Ronnie-Radke-era Escape the Fate Appears On My Spotify Wrapped, Yet Again
No matter how much I suppress it, Dying Is Your Latest Fashion resurfaces again and again.
Spotify Wrapped season is here. I wrote this essay in anticipation of Escape the Fate (ETF)—the Ronnie-Radke-as-frontman era Escape the Fate—yet again, appearing on my year-in-review. For the first time ever, Escape the Fate even made it onto my Top 5 Artists, earning the 4th spot between Kim Petras and Charli XCX.
I also recently read Monsters: A Fan’s Dilemma by Claire Dederer, recommended by fellow Substack and now-IRL friend, who runs a fantastic newsletter about pop culture, music, and tech with a nostalgic twist over on . Monsters expands upon Dederer’s viral 2017 essay published in The Paris Review—“What Do We Do with the Art of Monstrous Men?”—which begins with this killer lede: “Roman Polanski, Woody Allen, Bill Cosby, William Burroughs, Richard Wagner, Sid Vicious, V. S. Naipaul, John Galliano, Norman Mailer, Ezra Pound, Caravaggio, Floyd Mayweather, though if we start listing athletes we’ll never stop.” Part-criticism, part-memoir, Monsters explores whether we can actually separate the art from the artist. Spoiler: “There is no correct answer,” she near concludes in the second-to-last chapter.
The book had me ponder about the monsters on my Spotify playlists: Kanye West, Machine Gun Kelly, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Drake, Mick Jagger a la Rolling Stones. The monster that sticks is Radke a la Escape the Fate.
If you’re unfamiliar with the band’s lore, Radke formed Escape the Fate in 2004. While their music has been categorized as metalcore, post-hardcore, screamo, and hard rock, I refer to their sound as under the emo umbrella. In 2005, they won a local radio contest judged by none other than My Chemical Romance. The prize? Opening up for a show on MCR’s headlining tour with Alkaline Trio and Reggie and the Full Effect. The opportunity later landed the recording and release of their iconic debut album, Dying Is Your Latest Fashion. DIYLF is the only full-length Escape the Fate record with Radke, however, as he was kicked out of the band in 2008 When Radke was ousted, I tried to get into the new era of Escape the Fate with new vocalist-slash-frontman Craig Mabbit from blessthefall to no avail; the band missed Radke’s magic.
Radke is and has been a man of many haters, reasonably so. Twitter user @nightheatplayer compiled a well-documented thread of allegations against Radke, which include him harassing people online, starting drama with another band in the scene, hitting people with metal mic stands at live shows, and generally having Really Problematic Takes. “He’s basically an emo version of Kanye West lol,” summarizes one redditor.
This goes to say, I don’t talk about listening to Radke-era Escape the Fate. I have an unresolved ethical dilemma even writing about him because inevitably, I’m promoting it just by discussing it publicly. I also sometimes feel shame about not being able to shake this one album from my childhood CD collection, as if all other Elder Emos have. Yet this record nags at me. It begs for my attention. What’s the secret behind DIYLF that makes me return to it time and time again?
My Spotify Wrapped has exclusively included Escape the Fate songs off DIYLF. “There’s No Sympathy for the Dead,” “Friends and Alibis,” “My Apocalypse,” and “When I Go Out, I Want to Go Out on a Chariot of Fire” appeared on My Top Songs 2021. “When I Go Out” appeared again on My Top Songs 2022 as the lone EST song. The uptick of Radke-era ETF started in 2021 when I created a new playlist—sleep 2.0—to fall asleep to. A whopping 13-track list, with 12 of them Escape the Fate songs off DIYLF with the exception of “The Recluse” by Cursive. Updating my sleep playlist, by creating an entirely new one, was one of many attempts to replace a toxic habit I developed in late 2019 that only worsened during quarantine: doomscrolling TikTok before bed.1
Over a decade ago, one of the first playlists I ever made on Spotify was a playlist of songs to fall asleep to, starting with “The Recluse.” I listened to this playlist—which later evolved to include “I’m on Fire” by Bruce Springsteen and “Robbers” by the 1975—on an iPhone 4 on low volume until I drifted off to sleep. That phone was the first smartphone I’d ever had, thanks to a timely upgrade courtesy of AT&T, which happened to land just in time for Christmas 2012.
It was special to me to create a sleep-centered playlist I could just leave on as I drifted to sleep because I couldn’t make a playlist on the first Apple product I owned, a first-generation iPod shuffle that didn’t have a screen, which I’d received as a Christmas gift in 2006. It only had a handful of buttons: start, stop, volume up, volume down, skip forward, and skip backward in addition to an on/off switch; there was also a repeat switch or something. I memorized my iTunes library alphabetically, so I knew the order of the songs and could skip ahead, as well as backward, to navigate my favorite songs. I listened to this screenless device through wired headphones in three prominent locations: on the bus, in the backseat of my dad’s car, and in bed. In bed, I’d skip ahead to “My Apocalypse” and leave it on repeat through a single earbud. Occasionally, I woke up in the morning to screamo bridge—of Radke screaming “the pain, the pain, the pain”2 over and over—when it was finally time to wake up, somehow with the headphone close enough to my ear to hear it. If I was able to be comforted enough to fall asleep to this flavor of post-hardcore at age 14, I knew I could at 28 and 29, and now again at 30.
Another Apple-branded Radke memory involves downloading the debut Falling In Reverse album, The Drug In Me Is You, in my iTunes library in my dorm room. The record dropped on July 26, 2011, three days after my first and only Warped Tour experience, the same day of the tragic death of Amy Winehouse. I’d waited in anticipation for this record for years, since the formation of the band was announced in 2008, shortly after Radke’s departure from Escape the Fate. When I first heard to “Raised By Wolves,” a familiarity jolted through my bloodstream. Radke is, indeed, the mastermind of Escape the Fate, I thought. While “Raised by Wolves” is a Falling In Reverse song, it could’ve been an Escape the Fate song; it sounds like it could’ve been released during a prior golden era of emo music.
“You are not responsible for should be no authority. You are off the hook. You are inconsistent. You do not your tragically limited role as a consumer. There is no authority and there finding it. Your feeling of responsibility is a shibboleth, a reinforcement of need to have a grand unified theory about what to do about Michael Jackson. You are a hypocrite, over and over. You love Annie Hall but you can barely stand to look at a painting by Picasso. You are not responsible for solving this unreconciled contradiction. In fact, you will solve nothing by means of your consumption; the idea that you can is a dead end.” -Claire Dederer
Every time I listen to songs off DIYLF, I feel the same jolt. I also wonder what it would be like to share this joy with others without having to condemn Radke’s behavior.
I’m still attempting to break this habit.
Until fact-checking the lyrics for this essay, I thought the repeated lyrics were “you’ll pay.”