Top 15 Albums at 15 | #11 Death Of A Bachelor
Sep 3, 2016 • Matthew Wang
~ 12 minute read • 2164 words
Whenever I talk about Panic!, I always yell out the “Panic!” and do a panic squat. It’s something special that I picked up from the friend who recommended me Panic!. I’m going to talk about that, and more, in this exceptionally long album review that has nothing to do with the actual review, but with an interesting story that I want to tell you about this friend. I’m excited to recommend to you..
Album #11: Death Of A Bachelor, by Panic! At The Disco
I’d like to say that I find out about music and bands from a super diverse, wide range of methods, but then I’d be lying to you. I have about 3 or 4 influences in what I mainly listen to (obviously taking in recommendations from friends, but not constantly): Spotify’s Discover Weekly, /r/hiphopheads, theneedledrop, and this one friend that we’ll call Sara. Mostly because that’s her name.
Hopefully I’m not violating anybody’s privacy here, but I want to tell you a story about why I listen to Sara’s music advice much more than most of my friends, and weigh it as equally as an algorithm from one of the largest streaming services, a 400k+ hip hop reddit community, and possibly the largest Kendrick Lamar fan of an internet reviewer on YouTube. And to do that, I’m going to have to talk about two things: my social bubble, and debate.
“The Social Bubble”
What the hell is a social bubble? It’s not an official term, but to me a social bubble is what type of person that you socially interact with, and more importantly, what types of people you don’t normally interact with. Kinda like living in a bubble.
Living as a relatively well-off person (I have regular access to food and water) in a first-world country (sorry to my Civics teacher for saying that), there are some obvious social interactions that you rarely make, or “outside” your bubble: most of the people I interact with are middle-to-upper class, they or their parents are employed, they have a house, etc. But we can narrow down more from that: I live in a metropolitan area, so most of the people I know are socially left; I’m a kid, so most of my friends are kids (and are also on average more liberal); I live in a nice neighbourhood and go to school in a nicer one, so the people are richer; you get the gist; I’m pretty nerdy, so a good amount of my friends are. You get the gist.
Why is a social bubble important? Well, a social bubble is basically an echo chamber, If all of your friends share the same socioeconomic, political, ethnic, or whatever background, they’re likely to share similar perspectives and opinions. And if you go your entire life never going outside your social bubble, then chances are you’re not going to have well-informed perspectives on, well, life. I firmly believe that you should try to expand your social bubble, or rather your group of people you interact with, to expand your perspectives.
Now when I was much younger (think Grade 4/5), I thought I had a super-diverse social bubbl: I had friends who played different sports, were good at different kinds of math, played different video games. So we must be different, right?
Well, younger me was wrong in many, many ways, but I think that’s one of the most profound ways I was wrong. I had a super narrow view of the world, and I assumed that most people kinda lived like that. Obviously, that’s not true: I learned one side of the coin visitng rural China (that shit is cray), and I learned another visiting downtown NYC (that shit is also cray). I learned that not everybody has consistent access to food and water, not everybody has going to university as a priority or even an option, and not everybody likes sciences, or is allowed to.
Now, I also expanded my social bubble in Toronto, just around Grade 7. I went to a new school, I started debate (huge milestone that I’ll talk about soon), I had to leave most of my old friends and made a hella different group of new friends. Some of these new friends were extremely different from me, and that was pretty cool. One of those friends was Sara.
At that time, I (somewhat cringe) only listened to EDM, because music with lyrics was “impure”. Yeah, younger me was pretty stupid (though I imagine I’m going to say the exact same thing in 5 years). So, while I was talking to my relatively nerdy friend group about this new Monstercat song, which we all liked, because we played Minecraft and loved Star Wars and didn’t talk to girls, I noticed that Sara listened to music that wasn’t EDM, but it did sound pretty cool. But it had lyrics, so it was “impure”. Right?
Debate, Part One
High school debate is one of my favourite things to do: not only is arguing stuff hella fun, but the people that I meet are hella cool. And, like the stereotypical asian I am, my mom signed me up for debate classes in Grade 7. Because, you know, I could be a lawyer who’s also a doctor and an engineer on the side. Asian trifecta.
I actually enjoyed debate, and a lot of that was the class I go to. Class was mostly filled with other asian kids who fit the very, very true stereotype of over-achievers who needed to be the best at everything, but they were also pretty fun people to be with. We also had a pretty cool teacher (a cool dude called Rudi) who was funny, knew a metric shit ton of things, put in effort to make sure that we improved, and was just generally a good guy who made a positive impact on all of our lives. I won’t go into too many specifics (that’ll come another day), but it’s probably my favourite use of Saturday I’ve ever had. And that includes binge-watching How I Met Your Mother.
One class during the Winter Break, I went to class on Saturday night as usual. Unfortunately, most of the class members had gone on vacation (breaking that stereotypical go-to-class on Christmas), so it was just Rudi, Sara, someone else (not too relevant to the story, sorry), and me. Since you need at the very least 4 students to debate, we didn’t really do any debate that class.
So, being a class centered around understanding perspectives and life, we talked about that. We talked about some funny life stories, some not-so-funny life stories, and just generally about things we liked. Somehow, the conversation kinda switched to one about music. I was going to tell the whole group about how much I loved different types of EDM, and how I recently started listening to rap (another story), but instead I decided to listen to the other kinds of music that people said they liked. Rudi talked about Kanye, someone who I really only knew from hearing Stronger at the local YMCA. He’s one of my favourite artists now (though I was kinda disappointed by TLOP, but that’s another discussion). We talked about MGMT (spoilers, but that’s coming up soon), we talked about the Arctic Monkeys, we talked about Johnny Cash. And I thought Rudi’s music taste was pretty cool.
And then, we talked about Sara’s music. Damn.
Not shilling here, but if you’re interested the class is called Toronto Debate Academy.
Why’d I say Part One? ‘Cause I’m going to talk about debate later in this series, ya doofus.
it’s not a phase mom, it’s who I am!!!
That above phrase is basically a meme: the teenage girl telling her mom that being goth, emo, listening to Panic! At The Disco, all of that isn’t a phase. And then, 15 years the later, the now-adult teenage girl has a terrible flashback to her old self, does a minor cringe, and the laugh track rolls.
Not to be mean, but that was my initial reaction to Sara’s music (if you’re reading this Sara, it gets better, trust me). My Chemical Romance? Panic! At The Disco? Paramore? Fall Out Boy? How weird. That wasn’t the kind of music I listened to, and on any other day I would’ve just dismissed it. But I just heard Rudi play 99 Problems and go over Jay-Z’s legal advice, so it can’t go crazier than that.
Just to give some background on Sara: she debated, and also is now attending an arts high school. She draws a lot and does fashion design, all of which is pretty fucking awesome. Oh, and she also likes bomber jackets. If you ever meet her, get her one. Anyways, back to the story.
Sara explained why she liked listening to My Chemical Romance: she could connect to the lyrics, their songs were catchy and well designed, and Gerard Way was kinda cute. While I’m not as attracted to Gerard Way, I did see the appeal in the music. It was a blend of rational and irrational explanation about why my so called “impure” music could be still good. And I took her word for it.
Now, I still kinda regret listening to The Black Parade 100+ times, but it was the first true foray I made into knowing more about music. I asked her for more recommendations, because she had a flair of listening to an actually diverse set of music, one that pushed my bubble. I tried Mindless Self Indulgence, Velvet Underground, and Panic! At The Disco on my first rotation. And initially I didn’t like any of them (sorry Sara). But, I gave it a few more listens, and I kinda started to like Panic!. I was listening to their first album, A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out. And I thought it was pretty cool. I thought that I Write Sins, Not Tragedies had cool lyrics, something that I hadn’t thought since listening to Magic by B.o.B. I thought that Build God, Then We’ll Talk was poignant and flamboyant and had a point. I was excited. I was happy.
And that’s a burrito
I credit a lot of my expansion in music listening to that one debate class on that one fateful Saturday. And I still talk to Sara about music, about debate, about Panic!: albeit in a more friendly, mocking, but still respectfully inquisitive way. And I’m happy to have a friend who does listen to music in that different way. If I look at her Spotify Now Playing, I still see a vastly different set of music: Hamilton’s Soundtrack, Lorde, and yes, some Panic!.
So why Death Of A Bachelor? I’ve talked literally nothing about this album for this entire story in the almost 20 paragraphs of this rather long winded rambling story.
I’m a huge Panic! fan, and that’s thanks to Sara. I’ve loved hearing their change in sound: from Camisado to Nine In The Afternoon to Hurricane to Miss Jackson to Victorious. And Death of A Bachelor is an interesting change in their neverending transformation, with Brendon Urie being the sole member of the original band. Their sound changes to a blend of aggressiveness and serenity, between songs like Emperor’s New Clothes and Impossible Year. There are punchy, aggressive, in your face songs like Don’t Threaten Me With A Good Time, and calm, beautiful, graceful songs like Hallelujah. I think the album encompasses the very change that I admire in people, in ideas, and in music: the ability to be versatile, to tell a story with words, and to sound, well, good.
It’s also a parallel to my music tastes now. I enjoy soft, lyrical pieces, and hard-hitting rap; I enjoy light alt-rock, and teenage super-edgy emo punk rock; I enjoy pop anthems, and the less-than-100k-views-on-spotify bands. I’m not saying that I have the most diverse listening portfolio (wow, how resume-y). But I’ve changed a lot as a music listener, and I think this album reflects that. It reflects the change that I’ve made since learning about Panic!, and how I’ve branched out: I didn’t hear about this album from Sara, but from eagerly awaiting its release on Facebook, Spotify, etc.
I’m forever grateful for that one night and that one friendship that I was able to make. Hopefully, this story means more than just somebody listening to a new artist, but about expanding yourself. Growing as a person. Evolving, both in the literal and in the metaphorical sense. If you do, I guarantee that you’ll be Victorious.
Thank you Sara.
Favourite Songs: Victorious, Don’t Threaten Me With A Good Time, Hallelujah, Emperor’s New Clothes, Death Of A Bachelor, Crazy=Genius, LA Devotee, Impossible Year
Thanks for reading! The next album is going to be a taste of candy, but not in the traditional way.
Until next time!
Sep 3, 2016 • Matthew Wang
~ 12 minute read • 2164 words