With pens and words as weapons, armored in skeleton bodies and faces, with uniforms of ski masks and Banned jackets; they bleed black and red. The MCRmy and clique fight not against each other but against conformity, for their rightful places in the world.
Although started eight years apart, My Chemical Romance and Twenty One Pilots both entered into music with an equal dedication to not only preserving art but inspiring it. These groups’ instrumentals, lyrics, and vocals remind audiences that music itself is an art form to be appreciated. However, MCR and TOP go beyond sound by visually enthralling anyone—turning a medium so often enjoyed intangibly into a palpable encounter that’s hard to forget.
“…anthems are sung, reunions are had, and friendships are made; homes are created and that feeling of not belonging is destroyed.”
If you had driven past a MCR show years ago, or a TOP show now you might feel like you have time-traveled to a permanent Halloween. These bands have a culture, such as the DIY “costumes”: the Blurryface era character has brought on crowds covered in black chalk and red eyeshadow, similar to how “The Patient” era character, from The Black Parade, brought on “dead” skeleton faces and military jackets. These personifications of music aesthetics inspire more than just wardrobe. They help to create art: graffiti, paintings, sketches, graphics, photography, etc. Fans have the freedom to collaborate with the band and some of the works end up on tour buses or Instagram. Having music that’s attainable, up for interpretation, and even encouraged to be turned into what the listener wishes, eliminates the typical power distance found between artists and fans.
The live shows for both My Chemical Romance and Twenty One Pilots were/are theatrical events where anthems are sung, reunions are had, and friendships are made; homes are created and that feeling of not belonging is destroyed—at least temporarily. “I attribute my decision to take writing music seriously to The Black Parade, and to Blurryface for re-birthing my passion. The way both records build a tapestry in the mind’s eye, each song filling up a new section, never giving the whole idea away. Every song is essential to the message but can also be decided by the listener,” says Alex Rogers of 7 Minutes In Heaven, who is heavily influenced by both bands. Lyrics literally transcend and become lights, faces, confetti, fog, movements, feelings, tears, joy. Gas masks or surgical masks, music video actors become part of the live show. Even the outfit changes are something you expect from pop stars, but these bands break stereotypes, changing it up when necessary, despite emo and rock roots. Importantly, none of it feels forced; more than anything their music almost demands these kind of dramatics.
MCR and TOP have songs that can stand alone as stories (poetry or prose) because they’re so eloquently written from places of pain or hope. Neither shy away from talking about hard issues like death, mental illness, loss and more; whether metaphorically or bluntly. Their songs are declarations that start revolutions for some of us—personal revolutions of change that allow fan bases to become family. “I think they tackle the greatest issues of the human condition. Fear of death, love, and loss of it, the struggle to find a place in this world and fighting to survive our own mindsets,” says Rogers, speaking on what makes these artists stand out.
“We all have something to learn from MCR and TOP’s unapologeticness in a world that’s just begging us to conform.”
People may try to discredit MCR and TOP for their radio play, young fan bases, and overzealousness but that doesn’t recognize the passion from which this creativeness all flows. Fans may have started with them out of curiosity or to follow the trends, and it’s undeniable these bands have hits that could attract random radio listeners without having any impact beyond pop-culture. However, we all have something to learn from MCR and TOP’s unapologeticness in a world that’s just begging us to conform, and that holds true whether you paint your face or not. The groups are not calculated marketing techniques, they’re a representation of honesty. These artists could fill art museums the same way that they pack amphitheaters; allowing us not only to hear music but to see it, feel it, touch it, be it. They have taught us: It’s okay to be different, so embrace it. That we should be honest with ourselves and others no matter how dark that honesty is, and that we’re not alone. “Let me hear you say we are My Chemical Romance”, “We are Twenty One Pilots and so are you” if only you choose to be, and I suggest you do.
Have a penchant for print? You can check out this story in issue #53 of Substream Magazine.