Two weeks ago these screamo dudes from Dayton landed at No. 3 on Billboard's tally of the week's best-selling albums. That's big news for a band like Hawthorne Heights, which records for an independent label and commands an enormous internet fan base, composed largely of kids who probably download most of their music from file-sharing networks, not iTunes. Yet No. 3 wasn't good enough for them: Before the February 28 release of If Only You Were Lonely (HH's second full-length), the band circulated an online call to arms, urging its fans to prevent the R&B singer Ne-Yo from capturing the Billboard top spot. They weren't just hoping to capture No. 1 themselves; they wanted to take "rock music back to the top of the charts, where it belongs."
The funny thing about the e-mail missive isn't its crypto-racist overtones. (Those are just disheartening.) Instead, it's the implicit suggestion that Hawthorne Heights makes music that's any less dependent upon formula than Ne-Yo's. Lonely is packed with the sort of glossy emo-rock power jams that've found a (temporary) home on MTV's TRL through the handiwork of more distinctive acts such as Fall Out Boy and the All-American Rejects: catchy choruses, scratchy guitars, the obligatory scream inserted here and there. You've heard this stuff before, and you'll hear it again. So where does the ugly sense of moral superiority come from?