Annapolis, Maryland. Summer. 2013.
While living with an uncle after finally returning stateside, I found an album in iTunes’ $9.99 selection: "A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out" by Panic! at the Disco. Up until this point, my top artists have been One Direction and Katy Perry, so you can imagine the intense shock that overtook my body upon hearing the first few seconds of "The Only Difference Between Martyrdom" and "Suicide is the Press Coverage."
After the release of "Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die" later that year, my most watched video for years was the piano version of “This is Gospel.”
I love to tell folks that I haven’t quite left my emo phase, and that’s because I started mine so much later than everyone else must have. Now, ten years later, Panic! (or, as many now consider it, Brendon Urie’s solo project) has ended, but their influence will reach much farther.
In the flashy lights of 2004 Las Vegas, Ryan Ross and Spencer Smith created Panic! at the Disco. They were later joined by Brendon Urie and, briefly, Brent Wilson. After an infamous backing by Fall Out Boy member Pete Wentz, Panic! signed to Fueled by Ramen. "Fever" was released within the next year, albeit to negative critical reviews.
The band has released a total of seven albums: "A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out" (2005); "Pretty. Odd." (2008); "Vices and Virtues" (2011); "Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die!" (2013); "Death of a Bachelor" (2016); "Pray for the Wicked" (2018); and "Viva Las Vengeance" (2022). These albums have amassed millions of sales.
New Orleans, Louisiana. Spring. 2019.
The song breaks down, and there he is. The sole remaining original member of Panic! at the Disco. The crowd eats up his performance. Every pitched-up note, every moment of belting, every jump and turn. From his pyrotechnical entrance to his soul-breaking rendition of Dying in LA on a floating piano, Brendon Urie puts on a hell of a show.
The next day at school, all the emos are wearing new concert merch. They didn’t even have time to wash it.
Panic! at the Disco, or more specifically Brendon Urie, has had a less-than-perfect past. By no means do I have the intent to excuse his inappropriate actions, but I’d be lying if I said he wasn’t a good performer.
In addition to the band’s multiple hit songs, frontman Urie has landed a Broadway role and featured on a number of soundtracks (see: Jennifer’s Body, Suicide Squad, and… Frozen 2?). He’s definitely an accomplished singer with an incredibly impressive range.
But due to the fact that Urie is the only remaining original member, he has had the power to completely reimagine Panic! at the Disco. Albums have gone from their original vaudeville emo-rock and flowery alternative to electronic pop to Sinatra tributes to dance hits and beyond. The constantly evolving sound of Panic! reflects the ever-rotating band members, and moreover, the changing market in that they have made music in.
Raleigh, North Carolina. Fall. 2022.
It’s a rainy October day. The roads are slick, too slick to drive. I call my friend Madison, and we decide to forego the Panic! concert we bought tickets to this past summer.
The rain was just an excuse.
At some point, I started to feel ashamed of still liking Panic! and their music. I had to justify myself when I would tell people: “Oh, I like the old stuff best, of course,” and “I know, I know…” I loved "Death of a Bachelor," and I didn’t mind "Pray for the Wicked" at all. But somewhere along the way, I think the nostalgia started to ruin anything the band released. Nothing would ever top "Fever," but the hope that something would made everything else sounds boring.
I maintain that I’m still in my emo phase - Paramore’s new music made me cry and I saw My Chemical Romance last August. But maybe it was time for Panic! to go.
So godspeed, Panic! at the Disco. Thank you for 19 years of shows and songs, for the glitter and fire, for the rage and the sorrow, for everything. Sorry, we had to sacrifice you to get more Fall Out Boy.