Panic! at the Disco

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Panic! at the Disco

Rock group

In 2005, Panic! At the Disco became an overnight sensation. The Las Vegas quartet went from being unknowns to become one of the most popular bands to be played on MTV and on Top 40 radio. They also toured with the internationally famous Fall Out Boy. The members were just teenagers when they sent songs online to Fall Out Boy's Pete Wentz, but Panic! would soon become pin-up boys for the Internet generation. With only three of the group's songs written, Wentz signed Panic! to his new label, Decaydance Records, an offshoot of Fueled By Ramen. A Fever You Can't Sweat Out (2005) sold more that 2.2 million copies. Panic! took the proven contagious pop traits of Fall Out Boy and added an emo-meets-cabaret-meets-Moulin Rouge theatricality that many MTV teenagers had never seen before. Unlike most bands, which spend years touring before making a name for themselves, Panic truly became overnight stars. They had never even played a live show before they signed their record deal, and thus faced a possible backlash from an Internet generation who questioned their musical integrity at first.

In 2004 Wentz signed the group to his new label, but the band had yet to play live. "We never went out and played shows before we got signed because the music scene in Las Vegas is so bad," drummer Spencer Smith told James Montgomery on "There's not a lot going on. In our practice space, there were something like 30 bands, and every day we'd walk into that room and hear the exact same death-metal bands. So it kind of influenced us to be different. And to get out of Las Vegas." Guitarist Ryan Ross admitted to Montgomery, "Either people were going to love us or they were going to hate us because of the way we got signed."

Singer Brendon Urie, guitarist Ross, drummer Smith, and bassist Brent Wilson were fans of Fall Out Boy, as were many young people of their age. Living in Las Vegas, Panic! knew from the start that they wanted to write songs that would bring the "show" aspect back to a concert. They didn't want to play gigs; they wanted to put on a full-out, costume-changing, eye-liner-wearing theatrical concert in every sense of the word.

Ross told Montgomery, "Because we had two songs online … people were already making assumptions about what kind of band we were and what our album was going to sound like." In September of 2005, Decaydance/Fueled By Ramen released Panic!'s debut album, A Fever You Can't Sweat Out. The record entered the Billboard album chart at number 182. Christian Hoard in Rolling Stone praised the band's sound, writing that "A Fever You Can't Sweat Out drops electronic drums, barrelhouse piano and synth stabs amid speedy, stutter-stepping grooves and the sweet-and-sour vocals of emo pinup Brendon Urie, 18." The next thing they knew, they were on the front covers of magazines and winning teenage hearts everywhere.

Panic! immediately went on the Nintendo Fusion Tour with big names like Fall Out Boy and the Starting Line. "I remember buying Fall Out Boy records not too long ago," Smith admitted to Hoard. "We get to talk to them every day now. That's really weird, but it's awesome at the same time." A few months after the album's release, Panic's decidedly different video and song for "I Write Sins Not Tragedies" became a hit on MTV and on Top 40 radio stations across the country. The catchy pop song was lyrically different from the usual pop fare, and the video was full of cabaret girls and sassy circus themes. "I Write Sins Not Tragedies," earned Panic! an MTV Video Music Award for Video of the Year, winning over heavy hitters like the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Panic's instant success put them on more tours to support the single. But before they started the next round, bassist Wilson was fired in the middle of the 2006 tours. John Walker took his place in the band and finished the tour. The band's second single, "The Only Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide is Press Coverage," hit MTV's TRL with a boom. Considering that Panic's music was one of the more interesting combinations of music styles to hit the Top 40 in a while, the young musicians seemed barely able to take advantage of their popularity. Just out of high school, Panic! never thought their album would be so popular, and they were just beginning to work out their identity as a band.

It was now time for Panic's sophomore album. The band could easily have been a one-hit wonder, but instead of making their second album exactly like the first, they threw everyone for a loop with new songs that were lush and orchestral, full of classic pop methods and a little less eyeliner. Panic! even recorded their second album twice, to get it just right. To begin writing for their sophomore disc, they originally headed north to the mountains, where they developed almost an entire album's worth of songs. When they moved back to L.A. in July of 2007, they started the album completely over again. By then, the record label was putting pressure on Panic! to get the record done, so they returned to Las Vegas, where they wrote and recorded the bulk of their second record, and then flew to London's infamous Abbey Road Studios to complete it.

For the Record …

Members include Ryan Ross , guitar, vocals; Spencer Smith , drums; Brendon Urie , vocals, piano, guitar; Jon Walker (joined group, 2006), bass, vocals; Brent Wilson (left the group, 2006), bass.

Group formed in Las Vegas, NV, c. 2004; signed to Decaydance/Fueled By Ramen, 2004; released debut, A Fever You Can't Sweat Out, 2005; released Pretty. Odd, 2008.

Awards: MTV Music Video Award, Video of the Year, for "I Write Sins Not Tragedies," 2006.

Addresses: Record company—Fueled By Ramen, P.O. Box 1803, Tampa, FL 33601. Web site—Panic at the Disco Official Web site:

During work for Pretty. Odd., the band announced that they were dropping the exclamation point from the band's name. When their first new single, "Nine in the Afternoon," was released, they were now called Panic at the Disco; no exclamation point anywhere. Rather than emo or pop-punk, the quartet's second album was more late 1960s pop oriented, though still with a hint of glam and edginess. The new record was more than reminiscent of the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album. Working at Abbey Road, the band expanded their sounds with string arrangements, trumpets and the like. Just being in the studio where the Beatles made such legendary music became an inspiration to Panic. But although it was a nod to the Beatles, Pretty. Odd. still had the same sense of theatricality as did Panic's first album.

"I just hope that … people are open to the idea that Pretty. Odd. may not sound exactly like the first record," Ross said on the Fueled By Ramen Web site. "All we can ask for is that people give it a chance because there are songs that sound very different." After the album's release in March of 2008, critics praised the young band for its invigorating new record with a traditional pop twist. "You hear that influence in the smiley-face boppiness that pervades even the most melancholy of the album's 15 tracks," wrote Sarah Rodman of the Boston Globe. "The joy … felt while writing and recording their symphony to influences like the Beatles, the Beach Boys, and the Zombies practically leaps out of every filigreed horn part, snappy backbeat, and stacked harmony."

"We're still the same guys in the band, it's just that it's been three-something years since we've written material for an album, so … I think it's just the natural change that takes place from the time you turn 17 to the time you turn 20," Urie told Montgomery. Pretty. Odd.'s second single, "That Green Gentleman," contained more Beatles allusions, and with Urie's distinctive attitude and singing voice added, it could turn an entire generation back to the roots of pop music.

Selected discography

A Fever You Can't Sweat Out, Decaydance/Fueled By Ramen, 2005.

Pretty. Odd., Decaydance/Fueled By Ramen, 2008.



Boston Globe, May 9, 2008.


Fueled By Ramen Official Web site, (June 10, 2008).

"Panic at the Disco," All Music Guide, (June 10, 2008).

"Panic! at the Disco Dance," Rolling Stone, (June 10, 2008).

"Panic! At The Disco Fight For Cred, Swear They Have No Beef With The Killers,", (October 7, 2008).

"Panic At The Disco Promise New Album Isn't A Huge Departure: ‘We're Still The Same Guys’," (June 10, 2008).

—Shannon McCarthy