleasant, but it’s necessary. This is a great tune to build yourself up without having to force a false sense of cheeriness. 

“Scars” is one of the group’s most successful singles. It dominated the Rock charts peaking at #2 and #4 on the Modern Rock Tracks and Mainstream Rock Tracks charts. “Scars” is also the group’s only Top 40 hit peaking at #15 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #7 on the Mainstream Top 40. 

Thank You For The Venom by My Chemical Romance 

Album: Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge

We could just smack all of Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge on this list, couldn’t we? This is the second single from the album, and it features one of guitarist Ray Toro’s most iconic riffs. Gerard Way references the Morrissey song “Sister I’m a Poet” in the lyrics.

“Thank You For The Venom” has become a fan favorite at MCR shows and was featured in “Need for Speed Underground Rivals.” The track peaked at #4 on the UK Rock and Metal Charts.

Seventeen Forever by Metro Station

Album: Metro Station

Metro Station might make you cringe a little when you hear it now. But, their debut album is one of the most entertaining Emo records of its day. This angsty track about wanting to date a girl who is underage served as the fourth and final single from the album. The track was co-written by guitarist Trace Cyrus who is Miley Cyrus’s brother. 

The track charted well at home and overseas. It reached #5 and #7 on the Pop and Dance charts in Belgium and Australia, respectively. In the US, it was in the Billboard Hot Top 50. It also peaked at #26 on the Mainstream Top 40 chart. 

Miss Murder by AFI

Album: Decemberunderground

Here’s another famous Emo anthem that had fringes flying back in 2006. “Miss Murder” was released as the lead single from AFI’s seventh album. There are many opinions on what the song is about. However, lead singer Davey Havoc has chosen to remain a closed book on the subject. 

According to him, it’s better that you decide on your own meaning from the lyrics.

“Miss Murder” is AFI’s most successful single to date. It reached the Top 20 in Australia, peaking at #14 while topping the Alternatives chart in the US. It’s also the group’s highest charting single on the HOT 100, where it peaked at #24. “Miss Murder” has been certified platinum in Australia. 

Only One by Yellowcard 

Album: Ocean Avenue

“Only One” is the third single from Yellowcard’s fourth studio album. It’s a wonderfully complex ballad that has a very wonky, patchwork sound. The group revealed that the song was written on the fly as opposed to having finished it before they went to the studio. 

The track includes some gorgeous ear candy in the form of string arrangements scattered throughout. Make sure you listen to the original and not the radio edit because you’ll be missing out on a whole violin solo. 

According to singer Ryan Key, the track is an apologetic ballad about a relationship coming to an end. The track peaked at #15 on the Billboard Modern Rock track chart and #28 on the Mainstream Top 40 Chart. 

Jude Law and A Semester Abroad by Brand New

Album: Your Favorite Weapon

Here’s one for all the boys who’ve been brought low by a lady. In this very early incarnation of Brand New, we have fast and loud guitars with pounding drums and an anxious vocal delivery. 

Our protagonist is already at the point of letting go. But, he gives his unfaithful girlfriend one hell of a well-wishing. The track is the first and only single for the group’s debut album. 

I Miss You by Blink-182

Album: Blink-182

You knew this one was coming. I’m not even going to pretend otherwise. This heart-wrenching major key ballad from the trio’s fifth album was written in two halves. Guitarist Tom and bassist Mark wrote their verses separately and then brought them together during recording. 

“I Miss You” features beautiful production with full acoustic arrangements. And there is a reference to Jack and Sally from Tim Burton’s “Nightmare Before Christmas.” 

The song has become one of the group’s most enduring and successful. It managed to cross over to Pop and Contemporary radio. It topped the Billboard Alternative Airplay chart and was a Top 50 song on the Billboard Hot 100. “I Miss You” has been certified platinum in Italy and the UK. 

The Middle by Jimmy Eat World

Album: Bleed American

Time for an upper, don’t you think? Jimmy Adkins has got just the tune. “The Middle” is about not being too hard on yourself and giving credit where credit is due, even when things seem low. 

The song was written soon after the group was dropped from their label Capitol Records. It is the second single from an album that Adkins financed by himself. 

“The Middle” became one of the biggest hits of the year and the group’s breakthrough song. It went to #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and became a Top 50 hit in Australia, Ireland, the UK, and New Zealand. “The Middle” has been certified platinum.

Check Yes Juliet by We The Kings

Album: We The Kings

Emo music is never short on some soppy romance that’s doomed to fail. And this debut single from We The Kings’ first album is a fantastic example of it. I’m quite sure this track had most of my female friends looking out their windows for a long-haired, lip-ringed Romeo to come and serenade them.  

The track did not do much initially. It peaked at #25 on the Mainstream Top 40 and only managed #70 on the Billboard Hot 100. It proved to be a sleeper hit in Australia, where it charted three years after release, becoming a Top 30 hit. 

“Check Yes Juliet” is certified platinum in the US and double-platinum in Australia. For those achievements, it earns its place among the best Emo songs of all time.

Misery Business by Paramore

Album: Riot!

The breakthrough hit from the Tennesee-based Rock monsters should work well for any revenge fantasies the teenage mind may conceive. I stress the word “FANTASIES” here.

Some believed the origin of the phrase to be from a Stephen King book. But, the song is addressed to a girl whom lead singer Hayley felt was manipulating a friend of hers. This one’s good and heavy but harmless in the end. 

“Misery Business” is the song that introduced Paramore to the world. The track became the group’s first big hit in the UK, peaking at #3 on the Hot Modern Rock chart. It also climbed to #26 on the Billboard 100. The song has been certified six times platinum in the US.

Sk8ter Boy by Avril Lavigne

Album: Let Go

I know that a thousand angry fringes just got flicked Bieber-style in contempt of this song being featured on this list. But, conceptually, there’s nothing more Emo than the posh girl in high school telling a rough-looking skater to beat it. 

There’s a sincerity to the track that made it appeal to the underdog in all of us. Not just the bored and disenfranchised youth. “Sk8ter Boy” was a titanic hit for Lavigne, becoming one of her signature songs. 

It racked up a string of awards and nominations, including a Grammy nomination for Best Female Rock Performance. It was a Top 10 song in ten countries. In the US, it topped the Billboard Mainstream Top 40. “Sk8ter Boy” has gone platinum in five countries.  

Perfect by Simple Plan

Album: No Pads, No Helmets…Just Balls

Typically, personal material has the power to make a big impact. The final single from the Canadian group’s debut album became a huge track both in their homeland and overseas. When asked about the inspiration for the song, Drummer Chuck Comeau stated that it was a lyrical message to his parents. 

“Perfect” became Simple Plan’s best performer on the US charts. It peaked at #24 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #5 on the Mainstream Top 40. It was a Top 10 hit in Canada and Australia and would go on to achieve platinum status in both countries. 

Special note…

A sequel to “Perfect,” named “Problem Child,” was released on Simple Plan’s fifth album, Taking One For The Team.

Ohio Is For Lovers by Hawthorne Heights

Album: Silence In Black and White

For many folks, this is the true “Emo Anthem.” It has been referred to as such in more than one publication. 

The song is about leaving their lovers/girlfriends in their home state of Ohio when they went on tour. It’s the group’s debut single and has driven boyfriends (especially ones who share a car) all over the world crazy ever since then. Just kidding, it’s a fantastic track. 

Since its release, “Ohio Is For Lovers” has become the fan favorite at live shows and can be considered the group’s signature song. It peaked at #34 on the Billboard Alternative Airplay Chart. 

Sugar We’re Going Down By Fall Out Boy

Album: From Under The Cork Tree

This hard-hitting, slightly jealousy-driven thumper of a track launched FOB into the mainstream consciousness in 2005. The song started as an idea for a straight-up Punk tune. 

But, it has since become the “I’m in denial cause I still want you” anger anthem for angst-riven youth everywhere. For many of us, this song is synonymous with striped open-finger gloves and black nail polish. 

“Sugar We’re Going Down” was a huge commercial success, becoming a Top 10 hit in Canada, the UK, and the US. The track peaked at #3 on the Billboard Alternative Airplay chart and #8 on the Billboard Hot 100. The single has been certified times platinum in the US.

The Only Exception by Paramore

Album: Brand New Eyes

For this album, Paramore donned a different cloak, and it culminated in tracks like this one. They were used to writing much darker material. Both in terms of the music and subject matter. 

This is a laid-back, Radiohead-sounding song about wanting to avoid the potential pain that comes with love, but not being able to go without it. It’s the third single from Brand New Eyes. 

“The Only Exception” became the album’s most successful single, topping the UK Rock and Metal chart. As well as becoming a Top 20 hit in Australia and the US. It peaked at #24 on the Billboard Hot 100. The track has been certified Platinum in the US and Australia. 

Looking for More Great Music?

If so, take a look at our detailed articles on the Best Songs of The 2000s, the Best Songs Of All Time, the Best Funk Songs of All Time, the Best 70s Rock Songs, and the Best 90s Country Songs for more great song selections.

Of course, you need to hear all those tunes. So, check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Headphones For Rock & Metal Music, the Best Headphones for Music, the Most Comfortable Headphones, and the Best Headphones Under $200 you can buy in 2022.

And, don’t miss our comprehensive reviews of the Best True Wireless Earbuds, the Best Bass Earbuds, the Best Sound Quality Earbuds, and the Best Noise Isolating Earbuds currently on the market.

Best Emo Songs Of All Time – Conclusion

Heartbreak, longing, angst, or just plain inexplicable hormonal rage can be your poison. Luckily, there’s an emo tune out there to help you get that stuff out of your system. 

Now and again, it’s a good idea to revisit these songs for a healthy dose of nostalgia. Just make sure no one catches you singing along, or it will be all over the office for a week. 

Until next time, happy listening.

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About Corey Hoffman

Corey is a multi-instrumentalist who has played in numerous bands over the years, some good, some not so good. He has also written countless songs and recorded five albums in professional studios across America. Today he is a hobby musician but still loves the guitar after over 15 years of playing.

He considers his writing as a way to share what he has learned over the decades with younger generations ad always can't wait to get his hands on the latest gear.

He lives just outside New York with his wife Barbara and their two German Shepherds, Ziggy and Iggy.

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