Is Snow Patrol Emo? (and why is their music so sad?)

Snow Patrol emo lg

Snow Patrol was first founded back in 1994, and is known for slow, sad, and highly emotional. Because of that, some fans have wondered, is Snow Patrol emo?

Here’s what I know, having been a fan since the early 2000s:

Snow Patrol is not considered emo, although there are a lot of emotions running through their music and lyrics. Most emo music is louder, faster, and heavier than Snow Patrol’s music. Snow Patrol would be best described as indie rock or indie pop.

Snow Patrol took a while to gain traction; its first album was not successful.

However, the band chose to adapt to the changing musical climate, and it eventually became incredibly famous. Snow Patrol’s song Chasing Cars is the most played song of the 21st century as of 2019.

Snow Patrol was caught in a time in which British bands had to accept American influences to survive. This has led many to wonder what genre of music Snow Patrol really is.

What defines emo music?

Emo is short for ‘emocore,’ which itself is a contraction of ‘emotional hardcore. It is a subcategory of the rock genre and first appeared in the 1980s and gained worldwide popularity in 2000.

Emo music came out of hardcore punk and has a strong focus on emotional proclamation.

The guitar work in the emo genre is similar to that of punk rock music, using the juxtaposition of softness and loudness in chord progressions.

But if you listen to an emo band like My Chemical Romance, you’ll quickly see their music is much more complex than punk rock and on the same technical proficiency level as Queen.

Emo music also has similarities with progressive music. Some would call it post-modern music.

This means the emo genre intentionally goes against the status quo by structuring songs in unique ways that subvert the listener’s expectations.

Perhaps the most defining element of emo music is the lyrical work. Emo lyrics have a strong focus on emotional anguish and often act as a confessional for the band writing them.

The lyrics usually explore painful problems such as broken relationships or unrequited love.

The lyrics of this genre also are frequently centered around suicidal ideation and are incredibly introspective.

This introspection is another quality that separates emo music from punk or rock music. Typically, punk music has aggressive lyrics that are about challenging the external world and ‘sticking it to the man’.

However, emo music is all about turning inward and exploring one’s own self.

Emo lyrics often attack the very person writing them and challenge that person’s self-worth rather than challenging the outside world.

What genre of music is Snow Patrol?

Snow Patrol is most commonly considered to be a combination of indie rock and pop music, although they may also be called alternative rock or post-Britpop.

Back in 1996, Snow Patrol, then known as Polarbear, released its first EP, Starfighter Pilot. In the following years, the band changed its name to Snow Patrol and released its debut album, Songs for Polarbears.

During these initial years, the band was considered to be in the genre of indie rock.

Indie is a subcategory of rock and is short for ‘independent.’ Music fits into this genre by how it is made rather than by the actual sound of the music. An indie rock band is a rock band that produces its music independently; the band isn’t signed to any label.

Snow Patrol struggled to gain traction as the music scene turned away from the Brit-pop music it was making and turned toward an Americanized version of rock. Fewer and fewer British bands were getting signed to record labels.

This eventually led to the post-Britpop movement.

Post-Britpop is a subgenre of alternative rock, and it was made in response to the constantly changing music scene.

Bands in this genre began moving away from lyrics that were explicitly about UK life and culture. They began to allow American rock to influence their sound, and they moved away from the well-established style of UK rock.

Snow Patrol followed suit and became immensely popular after making music in the style of post-Britpop. This means, at its core, Snow Patrol is a UK alternative rock band with American influences.

Why do some people call Snow Patrol emo?

Some people refer to Snow Patrol as an emo band because many of their early songs were incredibly sad and focused on loss, heartbreak, and other strong emotions. And many people do not use the term ‘emo’ in its strictest sense and may not even be aware of what the emo genre really is.

Emo culture has taken on a life of its own that extends past a genre of music.

People have come to associate ‘emo’ with a certain style of clothing, a certain attitude toward life, and even a certain way of living.

Emo has become a term that is attached to anything that is ever sad or depressive, even though that isn’t exactly accurate. If a band ever writes a sad song or contemplates an introspective topic, listeners will refer to this as ‘emo’ without actually caring if that term is accurate.

Snow Patrol has written its share of sad songs. A casual listener may see this and then believe that the band is hyper-focused on emotional topics.

The term ‘emo’ has also evolved into a kind of insult.

Listeners who do not like a particular band can call that band ‘emo’ to dismiss them. This is because emo music has come to be seen as ‘whiny’ and not very artistic. However, true emocore has its place in the music world, just like every other genre.

Looking at what actually defines the genre of emo music, Snow Patrol is not best described as an emo band.

Why are so many Snow Patrol songs sad?

Snow Patrol singer Gary Lightbody’s doomed romances are often at the center of Snow Patrol’s sad music. But he also struggles with depression and addiction, and those themes run through their music also. He writes all the band’s lyrics and co-writes the music.

Lightbody did quit drinking in 2016.

Many of the songs written by Snow Patrol can be considered sad, meaning that they are more downbeat and deal with darker themes.

The reason for this is that these are the songs that resonated with the band and allowed the members to have an emotional outlet.

Gary Lightbody was an incredibly sensitive child growing up. He always seemed to see the darker side of things. However, this also means he saw certain aspects of the world that other people might have missed.

Lightbody found freedom in channeling his emotions into his art.

He wrote about what was important to him, which means that he often wrote sadder songs that dealt with the very things he was struggling with.

This is, no doubt, one of the reasons Snow Patrol is so popular.

The band produces music that is honest and true to life. It doesn’t sugarcoat reality, and this has led to many listeners finding solidarity in Snow Patrol’s music.

Does Gary Lightbody suffer from depression?

Gary Lightbody does struggle with depression and has seen a therapist to help cope. He says as a child, he was extremely sensitive and fragile and easily hurt by others. He also had extreme social anxiety, which made being the frontman for a band difficult.

Musical icons are still human beings who struggle like the rest of us, and this is especially true when it comes to mental illness.

It took years of playing on stage before Lightbody was even comfortable looking out at the audience while performing.

Lightbody explains that the double life of being a celebrity worsened his depression and confused him.

He says, “…you can be the happiest you’ve ever felt, come off stage after playing to 20,000 people and feel 20ft tall, and three hours later I’m sitting in a hotel room, feeling completely devastated, isolated, alone.”

His mental health reached its lowest point after the completion of Snow Patrol’s tour in 2012.

This was when Lightbody began to drink in extreme excess. He is careful to say that he was never an alcoholic, but he also says that his hands would start to shake whenever he needed a drink.

Lightbody knew he had to make a change when he started to feel dizzy even while not drinking.

He eventually sought help and was able to become sober. He began working on his first album in seven years, Wildness, which was released in 2018.

Lightbody says he still has the voices that tell him he isn’t good enough, but he feels he has found freedom and is on the upward path of healing.

Snow Patrol: Back from the brink


Emocore is a genre of music that has a strong focus on introspective lyrics that explore emotional topics.

Snow Patrol is probably best described as an alternative rock band with American influences. However, due to the cultural moment, it grew in, Snow Patrol is also referred to as post-Britpop.

Some people call Snow Patrol emo because they use the term loosely and can’t see past the ‘sad’ songs that the band has written.

Many of Snow Patrol’s songs are sad simply because that is the type of music the band wanted to make.

Gary Lightbody has suffered from depression and went through a phase of alcoholic dependency. However, he claims he has found peace and is in a much better place mentally.

Photo which requires attribution:

Snow Patrol (2) by Ellen is licensed under CC2.0 and was cropped, edited, and had a text overlay added.

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