Leaving ‘that phase’ pays for Paramore and Panic! At the Disco

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Leaving ‘that phase’ pays for Paramore and Panic! At the Disco

Listen to the evolution of two of the most iconic emo bands in real time in the playlist below.

Listen to the evolution of two of the most iconic emo bands in real time in the playlist below.

Art by TJ Ruzicka

Listen to the evolution of two of the most iconic emo bands in real time in the playlist below.

Art by TJ Ruzicka

Art by TJ Ruzicka

Listen to the evolution of two of the most iconic emo bands in real time in the playlist below.

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You can sound confident and have anxiety.

You can look healthy, but feel awful.

You can look happy and be miserable inside.

You can be good looking and feel ugly.

You can be a band intrinsic in the emo counterculture and then make pop hits without selling out.

You ca… wait, you can do that?

It’s a delicate balance, but yes it’s possible. Many have tried and many have failed.  From getting us through that “phase” in middle school, to sending us soaring to new heights with pop songs when we’re a semi-kinda-normal highschool student.  Recently one band gracefully bowed out of the emo scene, and the other prostituted themselves to the pop giants of the world.

Yes, that’s right, we’re talking about the punk-to-pop evolution of Paramore versus Panic! at the Disco.

The brash, bullish guitars; the booming, bombastic drums; the whimpering, whiny vocals: it’s the staple of emo-punk-rock music. Both Paramore and Panic at the Disco shouted onto the music scene in the mid 2000s with those very characteristics. They had their songs bumping from the iPods of every sad kid in America.

Paramore’s emo phase came through their first three studio albums (All We Know Is Falling, Riot, and Brand New Eyes) and was encapsulated in two songs: “Misery Business” and “The Only Exception.”

2007’s “Misery Business” was a heart-pounding, head-banging, hagridden rocker. Whether it be the vicious guitar licks or the vile drum leads, the song is transcendent into a rough and dark place. Pair the iconic instrumentation with lead singer Haley Williams’ voice and produced is a foot-tapping, easy-to-sing-along-with banger.

“The Only Exception,” their 2009 release foils Paramore’s previous works. Taking on a softer tone, rather than the rambunctious rock of previous works, “The Only Exception” reflects the sad side of emo music rather than the angry.

On the other hand, Panic at the Disco had a prolonged period in the melancholy madness of the emo-counterculture. Producing three studio albums, A Fever You Can’t Sweat, Pretty Odd, and Vices & Virtues, in a span from 2005-2011, Panic at the Disco called on the oddballs and outcasts to scream their message loud.  Their message being highlighted in songs “I Write Sins Not Tragedies” and “Nine in the Afternoon.”

“I Write Sins Not Tragedies” is Panic at the Disco’s ultimate work. The anthem for all the kids with Proactive spilling out of their backpack, “I Write Sins Not Tragedies” is emo music at its finest. Whether it be the caustic callouts littered throughout the song, or the dragonic manner in which it’s served, the whole song sums up what it means to be that bitter emo kid.

“Nine in the Afternoon” is more weird than anything. The cheery bells or the happy-go-lucky lyrics mixed with the history of the band creates such an abnormal concoction, but it works.  It speaks to the weird kids and cheers up the sad kids.

After spending a few years in the darkness of the emo-rock game, both bands felt it was time to take a turn to a more poppy sound in the early 2010’s. All their works still had a punk-pop sound, but were a far cry from the sound listeners were accustomed to.

Paramore took the next steps towards the mainstream music scene with the release of their 2013 self titled album Paramore. The album still has punk-rock influences, as shown in the song “Now,” but has a distinct pop directive as shown in song “Ain’t It Fun.”

“Now” is a more punk-inspired piece with it being composed of a dreary message and angsty vocals. However, the pop sound shines through in certain acts of the song, and it is definitely one of the band’s transitional works.

“Ain’t It Fun” is the band’s baby-step into the pop world.  The more radio-friendly sound, the lighter instrumentation, and the airyer lyrics tie the song together as an iconic pop-punk work.

Panic at the Disco built off the success of their emo songs and looked to add a radio-friendly flair to them.  Producing albums, Too Weird To Live, Too Strange To Die and Death of a Bachelor in this mid-2010’s renaissance.

Highlighted by songs, “This Is Gospel,” and “Death of a Bachelor,” these tracks have the same edgy flair as the band’s original works, but with a more synthesized, pop sound it creates some true pop-punk classics.

There comes a time in every star’s career (Paramore and Panic! At the Disco included) where they come to a crossroad. Stay true to what got you to where you are and risk staying stagnant in your current position, or adapt who you are to reach the status of superstar.

Paramore leapt into the pop-music scene in 2017 with album After Laughter.  The upbeat flair of a song like “Hard Times” was a foreign thought to many of those who were familiar with the band’s previous works.  It was a catchy construct of chords and keys that hit every pop-song benchmark.

In 2018, Panic at the Disco made its way into the ear of every radio listener in their album Pray For the Wicked.  With songs like “Hey Look Ma, I Made It,” and “High Hopes,” consisting of syntho-brass backing tracks and heavily compressed 808 drum loops, it was clear that Panic At the Disco was leaving behind their former sound.

Continuing their work in the pop scene, Panic At the Disco frontman Brendan Urie took the popstar lifestyle to another level by collaborating on hit single “Me!” with Taylor Swift in 2019, and later that year, working on song “Into the Unknown” for Disney’s Frozen 2.

While both bands took a path similar to the hero’s journey, the two diverged from each other in a distinct manner.

Paramore, like many of us, went from the days of crying on the bus and wearing black, to accepting the good in the world and looking to live life without a constant tint of grey. It was an emotional awakening put to music, and left all of Paramore’s fans cheering them on for better days.

As for Panic at the Disco, the path they’ve taken seems spurious, synthetic, and wrong. Our noble knights became the very dragon they spent so long fighting. Panic At the Disco’s decision to sell out lead the listeners that have been with them from the start to empty answers and one glaring question:

Aren’t they trimming their soul just to get in trend?

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