The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys
At the end of 2019, emo band and punk rock phenomena of the early 2000s, My Chemical Romance (MCR), finally returned for their first show since they broke up seven years ago. Even though the band’s breakup seemed final in 2013, the quartet of rockers announced last Halloween that they were reuniting for a single show at Los Angeles’s Shrine Expo Hall on December 20th.
The announcement was met with immense delight from MCR fans—“Killjoys” as they are called—everywhere, and people came from all around the globe to fill the Shrine on 2019’s final day of autumn. However, because the Expo Hall only seats 6,800 people and MCR has millions of followers worldwide, tickets sold out in a matter of minutes, and resale offers cost over $1000, leaving many Killjoys empty handed and praying for the band to announce more shows.
For a while it seemed as if MCR was only going to play the one gig in LA, but they eventually announced their attendance at festivals in Australia and Japan. Then, in early 2020, they announced a couple of UK shows. Fans sat on the edge of their seats in anticipation of a tour, as the band released a number of mysterious, yet hinting videos.
Finally, the band broke the tension and officially announced a tour on January 29th, offering shows all around the United States throughout 2020 for the first time in nine years. Like the single show at the Expo Hall, the tickets went quickly—every show on the tour sold out within the first day—but given that there are more opportunities to see MCR this time around, resale prices are far more reasonably priced.
When MCR broke up, it devastated members of the emo community. Their return has thus lifted the spirits of many, and it comes at a time when the world could admittedly use a bit of unapologetic, head banging, black-hearted jams.
Emo emerged as a music genre at the turn of the millennium. It grew out of the 1990s’ post-grunge and alternative crazes, mixing in a touch of old school punk, hardcore metal, and screamo as well. Confessional lyrics, emotional emphasis, and an adolescent sense of anxiety defined emo’s sound—it was the perfect fit for a generation of kids raised in the post-9/11 era of fear and insecurity.
Bands such as Jimmy Eat World, Fall Out Boy, and of course, My Chemical Romance brought emo to the foreground in the early 2000s. My Chemical Romance even formed after lead singer Gerard Way witnessed the September 11th terrorist attacks in New York City firsthand.
Moreover, emo aesthetic, donned by the performers and endorsed by the fans, reflected the genre’s sentiments, often incorporating black clothes, skinny jeans, eyeliner, piercings, and an overall goth(ic) look. Unlike punk rock’s flat out subversion of semantics through unconventional or misused attire and sound, emo embraced its paradoxes, creating a proudly strange subculture of misfits and outcasts.
So why are we seeing an emo resurgence now? And more importantly, why is emo a healthy thing to bring back in today’s day and age? After all, it is not just MCR that is coming back. Rage Against The Machine also came back after an eight year hiatus in late 2019 and are now beginning a 2020 tour. Blink-182 released a new album last year, as did Jimmy Eat World. Green Day, Weezer, and Fall Out Boy also came out with new songs, and that trifecta will be headlining the Hella Mega Tour together throughout 2020.
Certainly a lot has changed in music, politics, and culture since emo was last in the mainstream almost two decades ago. Pop/rap music has taken over, and infectious beats top the charts more often than shredding guitar solos. However, with all of these bands coming back and new groups gaining popularity from the underground (The Wonder Years, Seaway, The Interrupters, etc.), we are starting to hear emo make a comeback on the radio.
Part of this is definitely due to nostalgia. Now that we are twenty years into the 2000s, bands that dominated the Billboard at the turn of the millennium are garnering a retro-appeal and are even getting played on classic rock stations. Likewise, fans of emo have grown up, giving the genre wider legitimacy and some even starting their own bands with emo inspiration.
However, there is more to emo’s resurgence than just whimsical delight. As aforementioned, emo came about during a politically tumultuous time in America, when war, fear, and unsavory media coverage troubled the national consciousness. The parallels between that time and now are unfortunately palpable. Buzz terms like “Fake News,” “Post-Truth,” and even “World War Three” have somehow become inescapable in 2020. Maybe this complicated rhetoric begs us to turn up our stereos, block out the toxicity, and rejoice/rebel in a noise that bleeds defiance.
On a happier note, though, emo’s resurrection could also come from a place of cultural evolution on the right side of history. Beneath emo’s forward sentiments of anger and frustration, the genre has always had an underlying element of acceptance and respect for those who do not fit in. Since the 90s and early 2000, America (and the world) has made quiet strides in civil liberties. Although administrations and policies do not always reflect these collective progresses, societal movements and campaigns have effectively given greater voices to conventionally silenced, overlooked, or scrutinized parts of the population.
This is not to say that everything is perfect, and the relationship may seem abstract, but maybe emo’s return is simultaneously a latent celebration, for the outsiders that found rare solace in this music nearly twenty years ago can now listen to it unashamedly, fearlessly, and thankfully… without anger or anxiety, but with love and increasing comfort in their hearts.
In the band’s first twelve years of existence before the recent reunion, My Chemical Romance released four albums. The first, 2002’s “I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love” focused on feelings of fear. The second, the platinum “Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge,” switched over to an emphasis on anger. The third, the 2006 sensation (and often referred to as the band’s magnum opus) “The Black Parade” told audiences that it’s okay to be afraid. Then, their final album, the 2010 “Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys” offered a moving collection of quasi-dystopian narrative songs about growing up, departing, and finally, saying goodbye.
As of right now, MCR has not commented on weather or not they will return to the studio alongside their reunion on stage. However, given their trend of thematically relevant albums so far, perhaps their next album will be one that centers on contentedness, happiness, and gratefulness, something that MCR, loyal Killjoys, and emo fans everywhere are feeling in abundance nowadays, for reasons that encompass and extend far beyond the music.
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