One of the biggest events in the pop-punk/emo music world is the upcoming When We Were Young Festival, taking place in a few short weeks in Las Vegas. I’m going to cover the festival when it happens, but wanted to spend the next couple weeks highlighting some of the (many) artists that will be performing.
Today, I’m going to selfishly start with my favorite band on the lineup, Taking Back Sunday. Rather than provide a bio or list their most popular songs, I’m going to take a different approach: My top 7 Taking Back Sunday songs I want to hear at WWWY Fest, but they probably won’t play.
Seven probably feels like an arbitrary number, but I figured choosing one song from each of their studio albums was the only really fair way to compile this list. It feels a bit like trying to choose a favorite child or something.
1. From Tell All Your Friends: There’s no ‘I’ in Team
There’s so much emo lore built into this song that I can’t possibly explain, other than to say there is longstanding bad blood between TBS and the band Brand New and this song is one entry in that feud. Maybe as a result, or maybe coincidentally, TBS rarely plays this song live, but it is one of their most energetic, angry and emotional songs. It is also a great demonstration of how cohesive the vocals are between singer Adam Lazzara and guitarist John Nolan. This song could easily be a master class in the key attributes of early 2000s emo music and is begging to be unleashed on a crowd of aging emo fans.
2. From Where You Want to Be: One-Eighty By Summer
From the moment the intro riff starts on this song, you can tell it is meant to be played live and screamed at the top of your lungs. Between the first verse’s declaration that “Nothing seems important anymore/We’re just protecting ourselves from ourselves” to the second verse’s pleading rhetorical question: “Why can’t you just be happy?”, this is definitely a strong contender for TBS’s best angry-about-a-love-interest song.
3. From Louder Now: My Blue Heaven
I’m not expecting to hear any of the more ballad-y songs at WWWY, mostly because with a limited set time, TBS doesn’t typically let the energy of the crowd die down too much, though this has historically been a popular live song. The video I included is a gorgeous live version featuring a string arrangement and is one of the more beautiful renditions of the song I’ve come across. I might have a more emotional reaction to music than some people, but I cannot get through the bridge of this song without feeling a little choked up, so listen at your own risk.
4. From New Again: Carpathia
This album is hard to pick from, mostly because the band itself acts like it doesn’t exist. These songs got played live when the album was new but most haven’t shown up in a live setlist for over a decade. I chose Carpathia because I’m a sucker for a good historical reference generally, but especially when it is as well-chosen and subtle as this one. The RMS Carpathia was a turn-of-the-century passenger ship most famous for rescuing many of the Titanic survivors, only to tragically sink during World War I after being torpedoed by the Germans. I’m not saying this song is great based only on the brilliance of the metaphor, but it certainly started on strong footing with its name.
5. From Taking Back Sunday: Sad Savior
There was definitely a trend away from the standard emo sound and toward a more general rock sound that became evident once their self-titled album was released. Sad Savior is one of the most interesting sounding songs on the record, with a 3/4 time signature and a really ballroom-dancing feel as a result. Lyrically, the song holds true to the genre, with the very dramatic emo chorus of: “You don’t have to pretend to be an orphan anymore.”
6. From Happiness Is: Nothing At All
This is easily the most underrated song of the modern-TBS era. Everything here, from the harmonies to the tempo, to the simple guitar arrangement, is incredible and puts the emotion behind the song at the forefront. I can’t even get into how great the lyrics are because I can’t choose any one set of lines to quote. If the giant crescendo toward the end of the song doesn’t make you feel something, I’m certain you are truly dead inside. The band has a habit of ending albums with a showstopping ballad, but Nothing At All is the strongest one of the bunch and it is criminal that is hasn’t found a permanent place in the band’s live shows.
7. From Tidal Wave: Call Come Running
If any of these songs have a remote possibility of being played at the show, it is this one — it has a music video and everything. That being said, Tidal Wave as a whole has a weird place in my heart as of late, as a couple of the tracks are some of my current favorite songs (Looking at you, You Can’t Look Back). Because WWWY is basically a nostalgia festival, I doubt we’ll see many, if any, newer songs played, and the upbeat, positive vibe of this song probably don’t mesh with the sad emo atmosphere the fest is aiming for. All of those things aside, dancing along in the crowd while Lazzara sings “If you wanted, we could leave this place/ I’m thinkin’, leave it all behind/ Oh, I can handle all these things/ So long as I could call you mine” might be just what the crowd needs to warm their cold, emo hearts.