Photography via author
When I heard My Chemical Romance were coming back, my inner alt-black-girl heart started to sing. The American emo rock band announced a reunion with five new dates, making this their first appearance since 2012. MCR mania has returned, with The Black Parade re-entering the Billboard charts in the US, and I for one, am ready.
I can’t say I’m a super fan by any stretch of the imagination: I’ve never seen the New Jersey band live and I don’t know their catalogue in its entirety, nor do I know each bandmate’s astrological chart. Still, the songs I do know, their style, and their lyrical prowess have resonated with me since my teenage years.
I’ve always been a realist. It’s not to say I’m not a happy person, or I think the worst of everyone and everything, but I just deeply feel things and I’m comfortable with sitting in those uncomfortable feelings and thoughts. I’ve always been sensitive, easy to cry, but I don’t see it as a weakness anymore. In fact, I think if I go a month without crying it does more harm than good.
Growing up, A Series Of Unfortunate Events was my favourite book. Lemony Snicket wasn’t scared to teach children about the realities of death and how unfair the world can be –it felt like someone was finally being honest with me, even as a child. And more recently, Pixar’s Inside Out reaffirmed to me why sadness is just as crucial emotion as happiness.
I’ve never really shied away from thinking about death, dying or mortality. In fact, I spent a lot of my teenage years obsessing about it. Not because I’m morbid, or don’t enjoy life, but because it’s simply a fact of our existence we all must go through – and that still scares me. In Western culture, death is as taboo as it comes, but in my Jamaican culture, it’s normal. My grandma always talks to me about death, and I’ve heard a million stories about duppies (ghosts). I remember as a child visiting in the summer, I would run and play in the graveyard full of old lopsided headstones at the back of church when services became too long for my fidgeting feet. I’d seen more open casket funerals than most children I knew. So, when I first heard My Chemical Romance, I was so impressed because they weren’t afraid to talk about death. I never found it macabre, just honest.
“When I first heard My Chemical Romance, I was so impressed because they weren’t afraid to talk about death. I never found it macabre, just honest”
I’ve always found something reassuring in listening to music that makes me feel. In fact, songs that bring out a nostalgic sadness in me are some of my favourites. The fact that music can move me in that way is so beautiful. And that’s why I love MCR.
Also, they didn’t just deliver tunes, they delivered straight-up theatre. Their third studio album Black Parade, which brought them worldwide success was a whole opera following the life, death and afterlife of a character known as The Patient.
I can’t forget seeing them strutting onto my screen in their black uniform for ‘Welcome To The Black Parade’. From the clips I watched don YouTube, MCR committed to the Black Parade on tour, with Gerard having the stage presence of Ziggy with a dash of Freddie. He isn’t just an incredible singer who can rock the holy trinity of emo hair colours (white-blonde, red and jet black) with equal success, but his work beyond music is spectacular too. I remember discovering he had written the weirdly wonderful comic book Umbrella Academy, which became a popular Netflix show – I had expected literally nothing less in his hiatus from music.
Lyrically, MCR had the moistness of an 80s ballad, and I lapped it up. For me, they paved the way for the Drakes of the world to be soft and emotionally vulnerable with their words. I don’t care what anyone says, ‘I Don’t Love You’ is one of the most heartwrenching ballads there is, with its loud imploring chorus where Gerard sings “sometimes I cry so hard from pleading.” And when he sings, “A life that’s so demanding, I get so weak,” in ‘Famous Last Words’, I felt that. Their tunes are just so damn relatable – now as an adult, I finally understand ‘Teenagers’, because they scare the living shit out of me too.
“Lyrically, MCR had the moistness of an 80s ballad, and I lapped it up. For me, they paved the way for the Drakes of the world to be soft and emotionally vulnerable with their words”
I’d always been told the music I loved was “white music” growing up. Now as an adult I know that’s not true. Rock and its subcategories derived directly from rock’n’roll invented by African Americans. But within the bands and culture, there have always been people of colour.
I remember screaming when I found out Pete Wentz from Fall Out Boy is of Jamaican heritage. Brittany Howard from Alabama Shakes is a black biracial woman from the South, and she is the epitome of what a lead singer in a rock’n’roll band should be. Santigold and V V Brown were icons to me as a teen. And who can forget Kele Okereke from Bloc Party? Before Blood Orange was a hip New Yorker, he was indie kid Lightspeed Champion, rocking a flicky fringe. This is without mentioning that MCR’s Ray Toro is Puerto Rican.
We’ve been here, and we always have. Now, there are even more artists like Skinny Girl Diet and Nova Twins making waves. Meeting other black women, alt-blacks and “blemos” who love MCR and other alternative musicians has felt like this wonderful comradery.
MCR showed me it was okay to be all up in my feels, to be dramatic, and one day soon, I’ll have a black girl listening party called the Black Parade.