(All photos, credit: Bryan Hainer)
You'll either be incensed or elated that Panic At the Disco is this week's MTV Artist of the Week. Or you might not even recognize them -- the band that used to sound like nervous teenagers trapped in a fun house with a few synthesizers, some Ringling Brothers costumes, and a severe anxiety disorder dropped the extraneous punctuation, stopped writing songs with titles that could double as character-count-maxing Twitter updates, and completely revamped their sound.
Three years and several personal triumphs and tragedies (the death of Ryan Ross' father, the replacement of Brent Wilson with Jon Walker and the ensuing fallout, scores of sold-out shows, a Grammy nomination) after selling more than two million copies of their debut album, A Fever You Can't Sweat Out, Panic is now all grown up. And, for a band that's taken a lot of s--- from knee-jerk anti-emo reactionaries, they appear more determined than ever to keep on the sunny side.
Of all of the blogs, comments, articles and talk of Panic's transformative sophomore album, Pretty. Odd. (which impressively debuted at #2 its first week out) and its similarities to the Kinks, the Beach Boys, the Beatles and ELO, perhaps the most astute and succinct observation was that of Spin magazine writer Barry Walters, who summarized the new album's tone thusly: "Pretty. Odd. lives up to its title because it dares to be optimistically beautiful at a time when sadness and ugliness might have won them easier credibility."
Indeed, the album bounces and shines with harmony and hope (just enough zeal without too much eye-roll-inducing zest -- vigor without the nauseating vim), indicating that Panic seems to have gotten over the paranoia and angst and dared to be confidently, even outwardly, happy. And seriously, who besides the Jonas Brothers (and maybe Sean Kingston) does that these days?
And speaking of happiness minus extreme cheesiness (cautious optimism, if you will), what could be happier -- or more classic rock -- than a good, old-fashioned American road trip in a VW van? Watch Panic embark on the most surreal journey of their lives (which is saying a lot considering they're from Las Vegas) in their Artist of the Week video spots all this week on MTV.
Plus, watch Panic videos and live performances (including their brand-new mtvU Spring Break '08 performances), watch our exclusive Buzzworthy blog interviews, video footage from their "Nine In the Afternoon" video shoot, check out behind-the-scenes photos from their Artist of the Week shoot, and, of course, share your passion for Panic At the Disco -- Version 2.0.
UPDATE: Just in: watch Panic's exclusive mini-movie, Panic At the Disco In American Valley.