There's no feeling quite like falling out of love.
The butterflies once perpetually fluttering around in your stomach fade away and leave an empty pit in their place. Your heart lacks the gumption it once had, the reason for its beating seems forever gone. Many of us have felt this crushing despondence over a high school sweetheart or a summer fling.
But I'm talking about your favorite band.
The band whose songs you'd scream into a hairbrush at 3 am. The band who seemingly grew up with you, whose albums serve as the soundtrack to the story of your life. The band whose music transcends childhood nostalgia and adulthood taste. The band you thought had taken up permanent residence in your heart, and the thought of parting with them would seem akin to losing a part of yourself.
For me, that band was Panic! at the Disco.
But our relationships with our favorite artists really aren't that different from the interpersonal ones we nurture — you're either in it for the long haul or, eventually, the time to part ways arrives.
It's hard to think logically when you're initially smitten — blinded by adoration and obsession. I can still remember the first time I heard Panic! — a childhood friend of mine had come over after school and showed me a music video of her latest favorite song, "I Write Sins Not Tragedies." It was like nothing my 9-year-old ears had heard up to that point — frontman Brendon Urie's bright, clean voice broke through my pre-adolescent haze and the band behind him drove like an arrow into my heart. The next day I went out to Hastings and bought A Fever You Can't Sweat Out and listened to it on repeat on my CD player until I had memorized every verbose lyric and drumbeat.
Quickly and without hesitation, I was immersed in a new life, a new identity. Panic! became my defining trait and singular thought. I collected their first two albums on CD and vinyl, wore far too many band tees purchased from Hot Topic and started a Tumblr blog specifically for talking about Panic! with other fans online. So began the honeymoon phase. I doodled their name in notebooks with headphones buried deep inside my ears like a lovesick puppy. When I should've been memorizing algebraic formulas, I instead studied every word that fell from Urie's lips as if it were my own personal gospel.
These were my formative years. I was designing and redesigning my future every day. Friends left as quickly as they came. I was convinced I'd be a teacher one day, but the next I was sure to become a fashion designer. Over and over, my likes and dislikes were shuffled and replaced like an iPod playlist. One day I was listening to nothing but showtunes, and the next I was a diehard Taylor Swift fan, but Panic! never left. They were my constant companion, never leaving my side when I needed something to lean on.
Within the first few frigid days of 2014, it finally came the time to see Panic! in concert. I'd waited six years for this. Like garnering the courage to ask out your first crush, the butterflies were definitely present, and it was like my whole life had been leading up to this moment.
A lot had changed in those six years of waiting. I was now 15. Original band members came and left. (I miss you, Ryan and Jon!) Two new albums had been released. There were times I'd felt slighted by the choices my love had made. "How could they do that to me?" I thought. "Now things will never be the same!"
Once the tidal wave of emotions had washed away, however, our relationship emerged unscathed. We simply had too much history. We were bound by memories of nostalgic nights in my bedroom and tight companionship through middle school and into high school. Seemingly, no bump in the road could tear us apart.
After that show, I realized that there was no replacing Panic!. If I could've popped the question, I would've. From that moment on, they were the one.
Our understanding of one another was at its strongest, I'd never felt so heard or accepted. I was committed. There was nothing complicated about it. Plainly and simply, life with them was far superior to a life without them. We were inseparable — you couldn't mention one of us without mentioning the other. We were a package deal, and I was totally OK with that. It was a musical soulmate connection.
As I grew, the band grew with me. We evolved and changed at the same pace. Everything was smooth sailing through high school. Panic! photos hung in my locker. I was always waiting for the next adventure that we would go on together. A new musical sound? A television appearance? A festival date? (And I still doodled their name in my notebooks.)
Admittedly, it was somewhat of a long-distance relationship. But that couldn't keep us apart. I traveled across the country to support my love, attending at least 10 concerts over the years. I aided in the creation of fan projects, like cutting and handing out thousands of paper rainbow-colored hearts to hold up during "Girls / Girls / Boys" during a show in Boise. Heck, I even went to one-off shows by Panic! member Ryan Ross after he left the band in 2009.
There wasn't anything I wouldn't do to show my devotion to my dearest Disco boys.
But soon after I set off to college in 2018, something shifted. I was exploring my newfound freedom when suddenly, my future looked very different from what I'd originally imagined while doodling in junior high notebooks. Maybe I was worn out from the chaos of that decade of intense tween/teen passion. Maybe I was just maturing. But something felt different.
I pulled back the curtains and opened the goddamn door.
Panic! at the Disco was no longer what it once was. The music on albums like Pray For The Wicked and Viva Las Vengeance was frankly abysmal in comparison to their first three records. It lacked the prolix lyricism that'd originally got me head over heels. Despite not being hitmakers like they had been in early days, the group seemed to be cloying for a self-defeating more mainstream sound, which felt like a betrayal.
Left to his own devices, Brendon Urie turned the band that once meant so much to me into a glorified solo project. He composed songs and entire albums that made me embarrassed to admit that I had once fawned over the complexities of A Fever You Can't Sweat Out and Pretty. Odd.
When falling in love, the possibility of falling out of love doesn't cross your mind, but I suspected that point had come. We weren't the same people anymore. We'd both taken different paths, grown apart.
Did it happen suddenly right before my eyes? Was I too in love to notice the gradual shift? Or was what I thought I adored never there at all?
Was it me or was it you?
Or was it both of us?
In "This Is Gospel," a song on the band's fourth studio album, Urie sings: "If you love me, let me go."
And I have.
And it seems that they have too.
Just last week it was announced that Panic! at the Disco is breaking up. A lover lost to the sands of time. The one that got away.
Removed from the throes of young passion, I'll likely never feel that wild musical infatuation again, but I still look back on our time together with tenderness.
We were both finding out who we were. In the end, we just weren't right for each other.
Someday if we cross paths again, I hope they can muster an awkward wave or a slanted smile. Something to let me know that — even if only for a moment — they felt the same. ♦