Surface-sensitive NEXAFS spectroscopy is used to probe the interaction between low work function metal electrodes and fullerene derivatives in organic solar cells. Evaporation of either Ca or Al electrodes onto films of the fullerene derivatives (6,6)-phenyl-C61-butyric acid methyl ester (PCBM) and indene-C60 bisadduct (ICBA) leads to a dramatic change in the observed NEXAFS spectrum. The observed changes cannot be explained only in terms of interfacial electronic doping or charge transfer, but rather point to the formation of new chemical bonds that destroy the extensive electron delocalization on the C60 cage. A combination of ex situ and in situ ultrahigh vacuum measurements indicates that metal evaporation results in a change in the electronic structure of PCBM that then facilitates chemical degradation and oxidation in the presence of oxygen. To investigate the effect of this chemical interaction on device performance, a unique transfer method to laminate the Al electrode to the top of polymer blend is used, in which case, the chemical degradation of the fullerene is not observed. Device performance of P3HT/PCBM blend solar cells in which the top metal electrode has either been thermally evaporated or transferred is then compared. These results highlight that chemical, as well as electronic, interactions between metals and organic semiconductors must be considered.