When we think of emo music, we often think of dark clothing and bright colorful hair, gloves with holes for fingers, and emotionally, at times angsty music. Bands like the ridiculously talented My Chemical Romance are among the first to pop up in our heads when we think of this, even if the band does not identify with the genre.
Often stereotyped with depressive tones and lyrics, you wouldn’t normally expect a Christian band to fit into this genre. Yet it happened and stayed that way for years. For a time Skillet had albums that could be put up against the greatest emo releases of all time and consistently delivered bangers, as well as hits.
Alien youth is emo just because of John Cooper’s hair at the time. Kidding. Though it doesn’t hurt. It addresses the youth at the time (clearly) with a gospel message and has some sci-fi vibes in it. As with all Skillet albums, it has gospel themes and messages, though not as obvious as their previous album Ardent Worship. Vapor is a Christian emo song. Best to hear it to see for yourself. Eating Me Away and Kill Me, Heal Me are unabashedly emo. They wouldn’t be as on the nose with their Christianity after this album, though some would argue Dominion changed that. While they never hid their faith, after this they mastered passing the gospel in a relatable way to secular audiences without beating them over the head with religion. They made their message more relatable this way and drew in more people to tell about Jesus when they performed live. All throughout are songs with emotion and hope. Aggression and anger also fly on tracks such as Rippin’ Me Off. It’s pretty underground, but fun, and does fit under the emo tone, with a Jesus message.
Collide was the last Skillet album before they signed with Atlantic Records. The album was inspired by Struggles frontman John Cooper faced earlier in his life. It particularly focused on his pain and fairs fighting his faith. Forsaken is the opening track and instantly strikes a chord with those that were abandoned. It can be seen as a falling-out song, a betrayed song in general, and a breakup song. It’s full of emotion and aggression throughout. Savior is next, and while it’s clearly about Jesus, it can still be great for secular audiences as it doesn’t beat you over the head with it. Next up is the title track. It’s a masterpiece of metal, grunge, nu-metal, and hard rock with classical instruments taking center stage at parts of the single. Other “emo” songs include Imperfection, a song that brought many to tears with a relatable image for anyone who can’t see past their own flaws. Finally, there is the bonus track of open wounds, dealing with abuse, and living with your enemy. It’s a powerful album that deserves to be considered an all-time great emo release, as nothing is missing from it.
Next up is the Platinum album Comatose. Rebirthing has some elements and themes many fans of Paramore would enjoy. Yes, it’s about God, but it can be seen by nonbelievers as a starting over track. Following the uplifting Gold-certified release is The Last Night. This song gets to the point, addressing depression and suicide outright, as well as wrist cutting, which is all unfortunate emo stereotypes. As normal for Skillet, it makes the pain relatable and reminds listeners they are never alone, with an inspiring message. Whether you believe it or not, the song is either a message from God or the band. Yours To Hold is not a heavy song, but it’s another hopeful tune where the band reaches out to people in pain, wanting them to come closer as they are “just out of reach”. No need to talk about what Better Than Drugs is about. You can guess what a Christian band would sing about the matter. Yet it’s catchy. The title track comes next and addresses the singer’s pain and unwillingness to go on without someone. How they need someone to be with them and take the pain away. After that are two slower ones in The Older I Get and Those Nights. Both are quite a bit softer but reflect on the past, and growing up. Both deal with pain and regret in moving on from a relationship. Falling Inside The Black is emo just by the title alone and again addresses depression. Say Goodbye once again addresses a lost emotional relationship. Whispers In The Dark has similar tones to The Last Night. Once again it is God, or the band addressing the listener’s pain and expressing a desire to help while assuring them they are not alone. Looking For Angels ends the disc while looking at the pain and dark side of the world from drug abuse to hunger to suicide. Yet it has a hopeful tone throughout. Overall the album went Platinum and sold over 3 million singles in the United States! I personally consider it my favorite emo album, edging out Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge. The Grammy nomination for it doesn’t hurt either.
Awake is easily their best-selling record. It is listed as Triple-Platinum by the RIAA. The singles have sold an additional 10 million units in America. “Monster” was also used by WWE and helped propel the band to superstardom. On Pandora, YouTube, and Spotify, as well as audio streaming the song has been heard several billion times around the world. Hero has been heard over 1 billion times as well, according to an article from 2019. While many see Awake as a more mainstream album, it was still Emo and at the time of the album’s release, they were still relatively unknown to the music world. Hero is about needing a hero to step in and save the day. Many emo songs address that. Next is Monster, a single about not being able to control yourself, and your emotions, and having something volatile inside of you. That fits the bill. The song was my introduction to them, and their biggest hit, hitting 5x Platinum status in the states, with certifications in several other nations. Awake and Alive got me into symphonic metal and is an inspirational ballad of headbanging about standing for what you believe in. One Day too Late encourages you to change for the better today, not tomorrow as you never know when it’s your last day. A nice reminder that the clock is always ticking on when to get right with God. It’s Not Me It’s You is a perfect breakup song for atheists and a perfect middle finger to the devil for Christians. Brilliantly written and heavy, it’s my favorite emo song about a split relationship. Should’ve When You Could’ve is a close second though. It’s way more lighthearted and clean but catchy. Believe addresses saying something awful to someone you love and driving them away, it’s a message to the victim saying they aren’t like that and didn’t mean it. Kind of a get-back-together song. Forgiven is pretty self-explanatory. Sometimes addresses the flaws in us all, and sometimes we know better than to do what we do, but striking out can be so freeing. It can feel so good at the moment. That’s the focus here. Never Surrender is another deep emotional ballad that zones in on depression. Lucy is a bit more emotional and focuses on looking at regrets. Reflecting on mistakes that caused permanent harm or even death and moving on. Bonus tracks are Dead Inside and Would It Matter? I won’t spoil the messages here.
Rise came out after they had become famous. Jen had dyed her hair red and the band dressed emo. Many would consider this a concept album. It was different in terms of how the first few songs connected as if telling a story. Once again. It had themes of hopelessness, hope, depression, fear, rebellion, pain, anger, and standing for your beliefs. While the message was very similar, it sounded different. It’s a criminally underrated release you need to hear for yourself. It takes what made previous Skillet albums great and changes it up a bit. This Gold album had a Gold single and is what I consider to be their final emo album. They have continued to experiment with rock, metal, and pop, with similar messages, but Rise is still their last emo masterpiece.
Article by John ward