The 20 greatest My Chemical Romance songs ever

My Chemical Romance standing in front of a red wall in 2005
(Image credit: Mick Hutson/Redferns)

Across four iconic albums, My Chemical Romance helped spearhead the 2000s emo boom. Formed by frontman Gerard Way in 2001. their blend of post-goth angst, high-kicking theatrics and comic book-inspired concepts turned them into one of the biggest rock bands of the decade. They split in 2013, but reunited just six years later to headline festivals. While there’s still no sign of a new MCR album, there’s still a trove of classic songs to delve into – and here are the 20 best.

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20. The Light Behind Your Eyes

Before My Chemical Romance’s hiatus they dropped Conventional Weapons, a compilation album of 10 previously unreleased tracks. The Light Behind Your Eyes is a haunting ballad, opening with violins and gentle acoustic before giving way to big guitars. It’s a rumination on mortality, life, and their time as a band before fading away. 

19. It’s Not a Fashion Statement, It’s a Fucking Deathwish

This fun, fast, punk track from Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge sees Way barely catching his breath between promises of “I will remember you” . The first track the band wrote after I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love, it sounds more like that record’s post-hardcore than other tracks on Three Cheers….

18. House Of Wolves

House Of Wolves plays an important role in the mythology of The Black Parade as the protagonist The Patient arrives in hell after a naughty life. Whispers of “S-I-N” underpin jazzy, distorted guitars as Gerard ruminates on innocence and sin. You can hear how much fun they’re having with being bad, bad, bad. 

17. The Sharpest Lives

On The Sharpest Lives, The Patient of The Black Parade’s narrative looks back on his chaotic life. It’s the best of all eras My Chem, with the stadium energy of The Black Parade, verses that are reminiscent of I Brought You My Bullets… and vocal embellishments that feel very Three Cheers…. That chorus just begs to be screamed along to. 

16. You Know What They Do To Guys Like Us in Prison

Here, My Chemical Romance are at their campest and weirdest best, opening shyly with Gerard’s vocals and an unassuming guitar before descending into chaos. Full to of iconic emo lyrics and warped vocals, it also features The Used’s Bert McCracken accompanying Way on both screaming and speaking parts.

15. Demolition Lovers

At six minutes, Demolition Lovers is one of My Chemical Romance’s longer songs, hinting at the taste for theatrics they’d later fully lean into. It’s a slow-building track with dead silence before a spooky, stripped back interlude, crafting a real atmosphere and the foundation of the story of Three Cheers….

14. Disenchanted

While MCR’s louder tracks often get the most attention, they do ballads like nobody else. The Black Parade’s Disenchanted sees The Patient, heading to his final end, musing on the pointlessness of life through a big chorus and powerful guitar. It’s their most Queen-like effort yet, fading out as someone plucks on a lone guitar.

13. Cemetery Drive

Cemetery Drive is one of the strongest tracks on Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge, and an underrated one. Dealing with the protagonist’s wife’s suicide, it’s heavy with both real and fictional emotion, opening with gentle drums and whispery vocals that set the scene for something a lot bigger.

12. Thank You for the Venom

My Chemical Romance inspired a lot of hate from the media for their clothes, their lyrics, their... everything. On Three Cheers… single Thank You For the Venom, they bite back at the critics with a rallying cry that they’ll never be brought down, and it’s a lot of fun for a clapback. Plus, that guitar solo. 

11. Dead!

The first track proper on The Black Parade after the heart monitor-beep laden ballad The End., Dead! sets up all that The Patient’s journey to hell is going to be. Opening with fast guitars and Gerard Way’s screams, it sees The Patient finding out that he’s on his way out. The vocal gymnastics Gerard Way flips through here are unforgettable.

10. Cancer

Cancer is a piano ballad more rooted in reality than the rest of The Black Parade, with Way singing from The Patient’s perspective about his cancer diagnosis, chapped lips and fear of leaving his loved ones behind. It’s mournful and visceral, emboldened by violins and Way’s heartfelt vocals.

9. Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na)

While initially annoying to the ears of OG fans, Na Na Na introduces their most ambitious concept yet, a desert-based dystopia in post-apocalyptic California. Featuring an intro from Mindless Self Indulgence’s Steve Montano as Dr. Death Defying, there’s no denying that its stadium-ready (and brave). Plus, opening a crowd-friendly track with cries of “give me drugs”? It’s an anthem.

8. I Don’t Love You

Sitting neatly in the narrative of The Black Parade, I Don’t Love You is one of MCR’s more simple tracks, but therein lies its ower. It’s a real power ballad replete with cries of “baby get out”, it’s a sob-inducing examination of true heartbreak, both within the story and without. 

7. The Ghost of You

Opening with subtly effected guitars that feel submerged underwater, The Ghost Of You dropped as the fourth single from Three Cheers… with a Marc Webb-directed video that cost a million dollars and saw the band crawling around in the trenches. It’s an eerie, earnest love song with tinges of grief. 

6. Teenagers 

The Gen Z vs. Millennial wars has a lot of grown adults feeling pretty scared of the youth. Teenagers, more relatable than ever, is a fun pop punk bop with a catchy hook of “teenagers scare the living shit out of me”. The accompanying video sees the band playing at an anti-pep rally, leading bored teens into a rousing chorus. According to Gerard Way, the song carries a darker message about school shootings: “It’s about a big problem in America where kids are killing kids. The only thing I learned in high school is that people are very violent and territorial.”

5. Mama 

A song about The Patient and his mother’s conflicted relationship, Mama is one of My Chemical Romance’s weirdest songs, playing with Jewish vibes and old-fashioned radio crackles. It works, especially as showtunes play into so much of My Chemical Romance’s discography. It’s is embellished with stage and screen icon Liza Minnelli’s iconic sobs, shouts and cries of “And if you would call me a sweetheart/I’d maybe then sing you a song...” “We wanted somebody kind of motherly, but who was also a survivor, had been through a lot, but was rooted in theatre,” said Way. Not only did Minnelli fit the bill, she did it for free, and the pair have been friends ever since. 

4. Famous Last Words 

While My Chemical Romance got a lot of flack from worried parents for lyrics about misery, many were wilfully ignoring the optimistic under (and over) tones of many of their songs. The second single from The Black Parade and its closing track, Famous Last Words isn’t the death rattle you’d expect from an album about cancer. Instead, it’s a powerful promise to carry on. “I am not afraid to keep on living/I am not afraid to walk this world alone,” Way sings, and it’s a refrain designed for the fans to keep screaming back at them, too. The simple bridge that builds to Way’s theatrical, determined screams is a reminder that My Chem are unmatched.

3. I’m Not Okay (I Promise) 

While My Chemical Romance already had a dedicated fanbase off the back of I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love, I’m Not Okay (I Promise) was the track that introduced their eyelinered-faces to the world at large. An anthem for the misfits and the downtrodden, it followed in the tradition of all the bands before who had assigned themselves as role models for the weirdos. The video, featuring the band in oversized school uniforms dealing with all the shit that being at school comes with, is kinetic and unforgettable, dedicated to nerds everywhere.

2. Helena

While many of the songs on Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge follow the mythology of the demolition lovers, there are a couple of outliers. One is Helena, a thoughtful tribute Gerard and Mikey Way’s late grandmother. Gerard has called the song an angry letter to himself about how he handled his grandmother’s life and death: “It’s about why I wasn’t around for this woman who was so special to me, why I wasn’t there for the last year of her life,” he said. He’s also spoken frequently on the self-hate that’s woven through Helena, but in practice, it’s buried under the genuine grief. The wobbly, eerie opening vocals and whispers set a mournful tone before Way, as always, fully goes for it. A distorted bridge opens with “can you hear me/are you near me” and leads into a cry of “when both our cars collide”, and you can feel that regret.

The Marc Webb-directed video is as recognisable as the track itself. It moves away from their real life grief, focusing instead on a young woman who died tragically. The band move amongst the mourners, leading them into a choreographed dance before the made-up eyes of Helena snap open in her coffin; she dances with her black ballet flats through the pews before laying back down to die. The band carry her coffin through the rain and Way stares defiantly at the camera as attendees dance in the rain with black and red umbrellas. Helena is a beautiful, mournful track that stands the test of time and one of My Chemical Romance’s most unique, blurring reality with fiction and emo with goth in a way few have done since. 

1. Welcome To The Black Parade

Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge would have been a difficult album for anyone to follow, and for two years, fans waited anxiously to find out what My Chemical Romance would do next. They would be surprised. On September 2, 2006, the band dropped Welcome To the Black Parade on Myspace, an epic introduction to a new narrative landscape. Ten days later, it was released as a single, reaching No.9 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts and later becoming the band’s first No.1 in the UK.

On Welcome To The Black Parade, MCR revealed the glam rock and musical theatre influences that the rest of the album would play with. At just five minutes, it somehow traverses genres and moods, feeling much bigger than it is. It’s cleaner than anything on the prior two albums: slicker and more deliberate, with less of the weird murderous energy either I Brought You My Bullets… or Three Cheers…. It feels, above all, like a defiant refusal to give in or die: “I’m unashamed, I’m gonna show my scars/Give a cheer for all the broken/Listen here, because it’s who we are/I’m just a man, I’m not a hero/Just a boy, who had to sing this song,” sings Way. 

For most longtime fans, Welcome To The Black Parade was their introduction to this new, sprawling world that the band were taking them into. “It personifies the whole record,” said Way. “It’s basically the one song that sounds up the song for the record and all the risks we took jammed into one mini-epic. And it still retains everything that made us special,” Ray Toro, too, called it their Bohemian Rhapsody, and the Queen influence is clear to anyone. 

My Chemical Romance are so good at so many things: storytelling, theatre, darkness, light and community. All of that is here on Welcome To The Black Parade , in their most ambitious, epic effort to that point. It showcases everything that fans of all ages and eras love about the band, from their vulnerability to their commitment to drama. Simply put, it’s pure My Chemical Romance distilled into just five minutes. 

Marianne Eloise

Marianne Eloise is a contributing writer to Louder where she has interviewed everyone from Pete Wentz to Taylor Momsen. With over a decade of experience in both online and print journalism, she writes about music, disability and culture for The Cut, the Guardian, the New York Times and more. She is also the author of the essay collection Obsessive, Intrusive Magical Thinking and creator of the Emo Diary fanzine series.