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First-year guard Aaryn Battle (1) dribbles the ball during Thursday evening’s game against Wake Forest in the Petersen Events Center.
Pitt women’s basketball falls back into their old habits, fall to Wake Forest 65-50
By Sara Meyer, Staff Writer • February 23, 2024

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First-year guard Aaryn Battle (1) dribbles the ball during Thursday evening’s game against Wake Forest in the Petersen Events Center.
Pitt women’s basketball falls back into their old habits, fall to Wake Forest 65-50
By Sara Meyer, Staff Writer • February 23, 2024

Opinion | Midwest emo music: A debate

Opinion+%7C+Midwest+emo+music%3A+A+debate
Jiri Palayekar | Staff Illustrator

Midwest emo is a subgenre that developed, as the name suggests, in the Midwest. I was recently involved in a debate with a group of people I know about whether Midwest emo is strictly geographical or if bands from anywhere can participate in the genre. I asked my friends who are fans of the Midwest emo genre for their input.

My friend Sophia Viggiano thinks the genre should only include bands from the region.

“I think the genre does have some bands like, for example, The Front Bottoms, being considered Midwest emo.” Viggiano said. “The genre has artists that aren’t from the Midwest. Why is it called Midwest emo if some people included bands in the genre that aren’t from the Midwest?”

The Front Bottoms are from New Jersey, but their lyrics resemble what some might consider Midwest emo-esque. While anyone can write sad heartbreak lyrics and about wanting to leave their hometown, this tends to be a common theme in Midwest emo. That’s what I love about it. Viggiano suggests that bands not from the Midwest invent a new genre.

“For bands kind of similar to the Midwest emo genre, maybe there could be a different name,” Viggiano said. “I don’t know, it’s confusing and interesting. Modern Baseball for example is from Philly and people call them Midwest emo. It should just be called ‘Whiny man voice music.’”

Some Midwest emo bands even combine multiple genres, like American Football. Between the catchy guitar, unforeseeable time signatures and the sad lyrics, American Football’s synthesis of Midwest emo and math rock creates an unforgettable sound. Math rock originated in the late ‘70s and ‘80s and uses complex time signatures and song structures. It is a tricky genre to describe, but the guitars are very twinkly and the drums are compound and hard to recreate. American Football took off in the ‘90s, and they are still making music as one of the most important bands in the Midwest emo and math rock scenes.

I also decided to text some friends back at home who listen to a lot of the same bands that I do. My friend Hailea Neith believes it’s the music itself and not the region that defines the genre.

“It’s just the sound of the music that makes it Midwest emo. Not where the band is from,” Neith said. “Debating Midwest emo is so fun. It’s such a controversial genre. The thing I hate about all these new little genres or sub-genres is that it makes it so hard to depict where everyone’s from and where they get their sound from.”

She also mentioned country music, another genre that has lost its geographic roots over time.

“Because if you say country music you’re gonna think southern, but it’s more so the sound of the music, same way any genre goes by,” Neith said.

Taylor Swift, for example, is from Reading, Pennsylvania, but started her career in the country genre. Just as her self-titled album, Fearless and Speak Now all have that country-pop sound, there are bands not from the Midwest that can still excel in the Midwest emo scene.

My friend Avery Messina also believes anyone can participate in the genre.

“Midwest emo being one of my favorite subgenres, I think it can come from anywhere,” Messina said. “That’s the best part of weird music like it — it can come from the Midwest from some group of antisocial dudes, and then later on down the road people on the other side of the planet can listen to it and make music just like it.”

I also asked a few people at WPTS radio, the University of Pittsburgh’s radio station. Mandy Devine agrees Midwest can come from anywhere.

“I think any band from anywhere can participate. It’s about how the sound is. I don’t think people care about where the band is from — as long as they like the music,” Devine said.

Zack Rodick, who is from the midwestern state of Missouri and serves as the podcasts director of the station, says it isn’t a perfectly black-and-white argument.

“People will say it’s not real emo, that’s a separate argument,” Rodick said. “The name carries a certain sound — twinkly, glittery, almost like math rock as well. Midwest emo is kind of like a ‘boys who are sad’ type of sound. For Midwest emo bands from the Midwest, it’s about the geographical region while being associated with a yearning for nostalgia. Midwest emo is pensive.”

Lucy Lande, another WPTS member, thinks the region doesn’t matter.

“It’s just a sound,” Lande said. “Some bands advertise as having a Midwest emo sound but will be from, for example, Florida. Any band could label themselves as Midwest emo.”

Some fans say Modern Baseball, a band from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, has a Midwest emo sound. I’m a huge fan of Modern Baseball, and I would agree. The one thing I love most about them, besides all of their outstanding music, is when people say “Modern Baseball is so Midwest emo” when they’re from Philadelphia. 

The thing is, that’s what makes the genre so interesting. You can grab a band from Philly and just say they’re part of the Midwest emo genre.

I saw The Hotelier back in November at Mr. Smalls Theatre. Despite being from Massachusetts, they still have a Midwest emo sound. The Hotelier got together in 2009 and released their first full album in 2011 titled “It Never Goes Out.” The group makes music that is so raw and pure — I especially love the album “Home, Like Noplace Is There,” which was released in 2014. I enjoy all of their albums, but this one is special to me as I heard the entire album live for their 10th anniversary tour of the album.

Foxing, who joined The Hotelier on their tour, is another fantastic Midwest emo band from Missouri. Foxing joined the tour as it was also the 10th anniversary of their album “The Albatross.” Their songs are so catchy and heartbreaking, especially “Rory,” which is off “The Albatross.” Between the lead singer repeating the lyrics “So why don’t you love me back” and the trumpet that pops in — now that is some emotional Midwest emo. 

Personally, I agree with my friends that Midwest emo is a sound that bands from anywhere can use, though bands that are actually from the Midwest pull it off better. With a Midwest emo band that’s from the region, you’re able to understand the feeling of what it is like living in the Midwest — the feeling of yearning for nostalgia but wanting to leave your hometown at the same time. Midwest emo is such a fun genre to talk about, and I love hearing everyone’s strong opinions on the subject.

Have opinions on midwest emo? You can email Irene at [email protected].

About the Contributor
Irene Moran, Staff Columnist
Irene is a sophomore Psychology major with a minor in Sociology. She is from Philadelphia, PA and enjoys music, poetry, film, and much more. As a musician herself, she intends to write a lot about different bands and artists. You can reach out to Irene through