When this style of music was first coming out, “emo” was saddled with a handful of negative connotations. It was generally looked down upon by the mainstream who saw the budding genre as distasteful, whiny teenage angst. But for those of us who clutched these albums close to our chests and put ourselves to sleep with lyrics that sympathized with the pain we were going through, emo was much more than that.

You may have moved on from these records. Your taste in music may have shifted entirely. But your heart will always respond to these words.

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1. Taking Back Sunday – “Ghost Man On Third”

“It’s a shame I don’t think that they’ll notice/It’s a shame I doubt they even care”

Let’s be real: Virtually all the lyrics from Taking Back Sunday’s landmark record Tell All Your Friends could be on this list. “Ghost Man On Third,” though, is one of the saddest, most self-deprecating songs on this 2002 record. This track is saturated with feelings of neglect, worthlessness and isolation.  

2. Dashboard Confessional – “Screaming Infidelities”

“I’m reading your note over again/There’s not a word that I comprehend/Except when you signed it/‘I will love you always and forever’”

Lyrics don’t have to be blatantly negative to set your heart sinking. Dashboard Confessional’s Chris Carrabba was always skilled at toeing the line between sad and sweet. Every hopeless romantic had “Screaming Infidelities” on lock.

3. Jimmy Eat World – “Hear You Me”

“A song for a heart so big/God wouldn’t let it live”

Possibly one of the most tear-jerking songs in the English language, Jimmy Eat World’s “Hear You Me” reached both commercial and cult success. This gentle serenade for the dead is so peaceful, it tears the heart in two.  

4. Mayday Parade – “The Last Something That Meant Anything”

“I’ll be OK/Is that what you want me to say?/It’s called ‘breakup’ ’cause it’s broken”

No 2000s breakup was real unless there was a Mayday Parade song playing somewhere in the background. Most people point to 2007’s A Lesson In Romantics as their first encounter with Mayday, but the band’s 2006 EP Tales Told By Dead Friends is where it all began.

5. Secondhand Serenade – “Fall For You”

“You always thought that I was stronger/I may have failed but I have loved you from the start”

If you’re reading this, then “Fall For You” was probably your and your significant other’s relationship song when it came out. Backed by simple piano riffs and lyrical clichés (e.g. “A girl like you is impossible to find”), this Secondhand Serenade song is admittedly way sappy, but all these years later, it still pulls on the heartstrings. 

6. Hawthorne Heights – “Saying Sorry”

“Saying goodbye this time/The same old story/Seeing you cry/Makes me feel like saying sorry”

What makes “Saying Sorry” unique in its sadness is the sense that this farewell has happened many times before and seems inevitable. While many emo songs focus on a specific incident or instance of loss or pain, this Hawthorne Heights single is cyclical, making it a different kind of heartache.

7. The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus – “Your Guardian Angel”

“I will never let you fall/I’ll stand up with you forever/I’ll be there for you through it all/Even if saving you sends me to heaven”

The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus may have hit it big with “Face Down,” but the mostly acoustic “Your Guardian Angel” was the song you desperately wanted your crush to sing to you. It’s the quintessence of selflessness and love.