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How My Chemical Romance's 'I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love' Redefined Emo Music
My Chemical Romance in 2004. From left: Gerard Way, Ray Toro, Mikey Way, Frank Iero, Bob Bryar.

Photo: Naki/Redferns

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How My Chemical Romance's 'I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love' Redefined Emo Music

Released 20 years ago, My Chemical Romance's debut album brought a macabre, post-hardcore influence to emo music. Although the band didn't consider themselves emo, 'Bullets' profoundly influenced the genre.

GRAMMYs/Jul 22, 2022 - 06:36 pm

Two decades ago, GRAMMY–nominated rock band My Chemical Romance released their debut studio album, I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love. Now a hallmark of early aughts emo, MCR's first release was anything but a typical emo outing.

Released on indie label Eyeball Records on July 23, 2002 and produced by Thursday frontman Geoff Rickly, Bullets was unconventional in a number of ways. MCR's debut was raw and melodic, blending horror punk and post-hardcore with punk — a combination that, on the surface, was a step away from the emo stylings of contemporaries like Taking Back Sunday and the Used. Yet Bullets' popularity rocketed MCR to emo star status, redefining the genre along the way.

MCR would build on Bullets's headbanging mix of punk, pop, emo and post-hardcore on subsequent groundbreaking works Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge and The Black Parade. Yet the group’s debut — which was recorded over 12 days, less than three months after they formed — was released at an auspicious time in rock music. Popular nu-metal bands like Korn and Limp Bizkit were reaching their crescendo, leaving rock fans hungry for a different sound. They would find it in emo, short for "emotional hardcore" music.

The events that led to the band’s formation are, in part, responsible for their heartful message of "togetherness during trauma" — a throughline in their discography that originated on Bullets. After witnessing the September 11th attacks on the way to his Cartoon Network internship, future MCR frontman Gerard Way decided to use music to process the trauma and penned his first rock song, "Skylines and Turnstiles," which would become a standout track on Bullets.

"I was in Hoboken, which is right across the Hudson River," Way said in 2007. "There were 400 people and me. Right in front of us, those buildings went down. It was the biggest f—ing neutron bomb of mental anguish you’ve ever felt." 

Way retreated to his parents’ basement and recorded a barebones version of "Skylines," which he shared with high school friend Matt Pellisier. Pellisier saw potential in the track and agreed to play drums on a professional demo. To round out the lineup, they recruited guitarist Ray Toro — a mutual friend who was working toward becoming a film editor — and Gerard’s brother and future MCR bassist, Mikey, who coined the band’s name. (Mikey was inspired by an Irvine Welsh book called Ecstasy: Three Tales of Chemical Romance.)

The quartet’s demo captured the attention of indie label Eyeball Records, which offered the band a record deal and encouraged them to hit the studio as soon as possible. A couple of days before they were set to record Bullets, former Pencey Prep guitarist Frank Iero joined the MCR lineup but would only play on two tracks —"Honey, This Mirror Isn't Big Enough for the Two of Us" and "Early Sunsets Over Monroeville"— because of time constraints.

The melodic, post-hardcore album kicks off with a minute-long instrumental called "Romance" — a cover of a classical guitar piece "Romance Anónimo," perhaps nodding to a similar-sounding instrumental from the 1978 film, Dawn of the Dead, a favorite of the band. The breezy, bass-forward "Early Sunsets Over Monroeville," references the classic zombie flick and raises the question: If your lover becomes a zombie, will you take them out?   

Meanwhile "Honey, This Mirror Isn’t Big Enough for the Two of Us," a catchy, hard-rocking song about a breakup and substance use, and the frantic yet melodic "Vampires Will Never Hurt You," hint at the future of the band’s sound. Both songs, which are also featured on the band’s greatest hits album, May Death Never Stop You, would easily be at home on the group’s critically acclaimed sophomore effort, Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge. The album’s closing track, "Demolition Lovers," is a fan favorite with heavy influence from Thursday which follows two lovers on the run (a la Natural Born Killers) who meet a tragic fate. 

While the album offers fans a glimpse into the band’s potential, tracks like "Drowning Lessons," "Cubicles," and "The Best Day Ever" are not quite as memorable as their standout counterparts. Alternatively, Bullets' purest post-hardcore offering, "Our Lady of Sorrows," is a sonic departure from the rest of the album’s sound; it’s aggressive, fast-paced and closes with a rare, ferocious metal scream from Way.   

First emerging in the '80s with bands like Embrace, Dag Nasty and the Rites of Spring, emo had just entered its third wave in 2002. Due to the timing of Bullets' release, the acts they toured with, and their growing popularity, MCR would be lifted up as emo figureheads. But the band’s music didn’t really align with many of the subgenre’s notable elements: emotive, angsty lyrics, gang vocals, as well as pop-influenced chord changes and song structure. 

Gerard Way didn't consider emo to be an accurate descriptor — or one that gave them much platform in their early years. "Emo bands were being booked while we were touring with Christian metal bands because no one would book us on tours," he said in 2007. "Unfortunately we get lumped in with [bands] that are considered emo and by default that starts to make us emo. All I can say is …put the records next to each other and listen to them and there’s actually no similarities."      

The frontman’s convictions are justifiable; MCR’s sound is a blend of horror pop, glam, punk and post-hardcore — more akin to AFI and the Misfits than Taking Back Sunday or Brand New. Unlike other bands with the emo label, My Chemical Romance’s lyrics don’t primarily focus on distress or self-loathing, but they are emotive. While they played up the horror aesthetic, MCR has always aimed to comfort fans and give them a sense of community. Bullets backs up Way’s stance.  

MCR and Bullets did indeed impact their community, influencing a slew of acts' sound and style. The band’s innovative visuals for "Helena" and "I’m Not Okay" paved the way for Panic at the Disco’s early high-concept, cabaret-inspired music videos. U.K. group Creeper are direct descendants of MCR, complete with theatrical performances, punk riffs and a horror-inspired aesthetic.

My Chemical Romance’s “records have stood the test of time, and that’s the magic,” says Creeper’s Will Gould. “That’s what so much music in this genre fails to do – it fails to last more than five years. Those My Chemical Romance records will last forever." 

Pop-punk band State Champs also cite MCR as an early influence. "They weren't just a rock band, they were a rock band that didn’t look ordinary," says lead guitarist Tyler Szalkowski. "They were a rock band that’s very comfortable being different, and that’s very inspiring to see them have so much success from just being themselves." 

While third wave emo ended in the late aughts, My Chemical Romance's horror-inspired aesthetic, theatricality, impassioned vocals and surging sound continues to resonate. MCR’s strong artistic vision continues to attract new fans (the band released their first song in eight years this May) while inspiring genre-spanning artists such as Sleeping With Sirens, Famous Last Words, Lil Peep, Post Malone, Yungblud, Twenty One Pilots, and more.

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The Week In Music: Music's Female Fireworks

Katy Perry, Rihanna and Taylor Swift among Maxim's Hot 100

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

Do you know who is No. 1 on the Hot 100? According to Maxim magazine's list of Hot 100 women of 2011, it's model/actress Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, who will appear in the upcoming Transformers 3 film. Though they didn't hit the top spot, several women of music made the hot list, including Katy Perry (No. 3), Taylor Swift (No. 20), Rihanna (No. 22), Britney Spears (No. 25), and Lea Michele (No. 28), among others. While the list is typically meant to appeal to men, at least one woman has weighed in on her fave. Adele told the UK's The Sun, "If Rihanna wanted me, I'd do it with her. She's hot." It seems Adele's infatuation began when Rihanna stripped off a pair of pants on "The X Factor" last year. We didn't know it was someone like Rihanna that Adele was looking for.

Quite possibly the most interesting man in the world (or at least in the world of reality television), Ryan Seacrest is setting out on yet another entertainment venture. The "American Idol" host and radio personality on KIIS-FM in Los Angeles is in talks with NBC to create a new music-themed program. Details on what the show will entail are still being developed, but according to reports it will likely not be a traditional singing competition and will not cast Seacrest on camera. But Seacrest could put on his producer's hat again for the show, a role he has assumed for shows such as "Keeping Up With The Kardashians." Will the show come to fruition and will Seacrest maintain his superhuman powers of being in more than 100 places at once? The jury will likely remain out, at least until the pilot is shot.

Marie Osmond has tied a familiar knot, while rekindling hope for estranged couples everywhere. In a romantic turnabout, Osmond remarried her first husband, Stephen Craig, during a private ceremony in a Mormon temple in Las Vegas on May 4. "I am so happy and look forward to sharing my life with Stephen," said Osmond. The couple shared lives previously when they were first married in 1982, but they divorced just three years later. Osmond married her second husband, Brian Blosil, in 1986 and shared more than 20 years with him before divorcing in 2007. Will the third time be the proverbial charm for Marie? In related news, everyone's favorite brother-sister combo released a new album this week, aptly titled Donny & Marie. The set has a country flavor (which is good for Marie, who has always been a little bit country, though we don't know where that leaves Donny's little bit of rock and roll). One of the tracks on the album, "We Will Find A Way," contains the lyrics: "Sun follows rain/Strength follows pain/Ohhh, we will find a way." Hmmm…sounds like an appropriate song for a divorced couple who has rediscovered their love.

Music fans looking for not only a concert, but also the opportunity to chow down with the band are in luck. Kingsford charcoal has partnered with the GRAMMY-winning Zac Brown Band to sponsor "eat-and-greets" at select concerts this summer. While Kingsford has brokered similar deals with artists such as Tim McGraw and Keith Urban in the past, this particular partnership is arguably more appropriate given leader Zac Brown's renowned culinary skills, cookbook and line of Southern Ground gourmet products. Fans attending the pre-show gatherings will have the opportunity to sample Brown's Southern recipes while also sampling performances from artists signed to Brown's label, Southern Ground Records. Some fans will even have the opportunity to have a feast with the Zac Brown Band themselves. Looking to get your grub on with Zac and Co.? Click here for more information.

In other list news, looks like any of the following could have afforded their own royal wedding. Former "American Idol" judge Simon Cowell was the big mover on the ranking of the UK's wealthiest music people. Jumping from 11th last year to No. 6, Cowell's fortune was valued at about $330 million. The top 5 includes Zomba Records founder turned philanthropist Clive Calder (No. 1, $2.1 billion), composer Andrew Lloyd Webber (No. 2, $1.11 billion), musical theater producer Cameron Mackintosh (No. 3, $1.10 billion), ex-Beatle Sir Paul McCartney (No. 4, $810 million), and "Idol" franchise creator Simon Fuller (No. 5, $614 million). Yep, Britain's got talent.

It seems radio and TV pundit Glenn Beck is digging ever deeper for his alarmist conspiracy theories. The man who had become the latter-day Dr. Gene Scott — at least until his Fox News TV show was recently cancelled — Beck is now taking on one of the great political powers of our age: a rock and roll band. According to the Guardian, Beck cited an episode of "Glee" that featured the My Chemical Romance song "Sing," claiming the song was propaganda. Maybe it's just us at TWIM, but after having viewed the Beck segment, we're not sure what exactly he's talking about. Apparently, My Chemical Romance singer Gerard Way was a bit befuddled too. Said Way via his band's website: "I think the word Glenn Beck was looking for was 'subversion' not 'propaganda,' because I don't know what it would be considered propaganda for — truth? Sentiment?" Well, if nothing else is clear, it turns out Beck is a fan of the "brilliant" "Glee."

Katy Perry's "E.T." featuring Kanye West remains at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and Adele's "Rolling In The Deep" is tops on the iTunes singles chart.

Any news we've missed? Comment below.

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Last Week In Music

My Chemical Romance To Headline Chicago's Riot Fest 2020

My Chemical Romance 

Photo: Andrew Benge/Redferns via Getty Images

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My Chemical Romance To Headline Chicago's Riot Fest 2020

After their Los Angeles comeback, the emo rock band will perform together for the second time in years

GRAMMYs/Jan 30, 2020 - 02:58 am

The recently reunited My Chemical Romance have been announced as the headliner of Chicago's Riot Fest. 

So far, the "Welcome To The Black Parade" band are the only act announced. The rock and hip-hop fest will take place Sept.11–13 at Douglas Park.

The band reunited Dec. 20 at the Shrine Expo Hall in Los Angeles after disbanding in 2013. Since then, fans had been wondering if they would hit the stage again. 

"We're tired of you asking, so we're bringing My Chemical Romance to Riot Fest," the fest announced on social media.

The rest of the lineup will be revealed in the spring. Early-bird presale tickets are on sale now.

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My Chemical Romance, Run The Jewels, Pixies & Smashing Pumpkins To Headline Riot Fest 2021

My Chemical Romance in 2012

Photo: Chris Hyde/Getty Images

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My Chemical Romance, Run The Jewels, Pixies & Smashing Pumpkins To Headline Riot Fest 2021

The Chicago alt, punk, rock, rap and more festival returns to Douglas Park Sept. 17-19, 2021, with Coheed and Cambria, Taking Back Sunday, Lupe Fiasco, FEVER 333, K.Flay and more joining the first wave lineup

GRAMMYs/Jun 17, 2020 - 11:42 pm

Yesterday, June 16, Riot Fest revealed the explosive first wave lineup for the next edition of their festival, now scheduled for 2021. My Chemical Romance, Run The Jewels, the Pixies and the Smashing Pumpkins will headline, with Sublime with Rome, Big Freedia, FEVER 333, K.Flay and many more also joining the initial billing.

The Chicago alt, rock, emo, punk, rap and more fest will return to Douglas Park on Sept. 17-19, 2021. The lineup announcement comes with the news the 2020 edition has been officially canceled due to COVID-19—ticket holders can request a refund or use their ticket in 2021.

Read: Sublime With Rome Talk Latest Album 'Blessings,' 10 Year Anniversary & Rocking Out With Post Malone

Riot Fest 2021 is dedicated to making emo kids' dreams come true—in addition to the My Chemical Romance reunion set, Taking Back Sunday, Coheed and Cambria, New Found Glory, All-American Rejects, Simple Plan and Saves The Day will also play.

Chicago's own alt hip-hop hero Lupe Fiasco will perform his 2007 GRAMMY-nominated album, The Cool, in its entirety. Vic Mensa, Meg Myers, Toots and the Maytals, Best Coast and Alex G also bring sonic diversity to the stacked lineup.

The festival organizers also announced the addition of the first-ever Thursday Preview Party, featuring "mystery bands (including one who will only play Thursday), early access to merch, and an assortment of carnival rides and food to enjoy," according to the press release.

Related: Saves The Day's Chris Conley Talks 20 Years Of 'Through Being Cool'

The Thursday party is a special benefit for fans who commit to the fest in the next 30 days, either with the purchase of 2021 tickets or 2020 ticketholders who hold the passes for 2021. Alternatively, 2020 ticketholders who want a refund or want to transfer their pass to a friend have 30 days to do; more info here.

Weekend passes for Riot Fest 2021 are currently on sale for $150. Ticketing info and the complete wave one lineup can be found on their website.

Today, My Chemical Romance, who was the only act previously announced to headline the 2020 fest, announced new 2021 dates for the North American leg of their reunion tour, which was set to take place this year. The emo vets played together for the first time in seven years in Los Angeles in December 2019, for a four-night run of sold-out shows.

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My Chemical Romance Visits The GRAMMY Museum

New Jersey-based quartet discusses their formation, musical influences and latest album

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

My Chemical Romance participated in an installment of the GRAMMY Museum's An Evening With series on Jan. 26. Before an audience of 200 at the Clive Davis Theater, the four-piece band discussed their latest album, Danger Days: The True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys, early musical influences and how Sept. 11 inspired their formation, among other topics.

"It was like watching a horror movie," said Gerard Way of Sept. 11. "I was doing something really irrelevant at the time that I didn't feel was important and I remember just thinking to myself, 'This is not a waste. I can't waste this.' And it was literally like two weeks later that we had our first rehearsal."


Formed in New Jersey, My Chemical Romance consists of lead vocalist Gerard Way, bassist Mikey Way, and guitarists Frank Iero and Ray Toro. In 2002 the band released their debut album, I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love, ripe with alternative rock and pop elements and dark, introspective lyrics. Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge followed in 2004 and netted the band their first Top 40 hit, "Helena." My Chemical Romance's third album, The Black Parade, was released in 2006 and peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard 200. Conceptual in nature, the album centers around the story of a cancer patient in a hospital bed who reminisces on his life at the moment of his death. Certified platinum, The Black Parade spawned My Chemical Romance's highest-charting single to date, "Welcome To The Black Parade," which reached No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100. Gerard Way received a GRAMMY nomination in 2007 for Best Boxed Or Special Limited Edition Package for his art direction for The Black Parade — Special Edition. Released on Nov. 22, 2010, the band's most recent album, Danger Days: The True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys, is a sci-fi-themed depiction of anti-corporate outlaws living in the year 2019.

Upcoming GRAMMY Museum events include An Evening With Booker T. Jones (May 12), From Vision To Vinyl: A Step-By-Step Look At Vinyl Production (May 18), and American Express Presents The Drop: Diane Schuur (June 9).

For more information on the GRAMMY Museum, visit www.grammymuseum.org.

Click on the "GRAMMY Museum events" tag below for links to other GRAMMY News stories in this series.