||[22 Jul 2007|11:48pm]
My Chem Vs. The World
In the above video, the obviously embittered Jonathon Davis, lead singer of rock band KoRn, argues that My Chemical Romance do not have the right to play at Download, a festival held in Donnington, England every year. His argument for this: My Chemical Romance are a "gay ass emo band" and Download is a "rock" festival.
There used to be a time, when I would just scoff, throw a few insults about and be done with it. But that would make me just as bad as Jonathon Davis, and the time for that has passed. Plus, nothing pleases me more than a well thought out argument.
I have, as a My Chemical Romance fan and as a fan of music in general, two problems with Jonathon Davis' statements. Firstly, of course: the misuse of the term "emo", along with, the use of the term "gay" as an offensive term. Secondly: his claim that his band, KoRn, has more right to play a festival like Download.
A little bit of back story, for those who may not be aware.
In October, 2006, My Chemical Romance scored their first number 1 hit with "Welcome to The Black Parade" here in the UK. It was the first alternative rock and roll hit here (by this I mean: from a band you could find on Kerrang or Scuzz) since Evanescence went to Number 1 with their debut single, "Bring Me To Life". The album, "The Black Parade" was released a week later, and entered the album chart at number 2. My Chemical Romance exploded. The Sun, the widest read newspaper here in the UK, featured reports on My Chemical Romance every day in the week running up to the album release. As a band, My Chemical Romance have become one of the biggest rock bands in recent times. This CANNOT be disputed, not by Jonathon Davis and not by anyone - they have the figures to back this claim up. Since then, it seems every rock band has lined up to have a cheap shot. Everyone from former friends, to Marilyn Manson, and now Jonathon Davis have gotten their claws into My Chem. The funny thing is: My Chemical Romance closed Friday night at Download while KoRn played the second stage. Marilyn Manson played a slot smaller than MCR's on the Saturday. Funny, isn't it?
But enough of that. Let's move on to my first point.
"Emo" is a shortened term for "emotional". Everyone knows this. "Emo" music was marked out by its passionate and honest lyrics, it's tendancy to produce sensitive male front men, and often simple melodies. I missed out on the first, the real, wave of "emo" music. "Emo", as a genre of music, is long gone.
Instead, "emo" has become a label, a look, nothing more than a trend. I think we can all agree on this. This in itself is not necessarily a bad thing - following a trend, although an unfortunate choice, is surely something we have all done, and I'm sure at the time we all felt rather included. We can all understand why kids follow trends. However, the term has been picked up by the ignorant and narrow minded people who unfortunately have set up shop in music journalism, and in music itself. "Emo", is a widely misunderstood term.
Let's take it as the real meaning. "Emo" music is "emotional" music as the very basic definition. Jonathon Davis, Marilyn Manson, and all the other musicians who have cocked a thining brow at "emo" acts: when you create music, do you do it with emotion? Does the music you make reflect your emotions, and the emotions of the band? Does it strike an emotional chord in you? Do you want it to strike an emotional chord in others? What do you want from your listeners? Do you want them to empathise with you? To sympathise? Do you want to make them angry? Do you want to make them emotional?
If the answer to these questions is no, then you are all in the wrong business.
If the answer to these questions is yes, then you are every bit an "emo" band: just like My Chemical Romance. That what the word you toss about really means.
But, Jonathon Davis was probably referring to the "emo" trend that we seem to find ourselves in the midst in. This trend also has a few basic, widely recognised characteristics. These misconceptions are probably what Jonathon Davis was thinking about, and using, when he called My Chemical Romance "emo".
The first of these misconceptions:
- That "emo" kids wear make up: the boys and the girls.
This is true. It's popular for "emo" kids (of both sexes) to wear make up, be this eyeliner, eyeshadow, lip gloss, whatever. But, Jonathon Davis, My Chemical Romance aren't the only boys in rock and roll history to wear make up. Everyone from David Bowie to Brian Molko have all worn, and occassionally still do wear, make up in public. Just like My Chemical Romance. And let's not forget, someone you know well: Robert Smith. The singer for The Cure, one of the minds behind the now anthemic "Boys Don't Cry", has performed with you. You respect him, like him, admire his work? He's famous for the make up he wears as much as My Chemical Romance are, you hypocritical fool. Not all boys who wear make up are gay - I know more heterosexual boys who wear eyeliner than homosexual - and not all boys wear make up to fit in with the "emo" trend. Robert Smith and David Bowie were just a few of the well respected rock icons who were wearing make up long before Gerard Way started fooling around with his mother's lipstick.
The second misconception:
- That "emo" kids are all depressed, self harmers.
Yes, members of My Chemical Romance have suffered from depression. They make no secret of it. Talking about their depression has helped thousands of their fans battle their own demons. A noble cause, some might say. Of course, not all kids who self harm do it because they are in pain. Of course, some of them do it to fit in. But at the end of the day, the majority of self harmers do it for what must seem like a valid reason: because they want attention, because they are hurt, because they are lost, because they need help and they are being outright dismissed because of how they look or dress. As a musician who was bullied in high school, as someone who has admittedly suffered depression, Jonathon Davis, you should at least understand if not empathise with these kids. "Emo" as a label is being overused, and it's overuse is dangerous and lazy. You, and other musicians like you, should know that and should not be encouraging these stereotypes. That's not what rock music is about.
The third, and possibly silliest misconception:
- That "emo" kids wear black.
So do Backstreet Boys fans. I rest my case on that one, ladies and gentlemen.
Now to the second part of Jonathon Davis' ludicrous statement: that My Chemical Romance do not belong at the Download festival.
My Chemical Romance have enjoyed both mainstream and underground success since their birth in 2001. I remember when no one knew about My Chemical Romance, and now they are the rock band that everyone seems to know. In terms of publicity, fanbase and sales, they have been one of the most important rock bands of 2006 and 2007. Yes, they polarise opinion and enjoy doing so. But behind all that, they have a very large, and very passionate fan base. They have sold shed loads of records, they've played hundreds of shows and they deserve every little bit of success they now have.
That aside, My Chemical Romance were at Download for the same reasons as KoRn, Marilyn Manson, Linkin Park and Iron Maiden. They were there, simply, because they were asked to be there. The organisers of Download asked them to headline, above KoRn, and above Marilyn Manson because they knew it would cause controversy, but they knew it would also sell tickets. There is a demand for My Chemical Romance that any sensible festival is going to recognise.
I have as much right to call myself a rock fan as anyone I know. I have the right to call myself a rock fan as much as any KoRn fan has the right. I grew up in a house full of punk and glam rock from my dad, and a house full of pop from my mother. I enjoy both rock and pop, openly. I started out listening to bands like Hanson and The Backstreet Boys, but moved onto rock at a very early age - an age that would be sneered at now. I educated myself with everyone from Nirvana and Soundgarden to Linkin Park, KoRn, Slipknot and on to My Chemical Romance, AFI, Taking Back Sunday, Panic! At The Disco, Fall Out Boy. If I like it, I listen to it, whether it's rock or not. Only rock fans, real rock fans, are open minded enough to accept that.
My Chemical Romance come from a musical background as varied as my own - with influences from everyone ranging from Liza Minelli, to Queen, Iron Maiden and The Beatles, to Black Flag and The Misfits. My Chemical Romance come from pop and they come from rock, and at times they fuse both with a daring and such skill that it left me astounded. My Chemical Romance may have had unprecedented mainstream success from a band of their genre, but they are a rock band.
My Chemical Romance are, and this is what probably annoys Jonathon Davis and Marilyn Manson - a band with morals. They are a band who have defended the rights of women, the rights of homosexuals, and the rights of their fans to be who they are worldwide. My Chemical Romance tell their fans to be brave, to stand up for themselves, to be who they want, to do what they want, and to never, ever give in to others simply to conform. My Chemical Romance gave hope to thousands of people, people like me - rock fans, pop fans, kids too young to know the difference - My Chemical Romance gave hope to us all. That's why they've sold millions of records, that's why they have such a huge, passionate following and that's why, Mr Davis, they were asked to headline Download.
Did any of the My Chem haters actually watch their Download footage? Yes, there were bottles - in the beginning. But My Chemical Romance thrived on that, they put on an amazing show and by the end of it, the bottle throwers were either enjoying themselves or willing to at least let the band have their say. The people who went to Donnington, the people who bottled My Chemical Romance at Reading last year, those people gave My Chemical Romance a chance, they gave them their shot, in the end. Their opinions are the opinions that matter, because they are, they always have been, and they always will be, the people behind the music. You are just their puppet, Jonathon Davis.
But it's no surprise that My Chemical Romance are at the top of everyone's hit list. No doubt it must be tough to have been in a band for as long as Jonathon Davis, or to have played for as long as Marilyn Manson, only to be overshadowed now in 2007 by a band who only formed in 2001. It must be quite gutting. But real fighters, real genuine musicians, wouldn't let that bother them. This may be My Chem's fifteen minutes of fame, but somehow I think it'll last longer than that. That's something the Donnington spectators realised, and sooner or later, musicians like Jonathon Davis and Marilyn Manson are going to have to do the same.
It's time they realise that the audiences, the game, and the players themselves, are changing. Rock music used to be about acceptance - where every misfit, where every outsider could find a place, a friend, a band that suited him or her and truly flourish. With his narrow mindedness, Jonathon Davis has shown himself to be nothing but a bitter, scared man. My Chemical Romance have rock music on the ropes, they're fighting to the death and let me tell you, with fans like us behind them, they've got a good chance of winning. My Chemical Romance are here to stay, and while they're here they're changing it up, they're having a great time and they're revitalising rock music while they do it. Attack them because it'll get you publicity, because it'll get you column inches, but what is sadder, Jonathon Davis and Marilyn Manson - the fact that a band like My Chemical Romance have overtaken you - or the fact that you have been reduced to attacking them to get attention these days?
You either join the Parade or you get off the Parade route, because there's no stopping us.