"My Immortal" is a song by American rock band Evanescence from their debut studio album Fallen (2003). It was released by Wind-up Records on December 8, 2003, as the third single from the album. The song was written by guitarist Ben Moody, lead singer Amy Lee and keyboardist David Hodges, and it was produced by Moody and Dave Fortman. Various versions of "My Immortal" were recorded; one of them was included on the demo album Origin (2000) and another on the EP release Mystary (2003). The version originally appearing on Origin was later included on Fallen, featuring piano with backing strings. The version of the song released as a single was dubbed the "band version" because of the complete band's performance of the bridge and final chorus of the song.
"My Immortal" is a piano power ballad written in slow tempo. Lyrically, it talks about "a spirit staying with you after its death and haunting you until you actually wish that the spirit were gone because it won't leave you alone." Critical reception towards the song was positive, with critics complimenting its piano melody. In 2005 it received a nomination for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals at the 47th Grammy Awards. The song was also commercially successful, peaking within the top ten in more than ten countries. It also peaked at number seven on the Billboard Hot 100 and topped the charts in Canada, Greece and the US Adult Pop Songs chart. The single was certified gold in the United States, and platinum in Australia.
An accompanying music video directed by David Mould was filmed entirely in black-and-white in Gothic Quarter, Barcelona on October 10, 2003. The video shows Lee sitting and singing on various locations, but never touching the ground. Shots of Moody are also shown but he is never together with his band or Lee. The video was nominated in the category for Best Rock Video at the 2004 MTV Video Music Awards. The song was performed by the band during their three concert tours: the Fallen Tour (2003), The Open Door Tour (2007) and the Evanescence Tour (2011-12). It was also performed live during some of their television appearances and award ceremonies such as the Billboard Music Awards.
The song was written by Ben Moody, Amy Lee and David Hodges and produced by Moody and Dave Fortman; it was the fourth song to be written for Evanescence. Amy Lee's vocals and the piano parts of the song were recorded in NRG Recording Studios, California. The drums, bass and electric guitars were recorded at The Steakhouse Studio in North Hollywood. "My Immortal" was mixed by Dave Fortman at Conway Recording Studios in North Hollywood while it was mastered by Ted Jensen at Sterling Sound in New York City. The orchestral parts in the song were arranged by the composer Graeme Revell.
The first known recording of "My Immortal" was made for the band's self-titled EP, which solely featured Lee's vocals accompanied by a piano, and slightly different lyrics. The song was cut from the EP before it was released. In 2000, the song was re-recorded for the band's demo album, Origin, which contains a rearranged piano melody and lyrics, including the bridge added by Lee. It was again recorded for the band's debut full-length debut studio album, Fallen where the vocals of the demo version (that were recorded by Lee at 18 years old) were accompanied by slightly different instrumentation. It is also featured on the band's 2003 EP, Mystary, which is much more similar to the band version. Wind-up Records preferred the Origin version, which is why the exact vocals recorded from 2000 are again included in the song's album version. The version that was recorded and released as a single is moderately alternative to that of the album version, and is often referred to as the "band version" because of the additional band performing the bridge and final chorus of the song. The later pressings of Fallen contain the single version (or "band version") of "My Immortal" as a hidden track. Lee expressed some dissatisfaction with the early versions of the song saying, "It's not even a real piano. And the sound quality is bad because we had to break into the studio to record it late at night when no one was around because we couldn't afford a real session."
"My Immortal" is a piano and power ballad written in the key of A major. It was described as a "goth-meets-pop" song. According to the sheet music published by Alfred Music Publishing on the website Musicnotes.com, the song is set in common time and performed in slow and free tempo of 80 beats per minute. Lee's vocal range for the song runs from the low musical note of A3 to the high note of C♯5. Her vocals are accompanied by a simple piano. Adrien Begrand of PopMatters concluded that in "My Immortal", Lee is "doing her McLachlan/Tori Amos schtick". The song was also compared with some of Enya's material.
The lyrics of the song refer to a spirit that haunts the memory of a grieving loved one. Similar to several other songs written by Moody, the lyrics of the song are based on a short story he had previously written. According to Lee, it was "Ben [Moody]'s song." Moody said that the song talks about "a spirit staying with you after its death and haunting you until you actually wish that the spirit were gone because it won't leave you alone." He also stated in the booklet of Fallen that he dedicated the song to his grandfather, Bill Holcomb. In "My Immortal", Lee expresses her feelings through the line, "Though you're still with me / I've been alone all along." A writer for IGN said that "'My Immortal' is a song of pain and despair caused by the loss of a family member or very close friend and how it drove her [Lee] to the edge of insanity."
The song received critical acclaim from music critics. Kirk Miller of Rolling Stone said that "'My Immortal' lets Lee wail about her personal demons over simple piano and some symphonic dressings — it's a power ballad that P.O.D. and Tori Amos fans could both appreciate." Chris Harris of the same publication found it to be a "song that's become something of an Alanis Morissette-like battle hymn for her [Lee's] goth disciples over the last few years." Richard Harrington of The Washington Post called "My Immortal" a "majestic" song that helped the band win a Grammy Award. Blair R. Fischer from MTV News described the song as a "delicate, heartfelt ballad". IGN's Ed Thompson concluded that "My Immortal" was "one of the first and best songs Evanescence ever wrote". Jordan Reimer, a writer of The Daily Princetonian found a "haunting beauty" in the song. In 2005 the band was nominated in the category for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals at the 47th Grammy Awards for the song.
A less positive review was written for The Guardian by Tom Reynolds, where he put the song at number 24 on his list "Sad songs say so much". Talking about the composition and the meaning of the song, he wrote that the song was a "whimpering post-breakup tune in which lead singer Amy Lee pitifully mourns the end of a relationship over a piano accompaniment that sounds like Pachelbel after the Prozac wore off", and that it "closely follows the 'quantum tragedy paradigm': the shorter the time two people spent together as a couple, the more overwrought the song is that describes their break-up."
The song is considered the band's second most successful single of all time, generally peaking within the top 20 of more than 10 countries internationally. On the chart issue dated April 10, 2004, "My Immortal" peaked at number seven on the Billboard Hot 100, while on the Pop Songs chart it peaked at number two on March 27, 2004. It has peaked at number nineteen on the Adult Contemporary chart as well. On February 17, 2009, "My Immortal" was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for selling more than 500,000 copies in the United States. The song managed to top the charts of Canada, Greece and Billboard's Adult Pop Songs in the United States. It also helped Fallen to move from number nine to number three on the Billboard 200 chart, selling another 69.000 copies. On the Billboard's Radio Songs chart, the song peaked at number seven on April 10, 2004. Nielsen Broadcast Data Systems placed the song at number six on the list of most played radio songs in 2004 with 317,577 spins.
On the Australian Singles Chart, "My Immortal" debuted at number four on January 25, 2004 which later became its peak position. The next eleven weeks, it remained in the top ten of the chart, and it was seen on the chart at number forty-four for the week ending June 13, 2004. The single was certified platinum by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) for shipment of 70,000 copies in that country. On December 20, 2003, "My Immortal" debuted at number seven on the UK Singles Chart which later also became its peak position. On February 14, 2004 the song dropped out of the chart, and it later re-entered at number eighty-four on July 18, 2008. After spending several weeks on different positions on the UK Rock Chart, on August 27, 2011, it peaked at number one. The next week, "My Immortal" moved to number two being replaced by the band's single "What You Want" (2011), and one week later it returned at number one on the chart. That achievement helped the song re-enter on the UK Singles Chart at number eighty-one on August 27, 2011 and at number eighty-nine on October 22, 2011.
A music video directed by David Mould was filmed entirely in black-and-white in Plaça de Sant Felip Neri, Gothic Quarter (Barri Gòtic), Barcelona on October 10, 2003. Lee described the place of the filming during an interview with MTV News: "We did it in a cool, old area of town.[...] We shot some of it at this scenic point, and there was a rooftop where you could see Barcelona below. It was really neat." The version of the song used on the video is different from the one off the record, with the band entering the song at the end of the bridge and a string arrangement by David Campbell. Evanescence wanted the band version to be on the album as well, but "the label was stuck on the demo and wouldn't let us use the version we really wanted.[...] We fought back and forth about it and finally we gave in, but we were all so angry about it." The video was filmed two weeks before Ben Moody's departure from the band. Amy Lee admitted that the visuals in the video were "striking in retrospect", but added that the similarities between what was filmed and Moody's departure were coincidental: "We shot it in Barcelona about a week before Ben left the band unexpectedly. I think none of us knew, including him, that he was going anywhere. And when we got the video back and watched it, it was right after he had left. And it's bizarre how much the video is about that. We all sat there with goose bumps, like, 'Holy crap. We've got to watch that again.'" In an interview with the British magazine Rock Sound, Lee further explained the concept which was related with his departure:
"You know what? When you see the video it's really amazing. Obviously we filmed it before this [Ben Moody's departure] happened and it's amazing irony, how much it makes sense. We're all separated and wandering the streets looking like it's the day after a funeral, with Ben in a suit and bare feet, and I'm never touching the ground. I'm sitting on a phone booth or lying on a car, to hint that I'm dead, that I'm singing from the dead. It's all about separation. It's almost like the director knew what was going to happen, but he can't have known. It's just one of those fate things."
The music video for "My Immortal" begins with Lee sitting on a fountain. Her legs and arms are covered with bandage as she puts them in the water. She is wearing a long white dress and is seen walking around the fountain, surrounded by children and other people. Shots of Moody follow, who appears to be sullen and withdrawn. He is wearing a suit and his feet are bare. His shoulders sag and his head slumps forward as he delicately plays piano, and he later picks up his jacket as if he is about to leave. When the bridge starts, the band is shot performing in one room while Moody is in another, playing on the piano. Throughout the video, Lee is never filmed on ground level. She walks along the ledge of a fountain, sits in a tree and sings lying on top of a building. She also lies atop scaffolding and on the hood of a car surrounded with leaves.
The video for the song was nominated in the category for Best Rock Video at the 2004 MTV Video Music Awards. According to Jon Wiederhorn from MTV News, the shots of the video are "evocative and artistic, resembling a cross between a foreign film and a Chanel advertisement." Joe D'Angelo of MTV News said that Lee's disconnection in the video shows a "distressed and emotionally wrought heroine." Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone praised the video saying that Lee looked like a "teen-misery titan" and that she "tiptoed through a marble castle of pain". He also concluded that she could have borrowed the dress from Stevie Nicks. During an interview with Spin in 2011 Lee said that it was weird for her to watch the old videos of the band including the one for "My Immortal". She explained, "Just watching our oldest videos, it's weird. I definitely remember watching 'My Immortal,' like, 'That was not some dream where it was really somebody else.' I've totally had a couple of those moments. It's cool."
Evanescence performed the song at the 2004 Billboard Music Awards on December 8, 2004. The band was joined by an eight-piece string section during the performance and a stage backdrop of knotted, decaying trees were placed on stage in order to showcase the "powerful vocals" by Amy Lee as stated by a writer of Billboard. The band additionally performed the song at Late Show with David Letterman in March 2004.
The band performed "My Immortal" during various stops of their first Fallen Tour (2003). "My Immortal" was the closing song of the concerts, and Lee performed it after asking the fans "Just promise not to fall asleep." A live version of the song from the performance at Le Zénith, Paris is featured on their first live album, Anywhere but Home (2004). Johnny Loftus of AllMusic praised the live version saying that Lee takes a "softer approach" while performing "My Immortal" and added that it "becomes a singalong moment for 5,000 souls." "My Immortal" was also part of the set list during the band's second tour, called The Open Door Tour (2007) in support of their second studio album The Open Door (2006). Evanescence also played the song live at their secret New York City gig which took place on November 4, 2009 and during the 2011 Rock in Rio festival on October 2, 2011. The song was later added on the set list of their third worldwide tour in support of their third self-titled studio album, the Evanescence Tour (2011-12).
"My Immortal" was featured on the soundtrack Daredevil: The Album from the movie Daredevil (2003) along with "Bring Me to Life". It was also heavily used in promos for the series finale of Friends. The song has been used during several television episodes. It featured during the Smallville season three episode "Memoria". Lucy Walsh, a contestant of the show Rock the Cradle, covered the song during the fifth episode, "Judge's Picks". Dancer Hampton Williams performed to this song during his audition for the season 9 premiere of So You Think You Can Dance, broadcast on May 24, 2012, where he received a standing ovation, and in season 11 the song accompanied a performance by the top seven women, choreographed by Mandy Moore and broadcast on July 30, 2014, that earned similar reviews.
An arrangement of the song inspired by Gregorian chant was covered by the group Gregorian on their 2004 album The Dark Side. In 2013, violinist Lindsey Stirling recorded an instrumental version of "My Immortal" for the Target edition of her first self-titled studio album. In July 2013 it was uploaded to her personal channel on YouTube along with an accompanying performance video and it was released to the iTunes Store on October 1, 2013. The following year, Andrea Begley covered "My Immortal" for her debut studio album The Message. Robert Copsey of Digital Spy wrote that the cover "range[s] from the excruciating to the offensively inoffensive". Teenage classical vocalist Jackie Evancho covered "My Immortal" in 2014 on her fifth full-length album, Awakening, as a bonus track for Japanese fans.
Credits are adapted from the liner notes of Fallen.