10 Essential Emo Power Ballads

October 23, 2013
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The power ballad rose to prominence in the ’80s, when band after band of hair-metal jokers realized they needed something more emotionally resonant to connect with their female fans (and their genitals). While the initial motivation may have been a bit disingenuous, the style has remained ingrained in many types of music, even (some might say especially) emo. Here are our favorite examples of emoting gone awesome.

This article originally appeared in AP 304 featuring Panic! At the Disco. Be sure to pick up the issue, which is on newsstands through November 5. 

ALKALINE TRIO – “San Francisco”

Yes, Alkaline Trio are a punk band, more or less, but there’s nothing more emo than Matt Skiba when he howls, “I was drinking you goodbye/My heart floats in the bay/From sour home Chicago, and you’re being far away/There’s no telling what I’d do, if I don’t return to you,” over an angsty midtempo groove. (Goddamnit; Asian Man, 1998)


Chris Carrabba could probably write enough songs to comprise this list in his sleep, but the one we had to include was the lead single from Dusk And Summer. It’s always sounded a bit like an emo version of Arcade Fire’s “Wake Up” (which would for sure be on a 10 Essential Indie Rock Power Ballads list), and his voice is so goddamn crisp for the big chorus, it still makes us shiver. (Dusk And Summer; Interscope, 2006)


It takes some serious guts to kick off your full-length debut with an emo power ballad, but Ace Enders & Co. didn’t flinch, delivering this insta-classic in 6/8 time that still gets crowds swaying and lighters in the air. “Ever so sweet/You baked it in cakes for me,” Enders sings, a line that still inspires tattoos a decade later. (The Room’s Too Cold; Drive-Thru, 2003)

FINCH – “What It Is To Burn”

If we were doing a list of 10 Essential Screamo Power Ballads, it would literally just be this song 10 times in a row. The subdued verses, the absolutely explosive chorus, the power chord-filled turnaround when Nate Barcalow screams, “She BUUUUUUUUURNS!”—it all adds up to a crucial addition to this list. (What It Is To Burn; Drive-Thru/MCA, 2002)

GLASSJAW – “Ape Dos Mil”

We’re pretty sure Daryl Palumbo would slap us for calling anything his band ever put out “emo,” but we’re just gonna have to take that risk with “Ape Dos Mil.” The song sexily prowls throughout its five minutes with Palumbo delivering his best vocal line in nearly two decades of writing ’em, singing, “Yeah, it’s over, you can bet in mid-October I will still be ranting ’bout most early May.” (Worship And Tribute; Warner Bros., 2002) >>>

Written by Scott Heisel