Originally published here September 25, 2015.
When Panic! at the Disco released their debut album, A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, in 2005, there were a lot of things associated with being a fan of the band. Questionable hairstyle choices. Lots of eyeliner. An overinflated sense of theatricality. Way too many emotions. Extremely tight pants.
What’s odd about me in 2005 is that I had all of the above going on – but refused to be a Panic! at the Disco fan.
I was 13 years old in 2005. I wore plaid skirts and knee-high socks on a regular basis. I wrote stories about kids with “issues” and saw myself in the misfits I watched on TV. I didn’t even take the black gel bracelets I wore every day off to shower.
I was a perfect candidate to listen to the “emo” bands of the early millennium – the slew of Fueled By Ramen-produced, Warped-Touring acts like Fall Out Boy, Paramore and Panic! But I refused to listen to them. I was actively against the “emo” label (in the most emo way possible), and I disliked everyone I knew who liked those bands. So, by extension, I assumed I disliked those bands as well.
It wasn’t until I started college that I discovered what I’d been missing out on. I had cheated myself out of years of good music because I was too pretentious to listen to it, knowing deep down that I would like it.
I bought A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out for the first time this past July.
And now, Fever gets ready to celebrate its tenth anniversary. I find myself in a unique situation: I’m a person who owns Panic!’s debut album…but didn’t as a teenager. I was able to detach myself from a decade of negative connotations, emo clichés and bad jokes to form an actual opinion on whether or not it’s worth listening to.
And despite being a product of its time in every way, Fever is an album that still deserves to exist today.
Admittedly, it is a weird album. It’s structured like a play, complete with an intermission. It suffers a constant identity crisis, dabbling in rock, pop, jazz, techno and classical. The lyrics range from sensual (“Am I the one who makes you sweat, the one you think about in bed?”) to nonsensical (“hiding in estrogen and wearing Aubergine dreams”) to repetitive (“Haven’t you people ever heard of closing the goddamn door?”). And, as per usual in this genre, the titles are basically short stories.
But the reason Fever still matters in 2015 is because it has the same effect on listeners as it did in 2005. Maybe 13-year-old you felt whatever it means to be a “testosterone boy” or “harlequin girl.” But so did 22-year-old me when I heard that same line for the first time in July.
Because I may not be a teenager anymore, but I was one once.
Panic! continues to succeed because we as listeners will never shake the things we felt as teenagers. One of the worst-kept secrets of adulthood is that we’re all just as angsty as we’ve always been – we’ve just gotten better at dealing with it. We get older (and marginally wiser), but the feelings from our past still linger. And as time keeps moving, bands like Panic! provide some sort of constant, a link to the past as the rest of the world insist we buck up and face the future.
They’re a fever we can’t sweat out.