The Similar Careers Of Brendon Urie and Taylor Swift
Panic! At the Disco has been one of my favorite bands for over a decade, I've been listening to Taylor Swift since Tim McGraw, and somehow, I managed to miss how similar their artistry is. I was surprised when I checked Twitter a few weeks ago, on April 25th, and saw Taylor Swift and Brendon Urie trending together. Then I was confused, when upon further research realized it was because Swift was releasing a single and music video featuring Urie. However, when I watched the music video for “Me!” which was released the next day, on April 26th, suddenly the collaboration made a lot of sense. Not only is their artistry similar but they have similar music timelines as well.
Anyone familiar with Taylor Swift's discography knows she was born in 1989, Panic! At the Disco front-man Brendon Urie was born only two years earlier in 1987. Brendon's first album with Panic! At the Disco, A Fever You Can't Sweat Out was released in 2005 when Urie was only 18, and Swift's debut self-titled album was released just a year later two months shy of her 17th birthday. Both artists started in one genre and then slowly slid seamlessly into new, more evolved genres. Swift started as a country artist and now creates in the pop genre, and Urie started out in the pop-punk scene and is now creating in the rock genre. Both artists currently have six studio albums out, both artists can play piano and guitar along with an array of other instruments, and both artists are heavily involved in writing their own lyrics and music.
Both Swift and Urie's first albums, Taylor Swift, and A Fever You Can't Sweat Out have themes that are very jaded and cynical. Taylor Swift's album fits very firmly into the country genre which was considered to be her genre at the time, and Panic! At the Disco's fits very firmly into the pop-punk genre which was considered to be their genre at the time. When these albums came out, their core fanbases were cemented, as were their respective styles. Despite the fact that it's been over a decade since these albums were released, if you attend a Taylor Swift concert, you will still find fans showing up in flannel and cowboy hats/boots, and if you attend a Panic! At the Disco Concert, you will still find people embracing the early aughts scene kid look, complete with ornate eye makeup. I would be shocked if either artist were ever able to completely break free from their debut genres and styles in the minds of their fans.
On March 25th 2008, Panic! At the Disco's sophomore album Pretty. Odd. Was released. Eight months later on November 11th,2008, Taylor Swift's sophomore album Fearless was released. Both albums felt a lot lighter than their predecessors. Pretty. Odd. And Fearless feel almost whimsical, as if they're being presented from a book of fairy tales instead of being based in reality. In the music video for “Nine in the Afternoon,” the members of Panic! Play members of a marching band, and in the music video for “You Belong With Me,” Taylor Swift plays a member of the marching band. Both spend a good chunk of their respective videos dressed in marching band attire. In Swift's second music video off of Fearless for “White Horse,” her and a friend are getting coffee at a bakery called “Mad Platter,” a reference to the Mad Hatter from “Alice in Wonderland.” Panic! At the Disco's second music video is for the song “Mad as Rabbits,” a song with a title also inspired by “Alice in Wonderland.” In their third music videos from their sophomore albums, Panic!'s “That Green Gentleman” and Swift's “Fifteen” both feature younger versions of themselves and carry the theme of change. Both albums, although still rooted in their respective genres, branch out into different genres. Pop for Swift, and Rock for Panic!. Ultimately, these will be the genres they blossom into and land in.
Taylor Swift released her third studio album, Speak Now on October 25th 2010, and Panic! Released their third studio album, Vices & Virtues four months later on March 22nd 2011. Like their second albums, these albums toed the lines between their original genres and their new genres. Both of these albums strongly feature a common theme of love. Swift's music video for “Mean,” and Panic!'s music video for “Ready to Go” are both very retro and seem to be heavily influenced by musical theater. Both albums are the last for each artist to feature the genres they started out in.
Released almost a year apart, Swift's Red in 2012, and Panic!'s Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die in 2013, were albums that tentatively sealed them into the pop and rock genres respectively. They were transitional albums from who they once were as artists to who they were meant to be. Both in song and in music video, “I Knew You Were Trouble,” and “Nicotine” feel very similar in mood. Although at this point Taylor Swift and Panic! At the Disco have both strayed from their debut genres, they both make the descent back to a more dark, angst ridden sound and theme in these albums.
When Taylor Swift's 1989 album came out on October 27th, 2014, I was completely obsessed and captivated. A little over a year later when Panic! At the Disco released Death of a Bachelor on January 15th, 2016, I was obsessed and completely enamored. In my opinion, these albums are each artist's best. For both artists, these albums also produced their most epic and impressive music videos. For Taylor Swift, it was Bad Blood in which she dies and is resurrected as some sort of machine or super soldier, and for Panic! At the Disco it's “Emperor's New Clothes” in which Brendon Urie dies and is resurrected as a demon. One of my favorite aspects of both 1989, and Death of a Bachelor is that although neither album is particularly happy or positive in nature, both albums are still very upbeat. Both Urie and Swift took a chance, made strong departures from their original genres, and came out on top.
The most recent album Taylor Swift released was Reputation on November 10th 2017, and the most recent album Panic! At the Disco released was Pray for the Wicked on June 22nd 2018. While these two albums are still pretty good, they both seem like less amazing continuations of their previous albums. Thematically the two are very similar. The concept of becoming who they were meant to be, and success whether it be in life or love are prevalent throughout Reputation, and Pray for the Wicked. Both albums feel like acceptance.
And now, just over two weeks ago on April 26th 2019, is when the musical paths of Taylor Swift and Brendon Urie finally converged. In this convergence they have created their latest hit single, “Me!.” Although the lyrics are a bit on the juvenile side, they're part of what makes the song fun and upbeat. Musically it's what I imagine it would sound like if Panic! At the Disco's “Nine in the Afternoon,” and Taylor Swift's “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” produced a musical baby. The music video is a pastel daydream consisting of many of their shared past influences such as musical theater, marching bands, and retro styles. “Me!” Is an impressive, natural bonding of two very different artists.
As I said in the beginning, Taylor Swift and Panic! At the Disco have similar career timelines, and artistry. If you have any doubts, look no further than their collaboration on “Me!.” It's a track that pulls all of their similar yet separate past endeavors together and blends it into one new, great-sounding hit.