Thought by many to be the worst radio promotion of all time, a 1979 “Disco Sucks” event at a Chicago White Sox home game led to a ballpark riot, fires, property damage, and 39 arrests. But the event organized by rock DJ Steve Dahl did have an impact: to many it signaled the beginning of the end for disco.
FM-94/9’s program director Garret Michaels doesn’t want to trigger any violence with his station’s “Emo Sucks” campaign. He just wants the whiny rock subgenre to go away.
“It hit me at one of our staff music meetings that there are an awful lot of emo/screamo woe-is-me, I-hate-my-life-type bands being squeezed out by the record labels. What you have is a band that breaks out like My Chemical Romance or Fall Out Boy, then suddenly you have these label execs who are 50 years old putting out the same kind of bands because that’s what the kids are into nowadays. What set me off is that last week I noticed a new CD by a band called Forever the Sickest Kids. They had a song called ‘Whoa Oh! Me Versus Everyone.’ Then I noticed a CD by another band on a different major label called Scary Kids Scaring Kids.
“Basically, it’s all the same formulaic thing: young guys with the emo swoop haircut wearing the super skinny tight jeans and super skinny T-shirts bitching incessantly about how much their life sucks when they are probably upper-middle-class suburban kids who never mowed the lawn. With emo we’re talking about manufactured, Cheez Whiz-in-a-spray-can-music. It’s time to call an end to all these ridiculous-looking bands and their ridiculous-sounding music.”
Michaels says he has had over 1000 listener requests for Emo Sucks T-shirts that his station will have made and then distributed for free. He says 94/9 doesn’t play emo. “I am proud to say we have never played My Chemical Romance or Fall Out Boy.”
His major competition, 91X, however, has. And while he won’t name names, many would maintain that at least two of the bands appearing at the May 16 X-Fest – Ludo and San Diego’s My American Heart – have the emo chromosome.
Signed to Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman’s Warcon label, My American Heart is now getting regular airplay on 91X.
The band’s New York manager, Mike Bachta, says My American Heart should no longer be hit with the e-word. “They started in that world, but they gravitated toward pop. They aren’t really an emo band anymore. It seems everyone is into saying emo sucks now.”
He says that the emo sucks campaign is just a way for 94/9 to generate advertising.
“They could just as soon be doing a ‘Nickelback Rock Sucks’ or a ‘Nu Metal Sucks’ campaign. Them doing this couldn’t bother me in the least.”
Should emo recede, Michaels won’t take credit. Nor should Dahl for disco’s demise.
“The death of disco had more to do with the fact of how bad and formulaic the music and the lifestyle had become. Its undoing wasn’t about just one thing.”
But what if 94/9’s emo sucks campaign itself becomes irrelevant since bands generally don’t like to be called emo anymore?
“Whatever they call it, we all know what it sounds like.”
The morning Michaels announced the Emo Sucks campaign, the new 91X morning show read an item about Ashlee Simpson’s alleged pregnancy with Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz.
Phil Manning, 91X program director, did not return a call requesting comment.
– Ken Leighton