Welcome to the Black Parade - Lyric Study

Learn about a Worldview-Revelation story that follows the Heroic Journey. It's a masterwork of a song that has turned many listeners into fans of MCR.

Welcome to the Black Parade - Lyric Study

My Chemical Romance

Songwriter: Frank Iero / Gerard Way / Michael Way / Raymond Toro / Robert Bryar

Welcome to the Black Parade © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Blow The Doors Off Chicago



Here's what you'll find in this analysis:

1. Comments on the lyrics

2. Analysis of the global story told in the song.


First Verse

When I was a young boy

The song has a narrative beginning. We are familiar with this kind of beginning because it’s the typical beginning of a story a family member or an old friend would tell us. So we intuitively pay attention to find out what happened to the person when they were younger / or what they lived through.

My father took me into the city

To see a marching band

This event is the inciting incident of the story. The ordinary/normal life of the boy is interrupted by going into the city to see something that’s not part of his normal life. 

He said, "Son, when you grow up

Would you be the savior of the broken

The beaten, and the damned?"

That line (as well as the first one) is setting up the expectation in the listener that this song will be about some form of maturation: A boy has to become a savior when he’s grown up. In the Heroic Journey (Joseph Campbell) we call this moment the ‘Call to Adventure’. The hero receives his task.

He said, "Will you defeat them

Your demons and all the non-believers?

The plans that they have made?

The father takes on the role of the mentor. He is sophisticated enough to see the world in all its shades of grey. He knows what’s out there and what the world needs. And he thinks that his son has the potential to become that one person the world needs. By referring to ‘your demons’ the father is telling the son that there will not only be external opposing forces (non-believers), but also internal forces that he has to defeat in order to achieve some form of victory. By referring to the non-believers, we are introduced to the antagonist.

Because one day, I'll leave you

A phantom to lead you in the summer

To join the black parade"

The phantom takes on the role of the threshold guardian - another role known from the Heroic Journey. It’s the character that you’ll find when the hero crosses the threshold from his ordinary world to the unknown or extraordinary world. Usually, this role is there to mark an important border of some kind.

When I was a young boy

My father took me into the city

To see a marching band

He said, "Son, when you grow up

You will be the savior of the broken

The beaten, and the damned?"

The first verse is repeated with more force in the music and in the singing to show that the moment has finally come.

Second Verse

Sometimes I get the feelin'

She's watchin' over me

‘She’ could refer to another mentor or an ally. Sometimes the protagonist/hero thinks there’s someone watching out over him. We all know that feeling that gives us some kind of strength because we trust in a higher power to guide and protect us. Even though we know it’s not real, it’s still comforting.

And other times I feel like I should go

The hero is growing up as he was meant to. He experiences doubt about his circumstances and wonders if he should let go of what’s holding him back. We get a glimpse of the hero’s reluctance to accept the call to adventure. Another important stage in the Heroic Journey.

And through it all, the rise and fall

The bodies in the streets

Now we’re right at the moment before the hero crosses the threshold. Seeing the ‘bodies in the streets’ is a revelatory turning point for the hero. He can’t refuse the Call to Adventure any longer. He needs to do what he was burdened with to do in order to somehow get back to how things were.

And when you're gone, we want you all to know

This refers to the day that his father had prepared him for: The day his father will leave him. And he’s ready now so he tells him that.



We'll carry on, we'll carry on

And though you're dead and gone, believe me

Now it’s clear that this story is not only about a boy growing up, but it’s also an action story. The life and death stakes are introduced to us at this moment when it’s revealed that an important person to the hero (probably the father) has died. And his death was probably caused by a war that he and his father are fighting.

Your memory will carry on

We'll carry on

By declaring that the hero is prepared to carry on, we see that his father has prepared him for the task of becoming the savior of the broken, the beaten and the damned. The father was indeed his mentor and the son is ready to continue his father’s legacy. The hero finally accepts the call to adventure.

And in my heart, I can't contain it

The anthem won't explain it

Even though the hero has accepted the call to adventure, he still has to battle his inner demons. And he’s trying to come to terms with what has happened and what he needs to do. But it’s overwhelming.


Third Verse

A world that sends you reeling

From decimated dreams

 Now we’re in the middle of the hero’s journey. The hero had accepted the call to adventure and crossed the threshold. He’s in the unknown world now. A world that he’s not familiar with.

Your misery and hate will kill us all

There’s the antagonist again. Since we know the boy has to fight against the non-believers and the plans that they’ve made, he realizes that those people will be the end of them if they don’t fight them.

So paint it black and take it back

They are getting ready for the fight. Like they put on their uniforms.

Let's shout it loud and clear

Defiant to the end, we hear the call

This is like a battle cry. The hero encourages his companions by referring back to their leader (his father) and what he wanted for them. He wants to give them the strength by remembering what they’re fighting for.



To carry on

We'll carry on

And though you're dead and gone, believe me

Your memory will carry on

We'll carry on

Isn’t that great? The boy is assuring his dead father that not only his memory will remain but they will remain! This declaration is so strong. Truly empowering.

And though you're broken and defeated

Your weary widow marches

Yes, they were devastated by his passing. But even the one woman who lost the most by his death continues to fight. She’s not giving up and serves as an inspiration.



On and on, we carry through the fears

(Oh, oh, oh)

The hero faces challenges/tests that he has to overcome. He has friends/allies on his side and they stick together. Even though the task seems to be too much to handle, almost overwhelming.

Disappointed faces of your peers

(Oh, oh, oh)

The battle gets harder and harder and they lose faith.

Take a look at me

'Cause I could not care at all

The hero reaches his all is lost moment. Everything seems to have been in vain. His allies feel beaten and the opposing forces seem too powerful.



Do or die, you'll never make me

Because the world will never take my heart

The last stand of the hero. He’s finding his inner strength. The all is lost moment pushed him into realizing that he has to change his approach in order to salvage some form of victory.

Go and try, you'll never break me

The hero is at the mercy of the villain. The villain tries to break the hero in order to stop the revolution. 

We want it all, we wanna play this part

The hero won’t cave in because he has already faced his own personal demons and he doesn’t doubt anymore. He knows what role he has to play and he will do so with every last bit of strength he has.

I won't explain or say I'm sorry

I'm unashamed, I'm gonna show my scars

Those two lines underline that the hero has learned a shocking truth about himself, but he accepts who he is and all the mistakes he’s done that led him right to this moment.

Give a cheer for all the broken

Listen here, because it's who we are

And he embraces who he is and who they all are. They are indeed the broken, the beaten and the damned. But by accepting who he is, he can find some new form of strength.

I'm just a man, I'm not a hero

His father had prepared him to become a savior. And all this time the son tried to live up to his father’s expectations only to realize he’s no different from the rest of his companions.

Just a boy, who had to sing this song

Again, he’s saying that he just continued to do what his father wanted of him. He’s no one special. But this declaration is the hero’s gift expressed. He understands who he is, where he’s coming from and what’s at stake. He knows he can’t overpower the villain if he continues being someone he’s not. 

I'm just a man, I'm not a hero

I don't care

Repeating this statement that he’s not a hero is what turns the protagonist into a hero. He doesn’t care what huge expectations were set on him. He’s following his own path - his own true self and only be accepting that he’s not a hero, but damaged as the rest of them, is it possible to rise as their true savior.



We'll carry on

We'll carry on

And though you're dead and gone, believe me

Your memory will carry on

You'll carry on

And though you're broken and defeated

Your weary widow marches on

Repetition of Climax

Do or die, you'll never make me

Because the world will never take my heart

Go and try, you'll never break me

We want it all, we wanna play this part

We'll carry on

Do or die, you'll never make me (we'll carry on)

Because the world will never take my heart (we'll carry on)

Go and try, you'll never break me (we'll carry)

We want it all, we wanna play this part

(We'll carry on!)

Repeating those words, again and again, shows the resolution of the story. The hero has embraced who he is and only through that is he able to continue to go on fighting / to carry on. That revelation who he truly is gave him the strength and purpose to follow what he thinks is the right thing to do.



Story Grid: Six Core Questions

Analyzing the global story


1. What’s the genre?

External Genre: Action - Man against State - Savior

Internal Genre: Worldview - Revelation (primary/global Genre)

2. What are the obligatory scenes of the global genre?

Note: Since a song is not a storytelling medium like a novel or a movie, we don’t usually hit all the conventions and obligatory scenes of the primary genre. Most of the times, there’s maybe one hinted at. 

But what makes the song ‘Welcome to the Black Parade’ so great is that it’s telling a story from its beginning to its ending.


Global Genre is Worldview - Revelation

Obligatory Scenes

Inciting opportunity or challenge: There’s an inciting incident that challenges the protagonist’s worldview. → The father tells his son about the broken, the beaten and the damned.

The protagonist denies the responsibility to respond to the opportunity or challenge → Now we’ve got to go meta. Since the song starts with a memory of a past event, we can assume that the time for the protagonist has finally come to continue his father’s legacy. But the protagonist is still reluctant because he has to reflect on what his father once told him when they went to the city to see a marching band.

Forced to respond, the protagonist lashes out against the requirement to change behavior. They resist change and rely on old habits. → The protagonist is unsure of what to do. He’s still held back by that person who’s watching over him. He somehow knows he has to let go and be on his way.

The protagonist learns what external antagonist’s Object of Desire is → The hero has seen the ‘bodies in the streets’. He now knows that the villain is out to destroy society. 

The protagonist’s initial strategy to outmaneuver the antagonist fails → The protagonist picks up where his father left and continues fighting, but it’s not enough. (‘on and on we carry through the fears’)

During an All Is Lost Moment, the protagonist realizes they must change their black and white view of the world to allow for the paradoxical nature of life. → That’s done so great by the comparison of the son when he’s saying he’s not a hero, he’s just a man and actually he’s just a boy who had to sing this song.

There is a clear “point of no return,” the moment when the Protagonist knows they can never go back to the way things used to be. There must be a precise moment when the protagonist’s worldview is knocked out of alignment. → That’s the moment when the protagonist sees all the disappointed faces of his peers. That moment tells him they have to change their approach in order to regain a chance for victory.

The action moment is when the Protagonist’s gifts are expressed as acceptance of an imperfect world  → The protagonist accepts who he is and that he’s damaged too. This acceptance gives him the strength to continue the fight.

The protagonist’s loss of innocence is rewarded with a deeper understanding of the universe based on their action in the Core Event. → The protagonist is now able to embrace who he is and make better decisions.

There is a paradoxical win-but-lose, lose-but-win, bittersweet ending. → The hero has lost the battle against the villain. The fight still isn’t over. But he’s learned so much about who he is that he’s able to continue and he won’t give up.



Strong Mentor Figure → the protagonist’s father

Big Social Problem as subtext → There are people (non-believers) who have made plans against the people who are broken or damaged. That’s a huge social issue.

Clues that tip them off that something is not quite right. → The protagonist experiences cognitive dissonance and knows he’s missing a key piece of information. They believe it relates to their original goal and is ignorant that it relates to himself in a major way. And he finds out that he’s not a hero or a savior, he’s just another damaged person.


3. What are the objects of desire?

WANT (external): The hero wants to stop the villain who is out to destroy society by fighting everyone who’s weak, broken or beaten.

NEED (internal): The hero has to realize that he himself is not a hero and he needs to accept that he’s as broken as the rest of them in order to become who he truly is and gain strength.


4. What’s the point of view?

The story is told by a first-person narrator. The narrative distance is close, but not as close that we’ll get insights into the thoughts of the narrator. He’s basically telling us a story and encouraging us to follow his cause.


5. What’s the controlling idea?

Wisdom prevails when we learn to accept who we are in a world that we see as paradoxical and/or imperfect.


6. What is the Beginning Hook, Middle Build and Ending Payoff?

Beginning Hook:

When a young boy is taken by his father to see a marching band and he’s been told that he has to become a savior of the broken, the beaten and the damned, he has to decide if he wants to become that person and fulfill his father’s wish or if he remains an innocent boy? He decides to learn from his father bus is not yet fully committed to his cause.

Middle Build:

When the young man sees all the bodies in the streets and his father dies, he has to decide whether he wants to continue his father’s legacy and take on the role as the leader knowing that will directly put him in harm’s way or if he bails out and saves his own life. The man decides to carry on and he’s taking on the battle against the villain.

Ending Payoff:

When the young man experiences his first defeat, his peers have lost their faith and he’s captured by the villain, he has to decide if he lets the villain break him to stay alive by admitting defeat or if he embraces that he’s just an ordinary person, as damages as the rest of them, and to continue his fight. He accepts who he is, gets empowered and carries on the fight.

© Stories in Songs, Melanie Naumann

Download the complete analysis of the song: Welcome to the Black Parade (My Chemical Romance).

You'll find commentaries on the storytelling right in the lyrics.

I've also answered the global questions about the story: What's the genre and its obligatory moments? What's the point of view as well as wrapping up the story by focusing on Beginning Hook, Middle Build and the Ending Payoff of the story.

Get the bonus

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