One of the biggest acts to emerge out of the emo movement of the mid-2000s, Panic! At the Disco transcended their early fame, transforming into a vehicle for singer Brendon Urie's charismatic, cross-pollinated brand of pop.
Championed from the start by fellow emo-pop favorites Fall Out Boy, Panic! At the Disco found success on MTV and on the charts with the wordy, hyperkinetic anthem "I Write Sins Not Tragedies" from their 2005 debut, A Fever You Can't Sweat Out. However, their follow-up, the '60s psychedelia-influenced Pretty. Odd., split fans and critics, and found them beginning a creative journey that would also bring lineup changes. Urie and co-founding drummer Spencer Smith pushed the band's sound toward synthy, '80s-style new wave and dance-punk on 2011's Vices & Virtues, and expanded into a swaggering blend of electronic pop, hip-hop, and R&B on 2013's Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die! With the departure of Smith in 2015, Urie took the helm as the sole original member and mastermind behind the band's sound. Despite the changes and ever-evolving music scene, Panic! At the Disco have retained a loyal following and remain creatively engaged, scoring chart-topping albums with 2016's Frank Sinatra-influenced Death of a Bachelor and 2018's Pray for the Wicked.
Formed in 2004, Panic! At the Disco came together when high-school friends Spencer Smith (drums) and Ryan Ross (guitar) began covering blink-182 tunes together. After tiring of playing another group's material, they recruited two additional classmates, guitar/vocalist Brendon Urie and bassist Brent Wilson, and the newly formed quartet decided to model its name after a line in Name Taken's "Panic." Crafting pop-influenced songs with theatrical touches, quirky techno beats, and perceptive lyrics, Panic! At the Disco posted several demos online that caught the attention of Decaydance Records, the Fueled by Ramen imprint headed by Fall Out Boy's Pete Wentz. Even though Panic! At the Disco had yet to play a live show, they subsequently became the first band signed to Wentz's label.
With their record scheduled for release in September 2005, Panic! At the Disco joined the successful Nintendo Fusion Tour and hit the road alongside Fall Out Boy, Motion City Soundtrack, Boys Night Out, and the Starting Line. The band continued touring into early 2006, while its single "I Write Sins Not Tragedies" found its way onto MTV and the Billboard Top 40. Proving to be a popular lineup, the Nintendo tour consistently sold out venues across the country. Wilson was fired from the group mid-year; undaunted, Panic! continued with their friend Jon Walker on board for a full summer tour that culminated with appearances at Lollapalooza and the Reading and Leeds Festivals. The guys picked up a Video of the Year award at MTV's annual VMA ceremony, beating out heavy-hitters like Madonna and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and a collector's box set version of Fever (featuring random Panic! paraphernalia and a DVD) came out just in time for the 2006 holiday season.
After additional tour dates, the bandmembers announced that they were eliminating the exclamation point from their name, a sign that seemed to foreshadow the mature, less emo-driven rock featured on Pretty. Odd. Released in March 2008, the sophomore album peaked at number two in the U.S. and showcased an evolving band whose tastes had grown to encompass the Beatles' psychedelic pop. The group supported the album with another round of shows, one of which was captured on the CD/DVD release ...Live in Chicago. The group took a hit in June 2009, though, when Walker and Ross left the lineup in order to form their own band, the Young Veins. Urie and Smith soldiered on in the studio as a duo, though they did fill the holes in their touring lineup with Ian Crawford and Dallon Weekes. In 2011 they released their third studio album, the John Feldmann and Butch Walker-produced Vices & Virtues.
Two years later, the band returned with Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die! Once again produced by Walker, the album was inspired by Urie's hometown of Las Vegas and featured a title borrowed from Hunter S. Thompson's classic Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. An eclectic album that showcased Urie's interest in hip-hop and electronic music, it was also the first album to feature Weekes in the studio. After several live shows in 2013, Smith announced he was leaving the band's tour, citing his ongoing substance abuse issues.
By 2015, Smith officially announced he had left the band. Around the same time, Weekes' position was once again downgraded to touring member. With Urie at the helm, Panic! At the Disco finished out the year by releasing the singles "Hallelujah," "Victorious," and "The Emperor's New Clothes." All of the songs were included on the band's fifth studio album, 2016's Death of a Bachelor, which featured co-production from Urie and longtime engineer Jake Sinclair. The album debuted at number one in the U.S., and was nominated for a Grammy for Best Rock Album. A tour followed, resulting in a concert album in 2018. Also that year, Urie returned with the full-length Pray for the Wicked. Once again produced by Sinclair, it featured the singles "Say Amen (Saturday Night)," "High Hopes," and "King of the Clouds." ~ Corey Apar