Panic at the Disco

Welcome back, friends, to our on-going look into the lyrics of popular music. This may sound like a trifling exercise, but think again! While we often actively listen to music we like, more often music passively consumes our world. Next time you watch your favorite show, notice how much your expectations are affected by the music they play, and then notice how many commercials now have pop songs in the background. Whether we are at the mall, in the car, or sitting in an elevator, music surrounds us. (By the way, next time you are in an elevator, listen to what song is playing. Two to one it’s “Girl From Ipanema.”)

Because popular music is everywhere, I believe the lyrics are more important than we might think. Those lyrics are in our heads, consciously, unconsciously, maybe not subverting our will like some kind of subliminal Led Zeppelin song, but still…Sadly, it’s one of the few things we all share. Most of you don’t know your neighbors beyond maybe—MAYBE—the people right next to you, but I bet if I sang “Eight Six Seven…” a large number of you could finish the line. (Even now you’re thinking of it, aren’t you?)

Let’s try one more: If I sang to you, “An old man, turns 98, wins the lottery….” You’d almost instantly say, “And dies the next day….” And you’re going to tell me these lyrics aren’t important? You can’t even remember the names of all the people you dated in high school, and yet I could go on for 300 song lyrics, and I bet you’d all get at least 250 of them.

Now you see why this is so important. Is it more important that curing disease and stopping war?

Yes. Yes it is.

Previous installments of Music Lyrics Analysis (I was going to call it Music Matters, but since I already have a “Movie Matters” column going, I need a different name; any help would be ‘preciated.) have included:

Britney Spears – Hit Me Baby One More Time
Back Street Boys – I Want It That Way
Johnny Hates Jazz – I Don’t Want to Be a Hero
Guns ‘N’ Roses – Civil War
Nickel Creek – The Hand Song

(You can find them by going over to Literary Hype or just clicking on this fabulous Music Lyrics Link Here)


Today we delve into a popular song by the provocatively named band Panic at the Disco. The song, equally provocative, is called “I Write Sins, Not Tragedies.”

Already we’re ripe for analysis; rather what I rather expect this band is looking for. As we will see, the song details a fairly upsetting time, which, put in literary terms, one could call a “Tragedy.” (I wouldn’t myself call it a Tragedy, more a melodrama, but if your choice were Tragedy or Comedy, well, you get the idea.)

But then, or actually previous to the Tragedy thing, we’re told, the song is actually a sin. This begs two questions:

1) What is the Sin?

And infinitely more important

2) Who is the one Sinning?

We’ll get back to that. First, the music lyrics themselves:


I Write Sins Not Tragedies
~ Panic At The Disco

Oh, well imagine, as I'm pacing the pews in a church corridor
And I can't help but to hear, no I can't help but to hear an exchanging of words
"What a beautiful wedding! What a beautiful wedding!" says a bridesmaid to a waiter
"And yes, but what a shame, what a shame, the poor groom's bride is a whore."

I'd chime in with a "Haven't you people ever heard of closing a god-damn door?"
No, it's much better to face these kinds of things with a sense of poise and rationality
I'd chime in, "Haven't you people ever heard of closing a god-damn door?"
No, it's much better to face these kinds of things with a sense of

Well in fact, well I'll look at it this way, I mean technically our marriage is saved
Well this calls for a toast, so pour the champagne
Oh! Well in fact, well I'll look at it this way, I mean technically our marriage is saved
Well this calls for a toast, so pour the champagne, pour the champagne

I'd chime in with a "Haven't you people ever heard of closing a god-damn door?"
No, it's much better to face these kinds of things with a sense of poise and rationality
I'd chime in, "Haven't you people ever heard of closing a god-damn door?"
No, it's much better to face these kinds of things with a sense of poise and rationality

[Repeat Chorus]


Okay, we’re back!

The first thing one notices is that the lyrics lose their edge, their sense of style without the music. This really is a “mood” song, which even I have to admit sounds pretty great on the radio. The naked lyrics however…

Anyway, let’s look at the first stanza again in more detail:

Oh, well imagine, as I'm pacing the pews in a church corridor
And I can't help but to hear, no I can't help but to hear an exchanging of words
"What a beautiful wedding! What a beautiful wedding!" says a bridesmaid to a waiter
"And yes, but what a shame, what a shame, the poor groom's bride is a whore."

The first thing that just slaps you in the face is that obviously this guy is wholly unfamiliar with Church. (This seems a minor point, but it will affect everything to come.) How do we know this? Well, pews go in the sanctuary, which some churches might call an auditorium. The one place pews DO NOT go is in the corridors. A corridor is a hallway, and even if there were a bench in a hallway for someone to sit down, there wouldn’t be enough of them to pace, and you wouldn’t call them pews. One cannot be sure if he is pacing the halls (my bet) or pacing back and forth between pews in the sanctuary, but the one thing we can be certain of is that this dude is not pacing the pews in a corridor.

Next, the timing of the whole event is uncertain. One assumes the singer is the groom (we’ll delve into other possibilities in a minute), and if so, any “pacing” would seem to make more sense BEFORE the wedding. However, my mother is sitting next to me as I write this, and she points out that

A) The bridesmaid refers to the wedding as beautiful, which is normally something one would say AFTER said beautiful event took place. (Else you might say “What beautiful decorations!” or “The Church looks beautiful!” or something like that.)

B) The Bridesmaid is talking to the waiter, who generally doesn’t show up until the reception, which definitely happens AFTER the wedding.

Note that if the singer’s lack of comprehension of church nomenclature extends to weddings, it is entirely possible that he is calling an “usher” a “waiter,” but I have to agree with my mother on this one.

Now we get to the “hook” of the song, after the bridesmaid has told the waiter how beautiful the wedding is. The waiter responds with:

"And yes, but what a shame, what a shame, the poor groom's bride is a whore."

How many things wrong can you spot in this sentence? Off the top of my head I see three glaring problems.

1) The line is quoted, meaning supposedly this was actually said, and under those circumstances, no one, especially not a gossipy waiter trying to get some at a wedding would say “what a shame what a shame.” I understand that this might be in there to fill out the line or for artistic reasons, but if you’re going to quote people, it should at least sound like people talk.

2) Who refers to the bride as the groom’s bride? I’ve heard of bridegroom, but almost certainly this isn’t one word like the other, else the waiter is saying that the bride herself is poor (in this case, to be pitied). Since the waiter is clearly pitying the groom, he is referring to the bride as a “groom’s bride.” Would he not just refer to the bride as the bride?

3) Most glaringly: Who would call the bride a whore…to the face of one of her bridesmaids? If we assume (quite reasonably, I think) that the waiter is trying to get that hideous bridesmaid dress off the bridesmaid post haste, the last thing he would do is insult the bride and rile up the sisterhood. Remember that the bridesmaid is almost always a friend or relative of the bride. No matter how hideous the dress, no one wants to hear her friend’s moral character insulted like this.

There are two exceptions to the above scenario, which honor compels me to point out:

A) The waiter would be one of those fabulously catty homos who everyone loves to hang out with just to hear him rag on everyone and everything. If the waiter was flaming enough, he might—just might—be able to get away with the “whore” comment.

B) It is also conceivable that the particular bridesmaid in question is a relative of the groom, and has zero love lost for the bride. Not only would she tolerate bad words about the bride, she might welcome it.

So that’s the first verse. Now let us turn to the chorus:

I'd chime in with a "Haven't you people ever heard of closing a god-damn door?"
No, it's much better to face these kinds of things with a sense of poise and rationality
I'd chime in, "Haven't you people ever heard of closing a god-damn door?"
No, it's much better to face these kinds of things with a sense of poise and rationality


In the first verse we’re asked to imagine this wedding scenario taking place, as if it were fantasy, although it doesn’t take much thought to assume this song has to be based on large part on actual events. Anyway, the chorus continues on the same path, with the singer claiming “I’d chime in…”

This is an interesting word choice, because he could just be continuing the hypothetical pretext of the first verse…OR…it seems quite possible to me that this is what the singer wished he would have said, later, when he had time to sit and reflect on everything.

As to the actual angry outburst itself, whether it really happened, he wished he’d said it, or it’s just what the imaginary person said in the imaginary scenario, it’s a great line, although the swear words iterate this guy is not familiar with normal church behavior. The tone is obviously angry and puts the people in their place, but without an overdose of out-right hostility.

This of course brings us back to whether or not the singer is the groom. Unless the singer is just a volatile dude, I think we have to assume one of three things:

1) He is the Groom

2) He knows the Groom well, possibly as a best friend or brother

3) He knows the Bride quite well, with the same friend/family connections

All three possibilities are distinct enough that they totally change the meaning of the second verse, which we’re going to get to. Before we do, let’s look at that last line one more time:

No, it's much better to face these kinds of things with a sense of poise and rationality

I really lean towards this guy being the groom at this point. I mean, no one wants to be related to a whore, but “facing” the girl’s whoredom is something really only the groom can do. He seems to be trying to calm himself down, trying in an almost Zen-like way to deal with the first crisis of his marriage. Of course, I may have these lyrics wrong, and this line may almost be part of what the guy is saying, or wished he’d said, to the bridesmaid and waiter, but that is so out and out strange that I am just going to assume that cannot be right.

(I would like to point out that this so called whorish behavior of the bride is only alleged, and fairly typical that at no point does the girl get a chance to defend herself. However, whoever the singer is, his anger at the two gossips has nothing to do with the actual slur, and more that their conversation is so easily overheard. Couple that with the bridesmaid’s lack of reaction, and one has to assume that the bride’s moral lapses were somewhat common knowledge.)

And with that, we’re on to the second verse!

Well in fact, well I'll look at it this way, I mean technically our marriage is saved
Well this calls for a toast, so pour the champagne
Oh! Well in fact, well I'll look at it this way, I mean technically our marriage is saved
Well this calls for a toast, so pour the champagne, pour the champagne


If you’re like me, you’re thinking, okay, this has just gotten bizarre. (Hopefully you’re referring to the song lyrics, not this column.)

The term “our marriage” further solidifies that we’re dealing with the groom, but what on earth does he mean that technically the marriage is saved? We’ve pretty much established that this little vignette occurs after the marriage ceremony, so it’s not like the singer can leave the girl at the alter. Besides, he seems to have already known of her behavior. I suppose this could refer to an annulment, but that seems obscure.

Just spit-balling here, but is it possible that by closing the blankety-blank door the groom thinks he has kept the knowledge of his bride’s character from public knowledge, and thus “saved” the marriage from a public perception standpoint? That doesn’t make much sense either, does it?

By the time we get to the last actual new line of the song we can’t tell whether the groom is actually celebrating whatever terms he has come to on the situation, whether he’s sarcastically saying “pour the champagne” because his life sucks so badly, or whether he just feels worn out and needs a drink. I can’t even wager a guess.

Initially I asked what sins were being committed, and whom is the one sinning. The most obvious answer is the bride, although I find that to be misogynistic. After all, unless she set up shop in the receiving line, it’s not like she has been technically infidelitous, at least not yet. (Perhaps this is what the groom meant by “technically our marriage is saved…”)

The sin could the Gossip and the sinners our two corridor-conversationalists. This has some merit to it, for if ever there were time to speak nice of someone, one would think it would be her wedding.

But I prefer to think the sin is the entire ordeal and the sinner the groom. If this really happened he’s speaking ill about his wife. (One might be tempted to say former wife, but after all the marriage was saved.) If this didn’t happen the singer is still guilty of writing a song that really doesn’t go anywhere and is so contradictory that it doesn’t even pass the most reasonable scrutiny.

And that is a tragedy.


Of course, there is one other possibility. The singer seems clearly male, but go back and look at those lyrics again, look at them as if the singer were just husky-voiced. What if the storyteller was the bride?

Changes everything, doesn’t it?


Well, I hope you enjoyed this little foray into music lyrics analysis. We will do it again soon. To close out I have the music video of the song in question. I’m hesitant to bring the video, because often music groups make their videos all weird and imbue the song with implications and meanings it didn’t originally have, and this CLEARLY seems to be the case here, but after all this analysis you deserve to actually hear the song. If you have never heard it before, try to keep your eyes closed the first time and just listen, and we’ll see you next time.



2 comments:

Dragon said...

I think singer is a guest at the wedding who is in love with the bride. It would explain his reaction to hearing the bride being called a whore.

Lady Jane Scarlett said...

Just because someone is a waiter doesn't mean they were necessarily there to cater that wedding. It may quite possibly been a person, who just so happens to be a waiter, at the wedding.
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