Last week, My Chemical Romance ended their twelve-year career with a short announcement on their official website: “We’ve gotten to go places we never knew we would. We’ve been able to see and experience things we never imagined possible. We’ve shared the stage with people we admire, people we look up to, and best of all, our friends. And now, like all great things, it has come time for it to end. Thanks for all of your support, and for being part of the adventure.”
My Chemical Romance was a shining example of a band that took a genre that is often mocked (emo rock) and made it something impressively grandiose, undeniably affecting, and unforgettably theatrical. Their music evolved and the thematic scope widened release after release. I would like to take this time to reflect on one of the first bands that made me fall in love with the emo/alternative rock genre and share my favorite My Chemical Romance music videos.
5. “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)” (2004)
I remember driving home from Warped Tour in the summer of 2004 when a friend slipped Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge into the CD player. They immediately skipped to “I’m Not Okay (I Promise),” and as soon as the electric guitars swelled and kick-started the intensely emotional song, I was hooked. The music video pulled me in even more as the members portray prep school students who just don’t fit in (yours truly was in an all-girls prep school at the time). Sure, the band looked like your typical black-eyeliner-loving, swoopy-haired emo group, but their lyrics were solid and the rock ‘n roll influence was undeniable. Their debut album remained on repeat for weeks after.
4. “Na Na Na” (2010)
The music video for “Na Na Na,” the debut single off My Chemical Romance’s fourth and final studio album, Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, overwhelmed me the first few times I watched it. The breaks in singing for disc jokey intros and world commentary, the toy laser guns, the Killjoys themselves… The video features endless nods to pop culture, everything from Blade Runner to Terminator 2 to Mad Max. This aggressive, in-your-face punk anthem is already memorable, but the music video makes it doubly so.
3. “The Ghost Of You” (2005)
I loved this video because My Chemical Romance was theatrical and heartfelt in it in ways I wasn’t used to seeing from alternative rock bands. Seeing Gerard Way, who normally embodies the punk rock frontman persona to a tee, slick back his hair and sing at a USO dance shows the band wasn’t afraid to experiment with their look and creative style. Watching the reenactment of D-Day is like watching a mini movie, revealing what a big budget the band had to work with (still on their first album, mind you). The creativity and thought behind this video shows, and it deserves a spot on my top five.
2. “Helena” (2005)
My Chemical Romance had a knack of transforming morbid events and depressing themes into upbeat, hook-filled songs, as evidenced by “Helena.” I mean, seriously, the band performs this eulogy-based song in the front of a church during a funeral. What other music video has a beautiful corpse doing ballet at her own funeral while the band’s lead singer prays? And for one last kick to the heart, Way wails “So long and goodnight” while carrying out her coffin. I couldn’t forget this video if I tried.
1. “The Black Parade” (2006)
This video for the title track off My Chemical Romance’s 2006 release, The Black Parade, is the perfect snapshot of an amazing concept album centering on a man succumbing to cancer, approaching his death, and reflecting on his life. It speaks to My Chemical Romance’s ability to take a single idea and use it to create a fully-formed, critically-acclaimed and fan-favorite album.
Way believes death comes for someone in the form of their fondest memory, in the case of this video, a parade seen in childhood. The band spared no expense with this video and fully committed to that idea, right down to the black marching uniforms. In the spring of 2007 I watched them perform this track live while wearing the uniforms, and it was just as intense and mesmerizing as in the video. “The Black Parade” is also the only song I can remember my father ever asking me to burn for him, probably because of its theatricality and ’70s classic rock influences. I still get chills watching the video. Bravo, My Chemical Romance. You had an incredible career.