While the members of Panic! at the Disco (P!ATD) originally thought that they might run off with a ‘sort of Beach Boys’ vibe with their Vices & Virtues album, that isn’t at all what we got. But I’m not mad about it, and you shouldn’t be, either!
Hi there. It’s me again, Aleah. It’s 2021, and yes, I am still talking about Vices & Virtues. Despite the fact that I have been working on some flute choir arrangements of songs from Pretty.Odd. and Too Weird to Live, Too Rare To Die (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xJKBf5ggs80), Vices and Virtues is the Panic at the Disco Album that is still at the top of my list. Here’s why:
1. Vices & Virtues Ages Beautifully
Vices & Virtues is the third Panic! at the Disco album to have been released by this band. And, while it came out over ten years ago now, I can still listen to it without it sounding ‘old’ Or, perhaps, it is me that is old, and now I can’t notice! (Just kidding, I’m only 25!) Erm…
One of the reasons why this record ages so well is because the music keeps you on your toes. The Ballad of Mona Lisa (the first song on the album) begins with an unexpected chime sound, luring us in. It’s clear to see that the band has changed a lot since Pretty. Odd. Out with the Beatles vibe, in with the…vampires?!
2. The Bonus Tracks are Stellar
The bonus tracks on this record include Kaleidoscope Eyes, Stall Me, Oh Glory, I Wanna Be Free, and Turn Out the Lights. While this has always been one of my favorite albums of theirs, I didn’t get to experience the bonus tracks until much later, when my boyfriend gifted me the bonus track version of the cd, all the way from Japan.
Panic! at the Disco’s Kaleidoscope eyes is a quaint and charming song, with a simple, bop-able rhythm, and barbershop-esque harmonies. *Chefs kiss!*
It is actually about being in love with a girl who is on an acid trip, hence her distant eyes. The title itself is an homage to the Beatles. Maybe this is harkening back to the Pretty.Odd. album and Beatles vibe after are. The lyrics are nothing short of weird, with phrases like ‘I’m just a white blood cell, fighting like hell for you’, and ‘I look like the cat that just ate the canary.
The meaning of the lyrics to Stall Me have been highly debated by Redditors. Some think it’s a story about Brendon Urie and Ryan Ross’s rocky music paths, while others believe it is a love song about a guy who is impatiently waiting for his girl to come to him. Either way, it is a melodic earworm,
“Stall me, stall me,
I’m all in!
Stall me, call me up, or break me in.
A dark room in the wallflower garden of the party”
Oh Glory starts off fast-paced with a bassy drum-loop. This song’s oh-so-very dark lyrics paired with its energy made it quickly become one of those tunes that was always on repeat in my pandemic playlist.
“Lately it seems like everybody’s sick, everybody’s dying
Build myself a wall of unhappy highs
And only my heart knows my head is lying, lying
Oh glory, I think I see you ’round the bend
And I think I try any poison to get there in the end
I Wanna Be Free
Listening back more critically now, I realize that the snare part and drum pattern sound of the beginning of I Wanna Be Free sound eerily like the drums in Blink-182’s ever-famous ‘I Miss You’. After about 8 bars, a consistent harmony of a fifth is added up top to the melody. This demo became another theme song of mine last spring, but this time, because of the new kind of hopeful love I was beginning to experience for the first time. (*Insert gushy comment about how later, he bought me this bonus track cd* ANYways).
‘I wanna be free, I wanna be loved, I wanna be more than you’re thinking of’
Turn Out the Lights
One line in the pre-chorus could easily be analyzed as representing someone’s anxiety: “I set my expectations high, so nothing ever comes out right”. Then, it transitions to more of a carefree and audacious mantra for the pre-chorus and chorus.
“I think we’ll figure it out with a little more time, but who needs time?
Turn off the lights, turn off the lights
Turn on the charm for me tonight
I’ve got my heavy heart to hold me down
Once it falls apart my head’s in the cloud
So I’m taking every chance I got
Like the man I know I’m not”
The song titled Bittersweet was only available for an iTunes pre-order. Of all the bonus tracks, this one and Kaleidoscope eyes definitely get stuck in my head the most. It’s cheeky, both rhythmically, and lyrically. It feels like High School, but in the best way.
‘Everything I do is Bittersweet, you could tell me secrets that I’d probably repeat! I’m not trying to hurt you, I just love to speak. It feels like we’re pulling teeth (so bittersweet)’
3. P!ATD Changed With Urie Lyrics
In case you didn’t already know, Ryan Ross was originally the main lyricist of the band. But because Ross was so busy writing the music for the album, Brendon Urie had to take on more, lyrically. This is another key reason why this album sticks out when compared to the others. Ross was still around and writing music, but he wasn’t writing as many lyrics anymore. This unique combination leads to unforgettable melodies, with strikingly odd yet relatable metaphors.
4. Vices & Virtues Explores a New, More Polished Sound
It’s more polished than A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out but has more energy and genre-exploring than the preceding album, Pretty. Odd. They took a long time on this one, and it really shows.
In A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, Urie’s lyrics are mixed more rough, and are admittedly, pitchier. While it’s still a loveable album, I think that Vices and Virtues has a lot more to offer, when it comes to both variety of genre, and the collectively increased skills of the band. One Pitchfork critic even once went so far as to say that ““Urie’s impassioned, warbling vocals are so strained it’s as if he might just burst into tears at any moment.” I’ll let you decide for yourself, but honestly, I think that statement was a little more than harsh!
Panic! at the Disco Features French Rockers, Les Plastiscines
I’ve always had a thing for the French language. So when I heard Les Plastiscines’ intro in Nearly Witches, I immediately became hooked. Les Plastiscines is an all-female group of musicians that have written albums in several genres, including punk, grunge and pop. Their name comes from a line in the Beatles song, Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds.
“Dès le premier jour
Ton parfum enivre, mon amour
C’est dans ces instants
J’aimerais être comme toi par moments
Mais depuis ce jour
Je n’ai qu’un seul, et unique regret…”
These eloquent lyrics speak of intoxicating perfume and regret, which is well, just about as French as French gets.
Vices & Virtues: Conclusion
It comes as a surprise to me that so many reviews of Vices & Virtues release were so mixed, as it has some many unique aspects going for it….So which song from Vices and Virtues should I cover for flute choir?
Here’s another shameless plug on my alternative flute Youtube channel https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qu9YYRCYSuY as well as a big shout out to my favorite music digitizing tool, ScanScore https://scan-score.com/en/ , which helps me arrange faster and easier. Toodles!