One of the world’s most influential emo rock bands, MCR, has continued their legacy by teaching past and present fans the importance of self-acceptance through their timeless music.
It’s no secret that as an active music listener and review writer, I have a strong preference towards the alternative genres. As the years have passed, my tastes have become more diverse. With the explosion of ever-growing music genres in recent years, I’m sure that umbrella will only continue to expand. But what started this music-loving journey for this writer? It was a particular band by the name of My Chemical Romance.
My Chemical Romance is known as perhaps one of the most influential and popular rock bands of the early 2000s, becoming the face of the emo rock genre alongside bands such as Fall Out Boy and Panic! At the Disco. Made up of brothers Gerard and Mikey Way and their two friends Frank Iero and Ray Toro, My Chemical Romance started their career from their hometown of Newark, New Jersey.
In 2001, Gerard Way – a previous fine arts student – decided to make a drastic change in his career plans after witnessing the September 11 attacks. This horrific act of terrorism forever changed Gerard’s life, as he set off to start a band alongside drummer Matt Pelissier. By 2002, Way had managed to pull together a band with his brother Mikey as well as Toro and Iero. They would debut their first independent album, “I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love,” only three months after the band’s formation.
My Chemical Romance had an undeniable success streak since their major-label debut album, “Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge.” The album reached platinum status less than a year after its release on June 8, 2004. By the time “The Black Parade” (their third studio album) came out, the band reached peak success, having been rated fourth greatest album of 2006 by Kerrang! magazine. Rolling Stone magazine later ranked it as number 20 on the top 50 albums of 2006. By 2007, the band was nominated for Best Alternative Group in that year’s American Music Awards, and Gerard Way won the “Hero of the Year” award at the NME Awards.
There were many controversies revolving around the band’s intimate relationship with mental illness and depression. Band members were not afraid to show vulnerability and discuss the importance of mental health care to combat the high suicide rates that were prominent during the early 2000s. But many mainstream tabloids at the time placed My Chemical Romance and similar bands at the heart of the epidemic.
In 2008, The Daily Mail wrote an article that detailed the suicide of a young girl named Hannah Bond, who took part in the emo subculture and was an avid listener of the band. This article, titled, “Why no child is safe from the sinister cult of emo,” described this alternative music genre as sinister, cult-ish and evil. This article was met with bigger backlash from fans of the genre, as they voiced the opposite sentiment about the emo genre.
The band then decided to make a public statement addressing Hannah Bond’s specific case through BBC. They stated that their goal was to foster a safe environment where fans could feel free to share their emotions and deal with mental illnesses with no shame or fear, and that they were actively fighting against stigmas surrounding mental illness. They have since actively branded themselves as an anti-suicide and anti-violence band.
Over the years, the band released three more albums, with two live performance albums. “Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys” was technically the band’s last album. This was then followed by the 2014 Greatest Hits album, “May Death Never Stop You,” which released after the band’s official breakup in 2013. “The Black Parade/Living with Ghosts 10th Anniversary Edition” released in 2016 with some previously unreleased demo songs, remixes and live demos as well as some of the band’s greatest hits.
In 2019, the band announced an official reunion tour across the world, but due to COVID-19, tour dates had to be canceled and postponed. On May 12, 2022, the band released their first single since 2014, “The Foundations of Decay.” This instantly sparked a new wave of emo appreciation and a revival of the subculture. Both past and new fans rejoiced in this new, final sound My Chemical Romance gifted the emo rock genre.
I remember the exact moment in time when I heard “Welcome to The Black Parade.” It was 2013, and I had just gotten back to my hotel room after a dip in the pool. It was winter break and my family had decided to spend a week in a nice hotel on the opposite side of my home country, Puerto Rico. My best friend had sent me a text saying they started listening to emo rock, and told me to look up a specific band on YouTube as soon as I had Wi-Fi.
Dripping wet, I scurried to the front receptionist counter asking for the Wi-Fi password. I immediately ran to my floor, and as I air dried on the balcony with my mother towel-drying my hair, I watched THE music video. My Skullcandy earbuds picked up that iconic beginning G-note. The rest was history.
Though thirteen-year-old me would agree that “The Black Parade” was the band’s best album, twenty-four-year-old me has to argue against that and say that “Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge” was the band’s best work. There is something about Gerard’s more practiced vocals and the band’s eagerness to push the limits of the genre that makes this particular album so emotional and raw. “Helena” one of my favorite songs of all time, encapsulates the very values the band stood for. It dives deep into the trenches of depression, suicide and grief, and tactfully shares the almost irreparable damage that the loss of a life causes in each of these scenarios.
Truthfully, I can’t say My Chemical Romance has ever made a flawed song. I know every single one by heart and I will continue to carry them until my last breath, from “You Brought Me Bullets,” to “Sweet Revenge,” to “Black Parade” to “Killjoys, make some noise.” The music this band created evolved and grew like a living being. Even after the band’s breakup, their music continues to carry on through the genre, and through fans like me that never grew out of their emo phase.
To close things off, I’d like to share a few song recommendations for those that might be new and interested in listening to this band’s stellar work. Going in order from oldest to newest releases: “Demolition Lovers,” “Vampires Will Never Hurt You,” “I’m Not Okay (I Promise),” “The Ghost of You,” “The Sharpest Lives,” “I Don’t Love You,” “SING,” “Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na)” and finally “The Foundations of Decay.”
I also encourage new fans to check out the band’s official YouTube channel to enjoy the music videos they created over the years. With this, I hope I was able to share the immense love I feel for this band and pass it along to new fans. This one is for the weirdos, the misfits and the rejects.
The entirety of My Chemical Romance’s discography can be found on all music streaming platforms.