My Chemical Romance's Gerard Way Made Me a Better Person
Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Records
Last month Gerard Way (frontman of My Chemical Romance, the reigning emo band of the 2000s) released his first solo album, Hesitant Alien. It's the first music we've heard from Way since MCR released Danger Days in 2010 and then (tragically) split in 2013.
Seeing his name pop up on the interwebs again gave me butterflies.
You see, My Chemical Romance is a huge reason I am who I am today. They not only changed my life, but defined it throughout my early teen years.
My friend made this collage when he realized Gerard Way and I followed the same hairstyle patterns throughout the years.
Like on my first day of high school, when my teacher went around the class and asked us to say something interesting we did over the summer.
The year was 2007. I sat in all my awkward glory — blue eyeshadow and bangs I insisted had to cover at least half of my face — the lone student from my middle school amongst a group that had graduated together from a local junior high.
People mentioned camping trips, traveling with their families, typical summer stuff. When it was my turn, I knew exactly what to say: "I went to Projekt Revolution."
That year, Projekt Revolution's lineup featured a lot of bands that my 14-year-old self loved. Most importantly though, My Chemical Romance was on the bill, and my dad got about 20 video clips of me crying when Gerard Way began singing "Welcome to the Black Parade."
After class a girl came up to me and asked, "You went to Projekt Revolution? Who were you there to see?"
"MCR," I answered without hesitation. She smiled and told me that's who she would have gone to see, too.
Her name was Nicole. We've been best friends ever since.
That day in 9th grade marked the beginning of a friendship that's lasted nearly half my lifetime, but my obsession with My Chemical Romance goes back even further.
I first heard MCR on KROQ on the way to school one morning. It was 2005, and I had just started 7th grade at a Catholic school in Beverly Hills — a very different atmosphere than the apartment I shared with my single mother in the Valley. The song was "I'm Not Okay (I Promise)."
The opening guitar was pretty catchy, but the lyrics were what really struck me. As Way melodically screamed, "What will it take to show you that it's not the life it seems? / I told you time and time again / You sing the words, but don't know what it means," I felt like he understood me — a sort of grungy, painfully shy, Hot Topic-loving preteen — because he was misunderstood, too.
I went home to watch the music video and was entranced by Way's skillful eyeliner application. His vampire-like looks set my heart a-flutter.
Next: The sweetest/creepiest piece of MCR merch you've ever seen.
I was quickly sucked into listening to the rest of Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge — it shot me into a dark, twisted realm curtained by blood-stained lace and framed by cemetery gates. I could hear the pain in Way's voice as he sang about death and the love that transcends it. It was oh so romantic.
From that point on, I dedicated myself to My Chemical Romance. Every day after school I listened to Three Cheers on repeat. One particularly inspired afternoon, I colored the gold exterior of my CD player black with a sharpie. Why? Because I was angsty and gold wasn't the way I felt inside.
When I started taking guitar lessons, "Romance" (off of I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love) was the first song I learned to play. When Life On the Murder Scene was released in 2006, I sat in front of the TV for hours and let the menu section replay while I cried at how beautiful "Desert Song" was.
In 2007, my mom drove me all the way to San Diego in the middle of the week to see MCR's Black Parade World Tour because the L.A. shows sold out before we could get tickets. Then, my dad drove me all around the city to find a copy of The Umbrella Academy — Gerard Way's comic book — on Free Comic Book Day. (Thanks, mom and dad.)
When I wasn't at school I was on imnotokay.net, a fan forum dedicated to My Chemical Romance. My screen name was gerardwayrox1.
It was there I met Haley, a girl who in retrospect was equally as obsessed with MCR as I was, though we would argue for hours about who loved "Gee" more. This was before either of us had ever even kissed a boy. We made a MySpace page so we could create My Chemical Romance themed layouts. I wasn't allowed to have a MySpace yet, but as a member of the MCRmy, it was my duty to spread the love to emo girls everywhere.
Yes, that is Gerard Way's face on a pillowcase.
Photo by Artemis Thomas-Hansard
One time I entered a contest to win a setlist signed by the band. Miraculously, I won. But I didn't respond in time to claim it, so it was given to someone else.
It was more pain than my 13-year-old brain could fathom. "God hates me," I told my mom before I went off to write about it in my punk-rock Hello Kitty diary.
Well, I didn't get the setlist, but later on my mom gave a pretty unforgettable gift for my birthday: a pillowcase with Gerard Way's face on it. Looking back, I can see where someone might find that a little creepy. At the time, though, it was awesome.
While that pillowcase was one of the best (and funniest) gifts I've ever gotten, it doesn't compare to everything My Chemical Romance has given me over the years. Because of Way and company, I gained a sense of identity, a life-long best friend, and some pretty sweet HTML skills, among many other things. I learned to accept who I am, even if is a little emo.
Thankfully, I've outgrown my adoration for men who wear eyeliner, but the respect I have for Gerard Way will stay with me forever.
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