“You like D&D, Audrey Hepburn, Fangoria, Harry Houdini, and croquet. You can’t swim, you can’t dance, and you don’t know karate. Face it, you’re never gonna make it. I don’t wanna make it. I just wanna…(music starts)”


On June 8th, 2004, the emo community stopped and noticed My Chemical Romance when they dropped their second album, Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge. While people in the community knew who they were before this album, they weren’t as interested as when this album was released. That is because everyone in the emo community really connected with the message of Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge and they felt empowered by it.



“The concept for the record Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge was the story of a man and a woman that were separated by death in a gunfight, and he goes to hell only to realize by the devil telling him that she is still alive. The devil says you can be with her again if you bring me the souls of a 1,000 evil men. And so he hands him a gun and he says oh I’ll go do it. Um, that was the concept, but the record ended up being much more about loss in real life than anything. So I’d say it’s a good split.”

While this intricate love story and loss may have been the band’s original concept for their album, it ended up meaning a lot more to fans. But before we talk about the emo community’s interpretation of this album and specifically the song “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)”, let’s talk about what it truly means to be emo. In my opinion, defining emo is hard. To me, it seems we are a group of people who came together not only for our love of music and the artists we like, but also because we share so much in common in terms of trauma, mental illness, and addiction. Because of that connection, we are able to bond and heal together. But to society, they see people who are emo as mentally ill satan worshipers. They see emo people as people who wear all black and are overly sad. Society even oftentimes lumps in emos with goths which are two very different things. Society, in reality, is just shocked by our non-conformity and places many of us in this “emo” category even if we don’t belong. But emo can also describe a genre of music. Emo describes a certain type of music that can focus on things such as trauma, mental illness, and addiction, but can also be uplifting and upbeat depending on the artist. Some artists I consider emo are Pierce the Veil, Sleeping with Sirens, Set It Off, and My Chemical Romance. Again though society frequently misplaces bands that they deem too different in this category even though they may not belong here. In terms of being defined by the word “emo”, artists like My Chemical Romance felt conflicted because of how society and popular media viewed it. Contrary to people’s beliefs, the emo music and community was and is a safe space for people who suffer from various mental health illnesses and/ or addictions. In an article by Vice, Emma Garland talks to Dr. Rosemary Lucy Hill, a lecturer in Sociology at the University of Leeds, who wrote a research paper titled “Emo Saved My Life”. Dr. Hill tells Vice:




“‘I think emo probably has helped make talking about mental ill health easier for some groups,’ Hill tells me. ‘There has been a broader shift towards more openness and less stigma over the last few years, so we need to bear that in mind as well,’ but, she says, ‘bands like My Chemical Romance definitely helped some fans negotiate their mental ill health. They not only provided support groups through their fanbase, but also their lyrical messages were about living and learning to live with mental ill health, to find ways to cope and gain support.’” 


With this album, My Chemical Romance was able to highlight mental illness and bring more awareness to the fact that teens aren’t getting the proper help they need.


“What will it take to show you that it’s not the life it seems? (I’m not okay) I’ve told you time and time again you sing the words, but don’t know what it means (I’m not okay) to be a joke and look. Another line without a hook.”

Through the song “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)”,  My Chemical Romance is trying to show people that teens do have real issues regardless of what others want to believe. In the music video for this song, the setting is a high school and all of the band members are students at this school who get bullied for seemingly no other reason than just being different. People would like to pretend teens don’t have any real problems in their lives, but contrary to their beliefs they do. Many teens face things such as bullying and harassment from their peers solely based on their appearance like the band portrays in this music video. This song is meant to not only empower those teens but also be a wake-up call to all who don’t believe teens can have real problems or mental health issues.


“It just fit so well on so many different levels. The band name meant so many different things having to do with um antidepressants or alcoholism. It had a lot to do with the overall picture of what we were saying.”


Not only this album and song but the band as a whole was meant to stand as a safe space for people who suffer from mental illness or addiction. The band wanted to be able to give support to those who were suffering as they once were in the same position as them. By doing this, they were also bringing awareness to mental health issues and addiction. Now let’s listen to some clips of Gerard Way, the band’s lead singer, talking about things such as mental illness and health during some of the band’s live performances.



“And suicide, things of that nature. We’ve always told you that if things feel so desperate. You’re so hurt, so depressed. You find some person you trust to talk to. That’s something we’ve always said. But what we’re gonna say to you today is if you find yourself depressed, hurt, like an outcast, like the only kind of place you could ever fit in is at a show like this. That’s not the case because even though we’re all outcasts in one way, we all do belong in this world and we all fit in this world. Do you understand me? We all have something to say. But you never, ever say it with violence! Do you understand Canada?”

In this clip, we hear Gerard telling his fans that even if they feel like they don’t belong that they do and their existence matters and is important. He is offering fans hope and also validating their feelings. Gerard is also spreading another positive message saying to the people at the show that they shouldn’t try to get their messages across with violence.



“So I talk about mental illness every night too because it was something I struggled with from when I was a little boy. I was always depressed or something was going on with me or I was afraid of death because I was also raised Catholic and that’s some scary shit too. Um, so, so I didn’t have anyone to talk to and I didn’t have anyone that would take me seriously, and neither did Mikey. And there was this huge stigma around mental illness because it’s like a wound you can’t see. If somebody can’t see you have a puncture wound, they don’t think you need any help. It’s not like that. It’s a very serious thing. Eventually, when I got into my 30’s, I said I need some help. I found a doc. She’s rad. She’s super cosmic. We talk about the universe and she helps me out. So if you feel that way and you don’t have anyone to talk to, seek a doctor out, seek treatment out. What’s the worst that’s gonna happen? You don’t like ’em, they don’t like you. Well, find another one. You know you just gotta look for help. It’s out there. Ok?”


In this clip, we hear presumably the person recording and the people around them crying as Gerard Way shares his struggles with them during his solo tour in 2015. This shows how fans are affected by the artists themselves and their music. As Gerard gets ready to start his next song, we can hear the people who were once crying, now cheer as Gerard starts to sing. Gerard in this clip is also encouraging fans to get the help that they need and deserve. Instead of glorifying his mental illnesses, Gerard is raising awareness and bringing hope to his fans that they can get better and get help. Both the clips you just heard shows how My Chemical Romance’s message has and still does affect fans of their music. 


“Forget about the dirty looks. Forget about the dirty looks. The photographs your boyfriend took. You said you read me like a book. But the pages all are torn and frayed. I’m okay, I’m okay, I’m okay now (I’m okay, now). But you really need to listen to me. Because I’m telling you the truth. I mean this, I’m okay! (Trust me). I’m not okay. I’m not okay.”


Overall, I believe the song “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)” and the band as a whole are bringing awareness to mental illness and offering their fans support through their music. I think it is also important to define what emo means as it starts to become popular in media again with events such as the emo music festival “When We Were Young” which showcased many popular emo bands including My Chemical Romance. Thank you for listening!


“I’m not okay. I’m not okay. Well, I’m not okay, I’m really not okay. I’m not okay. I’m not okay.”