The elements that make old-school emo purists cringe are the same ones that have ensured Fall Out Boy’s longevity. Dabbling in other genres has always brought something new to or emboldened the work of emo artists; for the most famous example, see From First To Last’s Sonny Moore’s dubstep sabbatical as Skrillex. After making himself one of the richest DJs in the world, he returned to emo in 2017 with the From First to Last track Make War. It’s a powerful emo song with guitar, screaming, and references to the dormant scene, but it mixes electronic elements for a fresh sound that Sonny wouldn’t have any understanding of without Skrillex. Daryl Palumbo’s emo power-pop side-project Head Automatica, gave him a breath of fresh air away from Glassjaw. Similarly, Fall Out Boy’s side projects in electronic music, hardcore, pop and soul have brought fresh perspectives to the band. Without an interest in other genres, without branching out, bands are only getting inspiration from the emo echo chamber.
There is no convincing you if you’re a rock purist who’s hated Fall Out Boy from the start. But if, like me, you were sceptical of their direction post-Folie, it’s worth considering that they’ve never been that emo. With their first album, 2003’s Take This To Your Grave, Fall Out Boy took their roots in hardcore to form a pop punk side project. When From Under The Cork Tree was released, they were still putting out their own brand of self-referential, overly literary pop punk, but its coincidental release with the rise of mainstream emo meant that they were marketed alongside other eyelinered bands. On Infinity On High, Fall Out Boy were still considered emo but mocked the scene through their lyrics while remaining at the forefront of it and incorporating elements of soul and rap in the record that already rubbed purists up the wrong way.
Are Save Rock And Roll or M A N I A even emo or rock records? No. Is From Under The Cork Tree? Arguably not, either. But I know now, as I did not when I was a teenager, that it doesn’t matter. What matters is that they both bring me such ridiculous joy, and that they do the very same for people the age that I was when I cried to Cork Tree. Fall Out Boy’s approach to experimentation has been long-dismissed as them betraying the genres they came from, but they reinvented what I thought was even possible with music. Whether or not they were ever truly emo, they in part paved the way for the hybrid artists keeping the genre alive. I regret ever doubting Fall Out Boy or the real, genuine fun that’s possible when you give in and stop thinking quite so much about what makes something real music. Seven years on from Save Rock And Roll's release, and one since M A N I A brought me back to life, I am proud to say I’m a fully reformed Fall Out Boy purist.