Emo may be a vague term, but it conjures up some seriously vivid 2000s nostalgia. You know, memories akin to straightening our bangs and overlining our eyes while listening to the saddest songs imaginable... 

Regardless of what exactly your emo phase looked like, there were certain staples that everyone had to load onto their iPods. Just like writing lyrics on your sneakers and cutting thumb holes into your hoodies, it was essentially law.

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Here are 10 of the saddest emo favorites that likely dominated your 2000s playlists.

“If It Means A Lot To You” – A Day To Remember

Even 11 years later, “If It Means A Lot To You” remains A Day To Remembers’ most popular song on Spotify. And for good reason—the stripped-down instrumentals really put a spotlight on the emotionality of the conflict-laden lyrics. Sierra Kusterbeck’s feature just adds another depth of perspective to the ballad, solidifying the gutting relatability from all angles. 

“We Are Broken” – Paramore

Paramore’s “We Are Broken” feels especially poignant in the context of Riot!’s bold pop-punk energy. Sandwiched between the upbeat anthems “crushcrushcrush” and “Fences,” the song provides a soft, albeit heartbreaking, sonic divergence. Even as a standalone track, though, this power ballad packs a punch of sentimentality fitting for any breakup playlist. 

“I Don’t Love You” – My Chemical Romance

Bet you thought we were going to throw “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)” at you, huh? Not this time. Though undoubtedly emblematic of the 2000s emo scene, the anthem just doesn’t bite in quite the same way as “I Don’t Love You.” This slower-tempo track is nothing short of haunting, painting the complex emotions surrounding loss with vivid imagery. 

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“Fall For You” – Secondhand Serenade

A Twist In My Story… More like “a knife in my heart,” right? While the whole album is deeply and painfully evocative, special attention must be given to “Fall For You.” Between the pared-down piano, pointed narration and gradual buildup to an explosive chorus, this one just hits especially hard. Try as you may, another song like this is impossible to find, it’s impossible to find...

“Self-Conclusion” – The Spill Canvas

The Spill Canvas are one of those bands who can punch you in the gut and simultaneously give you a new lease on life. “Self-Conclusion” manifests this ability to the extreme. Not a song about love or loss but rather stepping back from a ledge, it can tug on your heartstrings no matter how personally you relate.

“Car Underwater” – Armor For Sleep

The metaphor posed by “Car Underwater” alone is enough to stir up an emotional cocktail. Anyone who's experienced any form of abandonment understands the likening to such a helpless, suffocating scenario. And even if you’re among the lucky few who haven’t, Armor For Sleep’s graphic narrative will surely put you there. Sixteen years later, this one still cuts deep.

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“Everything We Had” – The Academy Is…

The subdued, slow-building melody of “Everything We Had” is a far cry from the rest of the Academy Is…’ discography. Still, it stands out as one of their most memorable songs. The stylistic delivery is beautifully representative of the track’s themes, detailing the complex emotions that accompany lost or unrequited love. It’s really no surprise that our little emo hearts latched onto it so fondly.

“My Immortal” – Evanescence

Are Evanescence even capable of releasing anything that doesn’t make our hearts ache? Given what we’ve seen, we sincerely doubt it. Nevertheless, “My Immortal” remains a pinnacle of their ability to tackle somber subjects with stunning theatrics. While it easily could have found its place in a Broadway tragedy, we’re happy that it instead soundtracked our youthful melodrama.

“Miserable At Best” – Mayday Parade

Admittedly, it was an active struggle not to comprise this whole list out of Mayday Parade songs. A Lesson In Romantics alone has enough hard-hitting emo tracks to make you sad for a year. We’ll reluctantly leave it at “Miserable At Best,” though. There’s just something about the piano backing and moody vocals that deliver such a raw, concentrated dose of feels.

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“Ohio Is For Lovers” – Hawthorne Heights

Did you think we were going to make a compilation of emo essentials and leave out “Ohio Is For Lovers”? Who could ever snub Hawthorne Heights like that? This is a defining track for the era and deservingly so. The brooding, anger-laced themes are driven by aggressive instrumentals and passionate vocals, inciting a range of emotions you probably didn’t even know you were capable of feeling until your first listen.

What are your favorite most melancholic emo staples? Let us know in the comments below!