Love! Boys In Mascara

I love emo. There, I said it. Emo, emo, emo.

I love emo. There, I said it. Emo, emo, emo.

(Trade secret: If I love a genre, it usually means that said genre has morphed into pure, delicious pop.)

By far the best band of the broody bunch is Panic! At The Disco and I'm here to say that it's time to crown them the new kings of emo. I'll forgive them if they turn out to be a little too timid to snatch that crown away from reigning royals Fall Out Boy since they would be, in effect, biting the hand that feeds them. (FOB's Pete Wentz helped launch their career by signing them to his Fueled By Ramen imprint DecayDance.)

But I digress.

When I first heard about Panic!, I likened them to the Click Five. I thought they were just another pop rock boy band with Beatles-esque hairdos and matching hipster outfits. Cute to look at, but not quite my cup of tea.

Oh, how wrong I was.

I got my first real taste of Panic! last February when they opened for The Academy Is… at Irving Plaza in New York. I was impressed with their dancey rock hooks and stage presence, especially considering that the members can’t even legally touch a beer. Yet I was still completely baffled by the bevy of teenage girls swarming outside the venue screaming and running after their favorite member.

I decided I had to investigate this phenomenon more. I figured if that many 14-year-olds are into them then I should be, too (See "Trade secret," above). The girls were obviously onto something, so I unearthed my copy of the band's debut album,"A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out," and started patrolling various MTV channels in search of their video "I Write Sins Not Tragedies."

It didn’t take long for "Sins" to become my latest obsession, a fixation on a par with last year's habits: I listened to and watched the videos of the Killers' "Mr. Brightside" and My Chemical Romance's "Helena" 'til my eyes and ears bled.

By the time Panic! singer Brendon Urie and his brigade rolled back into New York in June, I was foaming at the mouth to see them but scared that they might now disappoint me live. The first time I saw them -- although intrigued by the buzz they were creating both in the industry and outside the venue -- I honestly could have cared less whether I caught their set or not. This time, though, I was specifically there to see them. Would they be able to pull off a headlining show with just one album under their belt?

Hell yeah. And it was even better than I could have ever imagined.

The Nokia Theater in Times Square was packed with those same hysterical girls I saw a few months earlier -- or at least ones that looked suspiciously like them (go figure). Plus, there were quite a few more boys than I had expected.

The band thrilled them – and me – with a super tight performance and whimsical vaudevillian-style theatrics, complete with costume changes, burlesque dancers and cutesy skits (think Smashing Pumpkins' "Tonight Tonight" meets Justin Timberlake's "Rock Your Body" --both aurally and visually). It was like watching a 70-minute version of the "Sins" video. Needless to say, I was in heaven. (Even my musically holier-than-thou hipster friend enjoyed the show!)

Since that night, even I'll admit that my newfound obsession with the band is getting a little out of hand. I have been caught bopping my head and swiveling in my chair at work while listening to the album. Their picture stares back at me from my computer screen, my cell phone cheerfully belts out "Sins" every time it rings and I've spent countless hours on Instant Messenger trying to convince my friends that they should go out and buy the CD.

But that's just my way of saying Hooray! For Cute, Talented Boys who wear mascara, bowler hats and aren't afraid of using a little glitter and some disco balls to enhance their already delightful music.

Here's to you, Panic! At The Disco, for making me feel like a giddy 14-year-old again. I hope you're around for many years to come. Or at least for an equally enjoyable sophomore set. Now go claim your spot next to Fall Out Boy (I won’t tell if you just reach out and touch their crown).