The End of All Things: Looking back at nearly 20 years of Panic! at the Disco
By Sophie Janos, March 2 2023—
On Jan. 24, Panic! at the Disco frontman Brendon Urie took to Instagram to announce the official disbandment of the group. After nearly two decades and seven original studio albums, the band has explored many sounds and found success on a multitude of levels. The news of their breakup definitely made me nostalgic and sent me on a binge-listen of all of their albums.
A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out
Release Date: Sept. 27, 2005
Members: Brendon Urie, Spencer Smith and Ryan Ross
This album is a cynical, psychosexual, pop-punk and cabaret work of art. This album is so iconic because it wasn’t afraid to take risks and I still haven’t heard anything like it since. This album covers serious topics and tackles them through even more grim storytelling. Although it was criticized by some for having pretentious lyricism, I believe this is one of the keys to its success. “Build God, Then We’ll Talk” is one of my favourite songs of all time. It is so dramatic, taboo and aurally satisfying. Notably, the bridge is absolutely incredible and features a cello solo that evokes so much emotion and is utterly euphoric.
Release Date: March 21, 2008
Members: Brendon Urie, Spencer Smith, Ryan Ross and Jon Walker
For their sophomore album Panic! at the Disco uses folk and 60s elements, which give it a Beatles-esque quality. Typically, I’m not a huge fan of this music genre, but the playful storytelling through the songs is extremely charming. The beautiful and verbose lyricism works in tandem with the music to create whimsical masterpieces such as “She Had the World.” It would be a crime to not also mention “Northern Downpour” as the acoustic sound and overlaying vocals featuring all the band members give off a deep melancholy.
Vices and Virtues
Release Date: March 22, 2011
Members: Brendon Urie and Spencer Smith
This is the best Panic! at the Disco album, and I will not be taking criticism as its sound strikes the perfect balance between ominously sinister and sweetly charming. The lyricism is still strong, albeit a little simpler. However, I feel the simple lyrics leave room for the more eerie and poetic lines to shine and are key for the softer songs which help give the album balance. One of the most unique songs is “Nearly Witches (Ever Since We Met…)” — it cleverly plays around with a children’s choir and a quirky rock beat, a sweet ballad, cryptic lyricism and literal sound effects to create a special and strange work.
Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die!
Release Date: Oct. 8, 2013
Members: Brendon Urie, Spencer Smith and Dallon Weekes
This album has a very strong aesthetic but in comparison to the previous projects, this album doesn’t take as many risks. The main stylistic choices involve the use of a vocoder and lack of traditional instruments, resulting in it sounding more toned down and pop-ish. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, nor is this a bad album — it’s just different and a bit more safe than usual. The majority of songs use a lot of repetition and simplistic metaphors which diverge from Panic! at the Disco’s signature grandiose lyricism and wordplay. I feel it would appeal to those who think the previous unconventional lyric style was unnecessarily precocious.
Death of A Bachelor
Release Date: Jan. 15, 2016
Members: Brendon Urie
Through this album, Urie successfully reflects his personal vision while still keeping the Panic! at the Disco vibe going. It really shines in its vocals and sound. This is exemplified in the title track, “Death of a Bachelor.” As Urie takes on Sinatra, this song demonstrates his vocal abilities in lower ranges. It’s a nostalgic yet modern song and a route I wished Urie would have pursued. In my opinion, this is where Urie should have ended Panic! at the Disco. Everything in this project fits to create what could have been a strong send-off — the album title is fitting for the “death” of the group, the final track works as a melancholic goodbye, there is only one member left.
Pray for the Wicked
Release Date: June 22, 2018
Members: Brendon Urie
This album is light pop in comparison to the darker lyricism and sound of previous projects. I feel the major reason this album falls flat is because of how superficial it is. The majority of tracks use frequent repetition and simplistic lyrics to transmit a shallow message and almost all songs revolve around partying or being successful. However, this new sound proves to be personally successful for Urie as songs such as “High Hopes” have reached over 1.3 billion Spotify streams and he was featured on other pop projects such as Taylor Swift’s “ME!”
Viva Las Vengeance
Release Date: Aug. 19, 2022
Members: Brendon Urie
This album is dull and monotonous and any lingering Panic! at the Disco magic has disappeared. One of the most off-putting aspects is all of the unnecessary shrill and strained high-pitched notes that sound like he’s challenged himself to a scream off. The lyrics themselves are often cringy attempts at wordplay and are unmemorable for the most part. Based on the dramatically low number of Spotify plays in comparison to the other albums, I know that I’m not alone in believing this album is not up to par. It’s unfortunate that Urie decided to leave the legacy of Panic! at the Disco on, quite literally, a bad note.