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Meaning Behind “I Write Sins Not Tragedies” By Panic! At The Disco

I Write Sins Not Tragedies is one of the few songs on the short list of emo and pop-punk track that instantly get a reaction out of anyone who appreciated the genre in its infancy to this day. It’s been cited as one of the best songs of the early 2000s and remains a staple hit today. In this article, we’ll look at the history of the success the track had and dive into the real meaning of the song. 

The History of “I Write Sins Not Tragedies”

Panic! At The Disco: I Write Sins Not Tragedies [OFFICIAL VIDEO]

I Write Sins Not Tragedies was one of the biggest modern rock hits of 2006. While it didn’t break into the Top 10 of the Alternative Songs chart, it would become a mainstream success by rising to number seven on the US Billboard Hot 100 and number two on the Mainstream Top 40.

While pop-punk was still an emerging genre, this was one of the tracks that brought it to mainstream audiences and cemented the legacy of Panic! At The Disco. To this day, it’s their most-played song on alternative radio. 

It would also become the band’s first track to have an accompanying music video and introduced the world to the whacky and creative brand of music that they were putting out.

Interestingly, US radio stations asked for an edited version of the track to avoid some of the language found in the lyrics. In those edits, the groom’s bride is no longer called a whore, that word gets replaced by a ‘shh’ sound. They also took the ‘god’ out of ‘goddamn’ when he’s asking if anyone knows how to close a goddamn door. 

The Meaning Behind “I Write Sins Not Tragedies”

It’s hard to tell the story of this song without the music video, so a look at both the lyrics and the accompanying video for the track is a must. In short, I Write Sins Not Tragedies is set during a wedding. 

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 groom overhears a discussion between a bridesmaid and a waiter that reveals his soon-to-be wife is currently cheating on him. 

I chimed in with a “Haven’t you people ever heard of
Closing the goddamn door?!”
No, it’s much better to face these kinds of things
With a sense of poise and rationality

Upon finding this out, he tries to get the two to keep their mouths shut, asking them if they ever learned how to ‘close the goddamn door’ when talking about things that are better kept secret. He then resolves to figure out how to handle the situation with poise and rationality, something that has to be incredibly difficult when faced with a heartbreaking and infuriating betrayal like this one.

Sarah Zucca, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

He then goes on to think that technically, the marriage has been saved. Before it even began, it ended. In an ironic twist of fate, it saved both the bride and groom from making a terrible mistake that would have led to further heartbreak and problems in their lives later on. 

The lyrics here seem to skip forward. Either he’s made a decision that the song doesn’t include in the lyrics or he’s gotten the full story for himself. But that’s where the music video comes in to explain, so we’ll dive into that now.

The music video is a bit unhinged but reeks of creativity. The bride’s family is all there, properly dressed and sitting in the church politely. While they appear to be the ones who act in the right manner, they’re all actually asleep and their eyes are painted onto their eyelids. 

The groom’s family is the complete opposite, looking like crazy clowns and literally dressed in that manner. They disrupt the ceremony, leading to an argument between the bride and groom. She runs outside and is followed by one of the guests. The groom is dragged outside by a ringmaster—his conscience—and sees the two kissing, confirming the rumor he heard earlier. 

From here, the song and video sort of trail off. It appears that the groom has made his decision but what plays out beyond this point is left up to the listener.

The track itself was inspired by a heartbreak by the band’s guitarist, Ryan Ross. And just from his statements, we can take to heart a lot of the meaning meant to be conveyed with the song. He wrote it in the aftermath of a breakup, coming up with the story as a way to remind himself and everyone else that it could always be worse. 

And as we discussed that it sort of ends at the point where the groom finds them kissing, it makes a lot of sense. I Write Sins Not Tragedies was written in the wake of Ross’ heartbreak. Just as he didn’t know what would be coming next, neither did the groom in the track. 

The moral we can take from I Write Sins Not Tragedies is really that no matter what happens, it can always be worse. And sometimes, bad things happen that can be devastating, but in the end, those things happening might have been for the best.

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