Hawthorne Heights - If Only You Were Lonely

General Studies A-Level Paper - Question one:

What is emo?

Time allowed to respond: 3 hours

It's only a matter of time, really, isn't it? The ill-defined emo label is thrown around such a lot nowadays that I'm not even sure if those who are doing the throwing have any idea what it is. Is it Fall Out Boy and Panic! At The Disco? Well, I'd have called them pop-punk. Is it New Jersey's My Chemical Romance? Hmm, singer Gerard Way once claimed that his New Jersey group had set out to destroy emo. Is it (as some of my less musically-aware friends have suggested...) Trivium? Er...one feels that Matt Heafy's metal(core?) quartet would probably react quite violently to an emo tag. So what about hardcore mob Funeral For a Friend? Well, according to their DVD "Spilling Blood In 8mm" they're jazz... So as you can see, the current jump-on-the-bandwagon emo label-throwing trend is fairly random.

Having said all this, I would say that - drum roll - Hawthorne Heights are emo. From the heavy rhythm guitar, the high-octane lead soloing and the melodic vs. aggressive vocals, to the stripped bare, brutally honest lyrics, Hawthorne Heights bleed emotion. In any case, a band whose press release claims that "Hawthorne Heights is taking over the world, one broken heart at a time", could never really claim not to be emo...

Hawthorne Heights's second offering 'If Only You Were Lonely' is bound to get the airwaves singing. Album opener 'This Is Who We Are' immediately sets the standard: the vocalist's angelic voice soaring over the crushing spasmodic riffs. Lead single 'Saying Sorry' shows astute awareness of how to construct the ultimate radio-friendly pop-song, whilst that heavier Hawthorne Heights edge also makes it instantly mosh-able. 'We Are So Last Year' is another stand-out track, chorus line "I just wanted you to know/I think about you every night/when I fall asleep/you are in my dreams" neatly epitomising Hawthorne Heights's emotive lyrics. Yet Hawthorne still shine on their less catchy numbers, such as the edgy, slightly eerie 'Dead In The Water' or 'Where Can I Stab Myself In The Eyes', and the soothing, regretful acoustic closer 'Decembers'.

The problem with this album is by no means a new one: it doesn't offer anything particularly original or inventive. The old 'palm-mute, palm-mute, solo-bit, quiet-bit, catchy chorus, now quick scream, scream...SCREAM' formula is evident here, and on occasions the songs from 'If Only You Were Lonely' fail to stand out from each other, never mind from the rest of the pack. For instance, opener 'This Is Who We Are' and track four 'Pens And Needles' start with pretty much exactly the same guitar riff. Plus, the following standard disclaimer is unavoidable: if you don't already like the genre, this album isn't about to change your mind.

Hawthorne Heights's clean, radio-friendly emo-pop is a sure hit with the disillusioned emo generation. Sure, they're not fantastically original, but with the genre on a high, that shouldn't stop them from becoming emo's most adored standard-bearers.