Originally an arty outgrowth of hardcore punk, emo became an important force in underground rock by the late ’90s, appealing to modern-day punks and indie-rockers alike. Some emo leans toward the progressive side, full of complex guitar work, unorthodox song structures, arty noise, and extreme dynamic shifts; some emo is much closer to punk-pop, though it’s a bit more intricate. Emo lyrics are deeply personal, usually either free-associative poetry or intimate confessionals. Though it’s far less macho, emo is a direct descendant of hardcore’s preoccupations with authenticity and anti-commercialism; it grew out of the conviction that commercially oriented music was too artificial and calculated to express any genuine emotion. Because the emo ideal is authentic, deeply felt emotion that defies rational analysis, the style can be prone to excess in its quest for ever-bigger peaks and releases. But at its best, emo has a sweeping power that manages to be visceral, challenging, and intimate all at once.
给Emo铺路的是Hüsker Dü在1984年发行的里程碑式专辑Zen Arcade，它指引着其他的硬核乐队抓住更为个人化的主题并写出更动听更具技术的歌曲。Emo在制造出诸如Minor Threat与Bad Brains这样的乐队的华盛顿硬核音乐圈中暂露头脚。“Emo”一词（有时全称作”emocore”，情感核）最早用于形容那些热衷于使用比咆哮吼叫这种唱腔更具表现力的人声的硬核乐队，首支真正的情感核乐队是Rites of Spring，后来是前Minor Threat乐队的主唱Ian MacKaye组建的短命的乐队Embrace。MacKaye创建的Dischord唱片厂牌成为了华盛顿特区情感核音乐成长的支柱，发行过的作品包括了Rites of Srping, Dag Nasty, Nation of Ulysses及MacKaye与Rites of Spring成员合作的乐队——Fugazi。Fugazi定义了早期的情感核风格，招揽了另类摇滚的听众并因为他们反商业的绝不妥协的态度而得到媒体的报道。
The groundwork for emo was laid by Hüsker Dü’s 1984 landmark Zen Arcade, which made it possible for hardcore bands to tackle more personal subject matter and write more tuneful and technically demanding songs. Emo emerged in Washington, D.C. not long after, amidst the remnants of the hardcore scene that had produced Minor Threat and Bad Brains. The term “emo” (sometimes lengthened to “emocore”) was initially used to describe hardcore bands who favored expressive vocals over the typical barking rants; the first true emo band was Rites of Spring, followed by ex-Minor Threat singer Ian MacKaye’s short-lived Embrace. MacKaye’s Dischord label became the center for D.C.’s growing emo scene, releasing work by Rites of Spring, Dag Nasty, Nation of Ulysses, and MacKaye’s collaboration with members of Rites of Spring, Fugazi. Fugazi became the definitive early emo band, crossing over to alternative rock listeners and getting press for their uncompromisingly anti-commercial attitudes.
除了Dischord的中坚地位，多数早期的情感核都很地下，那些流星般出现的乐队在小厂牌下录制发行少量的黑胶唱片；有些演唱者在舞台上演唱到歌曲的高潮部分会情到深处而潸然泪下，而引起纯硬核音乐分子的嘲笑。尽管有Fugazi的出现，但是emo真正的出头之日还是在1990年代中叶时出现的乐队Sunny Day Real Estate（SDRE），他们早期的作品在很多人看来定义了后来的情感核风格。他们将Fugazi粗糙的吉他演奏精练、加上西雅图的垃圾乐之声、配合直接的前进摇滚和低吟的人声，成千上万的模仿者学习了他们戏剧化的旋律和自省的神秘主义化创作。
Aside from the Dischord stable, most early emo was deeply underground, recorded by extremely short-lived bands and released on vinyl in small quantities by small labels; some vocalists literally wept onstage during song climaxes, earning derision from hardcore purists. Fugazi notwithstanding, emo didn’t really break out of obscurity until the mid-’90s emergence of Sunny Day Real Estate, whose early work defined the style in the minds of many. Tempering Fugazi’s gnarled guitar webs with Seattle grunge, straight-up prog-rock, and crooned vocals, SDRE launched a thousand imitators who connected with their dramatic melodies and introspective mysticism.
新一代的某些乐队将扭曲古怪的内省式创作与朗朗上口的朋克-流行合二为一，就如Weezer乐队的专辑《Pinkerton》一样。当一些艺人继续着在Fugazi的道路上继续前行时（包括Quicksand和Drive Like Jehu乐队），多数1990年代的emo乐队已经借鉴并综合了Fugazi、Sunny Day Real Estate和Weezer的东西。如Promise Ring、the Get Up Kids、Braid、Texas Is the Reason、Jimmy Eat World、Joah of Arc和Jets to Brazil乐队引发了独立摇滚界的一轮跟风，并使得emo在千禧年之际成为地下摇滚风格中流行的一种风格。
Some of this new generation connected equally with the wry, geeky introspection and catchy punk-pop of Weezer’s Pinkerton album. While several artists continued to build on Fugazi’s innovations (including Quicksand and Drive Like Jehu), most ’90s emo bands borrowed from some combination of Fugazi, Sunny Day Real Estate, and Weezer. Groups like the Promise Ring, the Get Up Kids, Braid, Texas Is the Reason, Jimmy Eat World, Joan of Arc, and Jets to Brazil earned substantial followings in the indie-rock world, making emo one of the more popular underground rock styles at the turn of the millennium.