Break out the black hair dye and red eyeshadow, because it’s time to revisit My Chemical Romance’s sophomore album, “Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge.” Like many, while in quarantine I’ve been revisiting some of my past phases and obsessions- including my emo phase. While listening to My Chemical Romance again, I realized that it’s hard to deny that the impact “Three Cheers” had still lasts today. With classics like “I’m Not Okay” and cult favorites like “Cemetery Drive,” this was one of the most influential albums of the 2000s, and it’s about time we talk about it.
While I might be biased because I listened to it relentlessly in middle school, there is an ambience around “Three Cheers” that can understand emo teenagers so well. Frontman Gerard Way, along with his brother, bassist Mikey Way, grew up in a suburb in New Jersey that he would describe as restrictive, leading him to feel like an outcast, much like his audience. The words he sang were describing his own frustrations with his family, himself, and his trauma living in post-9/11 New Jersey. For the teenage emo scene, it felt like they had someone who represented them. Songs openly grieving relatives and alluding to mental health struggles were healing to both the band members and an audience full of so-called misfits. Lyrics like “they made me do push ups in drag” hinted at confusion in gender identity, something so many people, including Gerard Way, were feeling but wasn’t being talked about yet in 2004 at the time of the album’s release.
Not only did their lyrics pave the way for the more open, vulnerable, and dramatic lyrics we hear now in emo music, but their music transformed the typical punk sound. The scrappy vocals and edge in their music was something that was new to the pop punk scene. Pre-My-Chemical-Romance, bands like blink-182, Bowling For Soup, and Sum 41 dominated alternative music, and while they’re undeniably good, these bands lacked the angst MCR has. Finally, there was a band who quite literally were and sounded like 4 teens who were just angry at the world, and it was exactly what we had been missing. After all, nothing describes teen angst better than screaming I’m not okay along with Gerard Way. The vocals were sometimes just screams and the guitar is choppy, but it’s perfect. “Three Cheers” birthed a new era for alternative rock music that would then influence artists like 5 Seconds of Summer, Yungblud, Twenty One Pilots, Post Malone, and more.
Outside of the music, the aesthetic of “Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge” led to the typical imagery we think of now when someone says emo. With a color scheme of red and black and an album cover that shows a girl and a boy about to kiss but covered in blood, it’s pretty easy to pinpoint why emo teenagers started to wear all black. I can’t blame them, because it is pretty impossible to watch the "Helena" music video without considering putting on more eyeliner and dying my hair black.
Sixteen years after the release we are still feeling the influence of “Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge,” and I hope we continue to. From the lyrics, to the music, to the aesthetic, it’s impossible to refute that this album had a huge impact on not just the future of My Chemical Romance, but all of emo music and culture.
Fans rejoiced when My Chemical Romance announced their long awaited return, with a tour that was set to begin this month, but has since been postponed until next year. Until then, we’ll just have to keep on relistening to these classics until we can join the black parade again.