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Build God, Then We’ll Talk - Infidelity and Empty Relationships

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Valerie Verret

Daniel Devillier

Music Appreciation 1010        

2016 August 8

“Build God, Then We’ll Talk”: Infidelity and Empty Relationships

        Any emo teenager from the 2000s could easily list off their favorite go-to bands on their iPod: My Chemical Romance, Fall Out Boy, and even Paramore. One band stuck out and still stick around today with an ever-changing sound: Panic! At the Disco. The American pop rock band from Las Vegas was formed in 2004 by a couple of high school boys. Among those boys was Ryan Ross, Spencer Smith, Brent Wilson and Brendon Urie. Beginning as a Blink-182 cover band, the group conjured experimental demos unlike the sound of the death-metal groups coming out of Vegas at the time. When Fall Out Boy’s bassist Pete Wentz heard them, he immediately signed them onto his record label Decaydance Records (now known as DCD2 Records) before they even got their first gig. Decaydance had also signed bands such as Gym Class Heroes, Tyga, and Cobra Starship.  The group relocated to SOMD! Studios in College Park, Maryland to record their debut album, A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out which was recorded in June 2005 and released by September of 2005.

        With help from Fueled by Ramen who has signed bands such as 3OH!3, Twenty One Pilots, and Fun., P!ATD began recording their first album. Ryan Ross stated, "We didn't have a day off in the five-and-a-half weeks we were there, 12 or 14 hours a day,” but in that short time, they pulled together a forty-minute album with thirteen songs, five of them being singles. The album was produced by Matt Squire who also produced for bands such as Ke$ha, One Direction, Good Charlotte, Taking Back Sunday, and HIM. The album is split in half stylistically: the first half being more electronic using synthesizers and the second half employs traditional baroque pop style instrumentation such as accordion and organ. Between the two halves is a legitimate intermission entitled “Intermission,” which is completely instrumental. When asked about their inspirations behind their music and albums, Panic! stated that they were heavily influenced by bands such as Third Eye Blind, Counting Crows, Arcade Fire and The Decemberists, as well as film scores by Jon Brion and Danny Elfman. Urie, the lead vocalist, specifically mentioned The Beatles, Queen, The Smiths, and Name Taken. While these band influenced musical aspects, fellow emo pop punk bands influenced their titling style. The group noticed that the pop punk groups typically used extraordinarily long titles for songs, such as Fall Out Boy’s “I Slept with Someone In Fall Out Boy and All I Got Was This Stupid Song Written About Me,” and decided to take it to an extreme as an inside joke, such as “Lying is the Most Fun a Girl Can Have Without Taking Her Clothes Off’ or “The Only Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide Is Press Coverage.” This album spawned P!ATD’s most famous and award-winning song “I Write Sins Not Tragedies,” which won Video of the Year in the MTV VMA’s of 2006 and showed kids that it was edgy or cool to take God’s name in vain.  A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out divided music critics at the time of its release, but ten years later, Billboard deemed it “one of the most polarizing albums of our time.”

        Of all thirteen songs on the album, the final track listed, “Build God, Then We’ll Talk,” seems to be one of the most controversial of all of the band’s songs even today. To begin with the controversial issues surrounding the song, one must start with the music video. Of the band’s music videos, “Build God, Then We’ll Talk” is the only one that was not cleared for MTV and was made online-exclusive due its vulgar nature. The video depicts a “pornomime” and his story. He performs mimed acts of pornography on stage as a performance, which leads to a woman falling in love with him. The relationship that follows is completely mimed. This represents the false feeling of intimacy and how it is essentially devoid of meaning. Eventually they each walk in on one another having affairs, which are also mimed, ending the relationship and again symbolizing the emptiness of a mimed relationship. While there have been multiple interpretations of the video itself, Urie has stated it is related to a past bad relationship. The lyrics of the song open up more reasons for it being considered so controversial. In the lyrics, Urie tells a different story. Urie opens up with an image of motels on the corner of “4th and Freemont Street,” appealing only because of their purpose: prostitution. This leads to the story of tonight’s tenants and how they give a display of a “wonderful caricature of intimacy” as the chorus states. The lyrics spin a story of a Catholic virgin who has to sleep with her boss in order to land the job she wants, while the boss’s wife will stay with him only because she needs his money. She then is forced to sleep with the constable due to him bursting into her room and her spilling her “purse of a different kind” in front of him, hinting that his blackmail stems off of her drug possession. The bridge melody plays on the melody of the chorus for “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music, in which Urie discusses how there is no purity left, only the dirty feeling of “sleeping with roaches and taking best guesses at the shade of the sheets.” The opening verse also features “la”s that seem very circus-like, which may point towards the clown-like appearance of the mime in the music video. The vocals also convey the depressing story in a springy way that sounds as if he enjoys telling the story again and again. While the video and lyrics hold dark and difficult to understand meanings, the written music tells a different story. The music composition switches suddenly throughout the song from fast rock or alternative tune featuring heavier guitars to a less heavy guitar not unlike what Jet or Weezer would sound like to a piano lullaby sound which features a far-out spacey sound. When listening to the instrumental version of the song, the music sounds a bit lighter and less dark than when it features vocals and you can pick out the smaller instruments such as a triangle and a pitched mallet percussion instrument, which is most likely a xylophone or set of orchestra bells, during a break before the bridge. During the bridge, the tempo slows down and switches to classical cello for 16 beats or 4 measures. The tempo is all over the place throughout the song, as well as the drum beats sometimes do not always seem to keep in perfect time. It is clear when playing the instrumental that there are multiple background vocals, but they mesh together so well it is difficult to hear them when listening to the radio version. The video, vocal sounds, musical composition, instrumentation, and lyrics all seem to go their own directions in ways of telling a story or conveying a feeling.

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