The Evolution of Panic! At the Disco
By: Yasmin Ettobi
I will never forget the first time that I listened to Panic! At The Disco’s sophomore album, Pretty Odd. The regality of the strings, the whimsicality of the vocal harmonies, the complex yet utterly vivid lyrics...it was one of the first times when I sat back and thought to myself, this is how all music should make me feel.
I discovered this record embarrassingly late, in about 2016. I don’t know how I had spent 16 years of my life without consciously hearing even one song by Panic, but needless to say, Pretty Odd was the sole LP coursing through my headphones for about a week. After I had gotten my fill, I moved on to more of the band’s discography. I dove into their latest release (at the time) Death of a Bachelor, and after listening I was entirely confused. I’m all for bands changing their sound, but at the time, Death of a Bachelor seemed like a gargantuan downgrade compared to Pretty Odd. How could any artist go from singing, “throwing a line out to sea / to see if I can catch a dream,” to “I’m not as think as you drunk I am?”
Time passed, and I can now recognize and somewhat appreciate the carefree, pop-tinted, big-band sound of the ‘new’ Panic! At The Disco, but to me, none of the music frontman Brendon Urie has recently released, and probably ever will release, will be able to top the first three Panic! At The Disco albums, and especially the magic of Pretty Odd. That being said, Urie’s incredible voice and knack for creating memorable melodies shine through on each song, and as a whole, Death of a Bachelor reminds me of a sunny run, and joyous time of my life.
Curious to see whether my opinion was a popular one or if I’m just grumpy and nostalgic, I asked other avid Panic! fans their thoughts and feelings about the way in the band has evolved throughout the years.
Longtime fan Carla Contreras, is the best kind of supporter any band could ask for, believing in the group no matter which era they reside within. “In their true essence, I really do believe Panic! At The Disco to be an ever-evolving band. Not in the sense of members (even though this is true) but in the sense that no song or album is ever the same or stagnant.”
Panic! is known for altering their image from pop-punk, to Beatlesesque, to steampunk, and everything in between. This has provided a way for the band to relate to different audiences throughout the years, but Urie’s familiar vocals remind old fans of the origins of Panic! no matter what year they listen to the band in.
Elaina Nelson, another huge Panic! fan, has similar feelings regarding the evolution of the band. “I tend to welcome new Panic! at the Disco music rather halfheartedly, since it’ll never sound like the first two or three records they released. But when I take time to listen to the new records, they always grow on me and keep me coming back for more - this is what Brendon is so great at!”
Zoë Peterson had very similar thoughts to those of Nelson’s. “I didn’t ever really get into Death of a Bachelor and while this new album is really similar sounding to me, I still love it! Listening to it for the first time through brought me so much happiness I haven’t found from their music in years, and it was really, really special to me.”
Since Pretty Odd was such a love-at-first-listen record for me, I often forget that most of the time, it takes a couple listens through to truly appreciate an album for what it is. Nelson’s listening experience is a perfect reminder for fans new and old to be open to new sounds, and not to expect any artist’s entire discography to be carbon copies of each other.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter whether your favorite Panic! album is 2005’s A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out or their most recent release, Pray For The Wicked. For many, many people, Panic! At The Disco is a source of light and happiness in a shroud of darkness, and just for that alone, they should be applauded.