A “My Chemical Romance” Ode

Song Link: “The Light Behind Your Eyes”

Soaring from their B-track album Conventional Weapons, the collection of previously unreleased songs from the horror-sci-fi band My Chemical Romance (MCR) features more than a few great tracks which fans will greatly enjoy. Personally, I found my favorite early on. This track bespoke difference, more than that though it stressed a sound uncharacteristic of MCR’s Danger Days electric feel. Betraying such fast-paced thrills, the track The Light Behind Your Eyes harkened back towards the days of The Black Parade in its edgy, depressed atmosphere.

                I have described this song as an Ode. The narrative is one of lamentation. A tragic event has occurred and a survivor is coming to grips with the reality of life after love. It is not as though MCR has not done mourning tracks before (Helena and Cemetery Drive are two examples which come to mind) but it is that this track is both mature and complex in structure; pure emotion (limited to a fashionable range of melodrama) mix with a multileveled temporal approach to create a honest yet profound cry of loss.

                The song begins dramatically:

So long to all of my friends,

Everyone of them met tragic ends,

With every passing day,

I’d be lying if I didn’t say,

That I miss them all tonight

                The vocalist’s persona (the speaker) has suffered great misfortune; everyone he knew not only died but did so in unhappy methods. Car accidents, premeditated murder, cancer, death in armed conflict… these are but some examples which come to mind when the word ‘tragic’ is used to connote unwell passing’s. From this horrific string of events the speaker is (obviously) still in mourning despite a period of time passing between the last death and his current year (or other implied duration of time). He is finding it hard to move one; from this we, the listener, is able to glean not only the speaker’s sorrow but that the origin of the song starts from a point detached (post-) from the assumed remainder of the song-narrative.

And if they only knew,

What I would say,

If I could be with you tonight

I would sing you to sleep,

Never let them take the light behind your eyes

One day, I’ll lose this fight

As we fade in the dark,

Just remember you will always burn as bright

                This second batch of lyrics develop the narrative. We now discover that the speaker has unresolved issues surrounding his friends’ deaths. Line two stresses this contradiction by drawing attention to past tense: ‘what I would say.’ His friends are dead- there is no bringing them back. At this point, starting on line three, we witness the temporal fabric start to regress. While not fully reversed yet the speaker is clearly sauntering towards this end: the reveal lies with the transition from abstract thoughts to concrete actions; before this moment he was only unearthing his feelings while now he is airing specific hopes he wished he was able to perform- singing, the soft caress of domestic life.

                Additionally, the word choice in this second batch of lyrics is interesting, even more so once seen in relation to how they repeat, as well as evolve, in the song. There are three dynamic phrases which need unpacking. ‘Never let them take the light behind your eyes.’ This is the first and probably the most relevant for not only being the song title but also for its clear intent explaining the root of the speaker’s dejection. Light here can mean any number of subjects but likely represents one’s life-force. If there is light in one’s eyes then they are alive and happy; if their eyes are dull clear then they are either depressed (or in this case) dead. The speaker is almost shouting ‘I will defend you’ (perhaps indirectly referencing his friend’s death as a murder), I will not let you join the others (the other friends) and leave me alone. However, from the beginning we understand that the speaker failed: his friend (including this last specific one which he has now zoomed in on) are gone. This is why the next phrase of relevance is so poignant: ‘someday I will lose this fight.’ We are now in the past, directly with the dying friend. This second phrase reveals so as he is effectively saying, “I know you will die. I don’t know when but I will fight on against hope for your recovery, even though I know it will not happen.” The semi-present situation of the start has been forsaken. ‘Just remember you will always burn as bright’ therefore, becomes the spoken ode; the speaker is intent on keeping the dying friend’s memory as alive as he is able to no matter how long passes. His strength to maintain this façade is failing as he is now starting to accept reality.

Be strong, and hold my hand.

Time becomes for us, you’ll understand.

We’ll say goodbye today,

And we’re sorry how it ends this way

If you promise not to cry,

Then I’ll tell you just what I would say.

                It is at this batch of lyrics in which the speaker makes the full transition to the past. No longer is he in the present or semi-present. Rather, he is fully immersed in memory; the narrative implanted in the death build-up. This is relevant because at this moment in the song, as the speaker is beginning to accept the reality of his last friend dying, he tries to comfort them. Line one expresses this well: hand-holding, a sign of intimacy. Appropriately, time is directly referenced (line 2) thereby ushering in the formal aspect to what has so far been an informal procession of temporal reality. In saying “you’ll understand” the content is now morphed: the speaker is no longer shutting his eyes- ignoring time and his friend’s last moments on earth- but rather acknowledging the finite duration remaining. This is why in line three a goodbye is referenced with an exact date: no longer is this feared occasion seen as “one day” as in line six of the second lyric batch, but as today, as in this very instance. Accordingly, the spoken remorse in line four acts as an evolutionary marker signaling the complete acceptance of what is happening. The only recompense being the honesty of exchanging one’s true feelings (line six) if tears (on the dying’s behest shed towards the living, understanding his loneliness) are kept to a minimum.

If I could be with you tonight,

I would sing you to sleep,

Never let them take the light behind your eyes.

I’ll fail and lose this fight,

Never fade in the dark

Just remember that you will always burn as bright.

                In this batch of lyrics the chorus largely acts to bring attention to the meaning explored above through repetition. However, there is one noticeable change- in line four, an evolution has occurred. Previously this section of the song said “someday I’ll lose this fight” while now it has shifted to “I’ll fail and lose this fight.” Why the change? The reason why is changed lies in the acceptance of both death and time. With the speaker now understanding that the moments he has remaining with his friend are precious, and that the death in question is inevitable, he is now realizing that the far-away death of someday cannot remain so, instead, it must be reflective of the new consciousness: I. The speaker cannot save his friend’s light/ life nor will he ever be able to sing them to sleep, that simple token of affection. It is only a matter of time before he wholeheartedly fails in his quest to comfort them.

The light behind your eyes…

The light behind your

These next two lines are interesting. Why, after all, include them? They repeat what has already been said. Why bother including them at all as they just lead to redundancy? The answer to this question lies not in the subtext but now out in front. In talking about the subtext I have touched upon already the temporal shift but there is something else in the subtext worth mentioning: emotional distraught. Obviously there is pain, anyone who loses close friends and family understands this yet this line, as opposed to other lines prior expressing despair, allude to something more profound than an ode to lost friends: severe mental breakdown.

Sometimes we must grow stronger

And, you can’t be stronger in the dark.

When I’m here, no longer,

You must be stronger and

                A dramatic breakdown is brewing and the lines quoted above prove it. The speaker muses that in the dark (death) one cannot shield themselves against weakness (a non-controversial statement) yet transitions to this thought concerning himself: “When I’m here, no longer” the next line repeats the “strength + light = growth” sentiment of the song only to have the train-of-thought abruptly end. This is an emotional contradiction that acknowledges, or rather abruptly gleams, that as soon as the speaker leaves his friend behind (possibly seen through letting go of their hand, since the song implies that they are grasping hands), they will die; this thought, though previously accepted a degree beforehand on an intellectual level, now becomes a nightmare scenario that the speaker does not wish to see through now that it is here upon him. He shrieks from finishing his thoughts (which ultimately lead to death of his friend) in favor of deluding himself on their mutual existence.

If I could be with you tonight,

I would sing you to sleep,

Never let them take the light behind your eyes.

I failed and lost this fight,

Never fade in the dark,

Just remember you will always burn as bright.

                Building on the evolution garnered from the previous block of lyrics, we hear this retreat take form even more through, yes, another chorus repetition but through another temporal shift. Line three is the third variation: I failed and lost this fight. The time stamp has taken a step backwards (away from the steadily increasing anxiety from the last block) and illustrated a calmer speaker pouring out emotion; apologizing, seemingly, for his inability to not only maintain himself but for his actions after the passing. This being said the song has yet to reach the crescendo, the point of death which explains the speaker’s behavior.

The light behind your eyes… (x10)

                With this string of words the song comes to an end. From the last lyrical batch we understand that the speaker’s friend, through the words, “I failed and lost this fight,” has finally passed away. Yet the emotional wreckage, while chronicled, had yet to reveal its fullness. This is where this string of ten comes in.  As previously established this phrase has a duel connotation. The first is the vibrancy of life within his friend’s eyes while living but also the future anxiety of their passing. Throughout the song it is utilized in conjunction with past and future tense thereby building a rich tapestry of emotional conflict. However, this is taken to its logical extreme at this point where the phrase takes on a third meaning only decipherable when paying careful attention to the vocalist’s tone.

                When pronouncing these lines the speaker’s voice changes. At first he is simply an expected blend of sad-confidant. However, with each passing line this confidence breaks. After the first few repetitions he’s “visibly” shaken; his tone reflects someone who has clearly witnessed something traumatic. During the next several repetitions, this deepens with but only a small lapse of psueo-strength appearing before the final two repetitions. At these final two lines the mental composition of the speaker is finally revealed as it was in that final moment of his association with his now dead friend: he is barely holding on as the full weight of what has transpired, slams into him.

Realizing that his friend is now dead, that he is now completely alone, is a heavy impact. During this time the speaker/ vocalist’s tone breaks dramatically; barely a whisper, one is only able to faintly discern the word “eyes,” so far gone and depressed this man now is. The shattering of his shell suggests that everything leading up to this moment (as explained above) the speaker was in denial at his fiend’s passing. But now that it has happened, he sees that not only did it come to pass but that he does not know how to cope that in that final line, when his friend’s death is final and (perhaps) he ceases in trying to revive him (as he probably would try), the speaker does what anyone would: he suffers a total breakdown and stops functioning as a normal person.

At this epoch the song ends. However, going back to the concept of temporal shifts, after the final line we are able to remember the beginning of the song: “Everyone one of them met tragic ends” and that from the start the speaker was clearly cognitively healthy, he was able to function. And so we know that the breakdown from the end of the song he not only overcame but was able to internalize it at least in a manner which didn’t destroy his inner mental equilibrium. At the same time we know that this moment represents a connection: from the end of the song so starts the beginning. The two are related, symbiotically connected in the same manner loss and contentment are linked.

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