“Welcome to the Black Parade” used to be my least favorite song on My Chemical Romance’s The Black Parade, which happens to be my favorite album of all time. With over half a billion Spotify streams to date and a permanent spot on every mid-2000s emo nostalgia playlist, it is by far their most iconic song. But I skip it almost every time it comes on. I still like it, but once you’ve listened to a few too many mid-2000s emo nostalgia playlists, you start to get very tired of that G note intro.
The context in which you listen to a song can make a world of difference, though. Listening to a popular song alone in your room means nothing. The words you’ve heard a million times blend into the instrumentation and create a monotonous drone. Most times I’ve heard “Welcome to the Black Parade” have been alone in my room. Likely with the lights off, passively ignoring the lyrics as if they didn’t mean a thing at all.
In my opinion, the popular songs are the best ones to hear live. There’s nothing like it. To hear thousands of people who know every single line by heart belt them together, louder than the band itself. When you’re in that room with so much energy, so much love, so much passion, that’s when you finally listen to a song for the first time.
If you’ve somehow avoided this song for the last sixteen or so years and have no idea what I’m talking about, the chorus goes like this:
We’ll carry on
We’ll carry on
And though you’re dead and gone, believe me
You’re memory will carry on
These words have taken on a new meaning over the years. In context with the album, they’re about a cancer patient coming to terms with his own demise. The wonderful thing about The Black Parade, and part of why I love it so much, is that it simultaneously pieces the songs together to create a cohesive story while still allowing each song to live a life of its own out of context as well.
In early interviews, My Chemical Romance used to say that their purpose was to save lives. The very first line in the first song they ever wrote together, called “Skylines and Turnstiles”, is “You’re not in this alone.” They’ve maintained that mantra to this day. As a band, they’ve created a community where it is okay to not be okay. We’re all fucked up, but it’s okay because we have each other.
As it turns out, saving kids’ lives is too much pressure to put on yourself, which ultimately led to MCR breaking up in 2013. For years, us fans could only laugh at the now literal line about being dead and gone. MCR was dead, but their memory would carry on.
After six years of solo projects, we got an Instagram post on Halloween day in 2019. Like phantoms forever read the caption, along with a poster for a return show in Los Angeles. What we all thought would be a one night only event turned into an extended international tour and even a new song that chronicled the journey of their rise, fall, and return. I had no choice but to go to this tour. In fact, I went to three shows in three different states. And for the first time, I felt the lyrics to “Welcome to the Black Parade” in every corner of my soul.
You can’t really understand a song of that magnitude when you’re alone in your room. You need the experience. You need a room full of crying twenty-somethings shouting the words like a pledge, an oath we all made together when we were sad little teenagers. From the center of the barricade to the very last row of nosebleeds, every last person sang those words back to the band as a promise. Defiant to the end we hear the call to carry on, we’ll carry on.
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