Released Friday June 22, Pray for the Wicked is what many fans envisioned Panic! At the Disco’s next album to be like. Originally described as pop punk, alternative rock and emo, vocalist Brendon Urie has been able to show all these faces throughout his many albums. People first fell in love with Urie in 2005’s “I Write Sins Not Tragedies” from his Panic!’s first album, A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out. Now almost 13 years after their first album was released, Panic!’s sound has changed with the decade, leaving Pray for the Wicked to be a (mostly) pop album with bursts of angst. But it also shows that Panic! is no longer the “2000’s emo” band made up of four young, aspiring musicians from Las Vegas.
The album, like Panic!’s previous two albums (Too Weird To Live, Too Rare to Die and Death of a Bachelor), features Urie as the only band member on the cover. While his incredible vocal range shines throughout the album, the band turned to a Broadway-esque, pop-based sound. It’s questionable if the album should even be in the “Alternative” genre.
Almost every song on the album feels like it could fit in a Broadway play because of the instrumental variety and technically great vocals. The choruses of most of the songs are very grand, but it almost feels as if Urie is trying to show off his incredible vocal range and abilities.
Prior to the album release, Panic! At the Disco released four songs of the album: “(F**k a) Silver Lining” and “Say Amen (Saturday Night),” then “High Hopes” and finally “King of the Clouds.” “Say Amen” spent three weeks on the Billboard music charts, peaking at No. 8. The band performed the song on Ellen and The Tonight Show, and it appeared as though the fan base was rapidly expanding, since the song was well-received by so many fans, new and old.
The song “Dancing’s Not a Crime” starts out with feel-good backup vocals but invokes a cringe at the start of the chorus. A listener can almost hear Urie’s struggle to hit the highest notes that feel out of place in the feel-good song. It gives the slightest impression that Urie said “Ok, I hit the note, we’re done,” in the studio and called it a day, something Urie is very unlikely to do.
The song “Roarin’ 20s” provides listeners with an atmosphere that reminds long-time fans of the times in the “But It’s Better if You Do” music video (from A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out) but could also fit into perfectly into the Great Gatsby era. The song is catchy, but once again shows that Urie’s days on Kinky Boots had an effect on his musical writing. The kickline-calling beat towards the end of the song, however, does take a listener back to the days of flappers and the Charleston, and fits the title perfectly.
“Static palms melt your vibes, midnight whisperings” – “LA Devotee,” Death of a Bachelor
“But nobody knows you know, when you’re dying in LA” – “Dying in LA,” Pray for the Wicked
The song “Dying in LA” however, is one of the few Pray for the Wicked songs that isn’t defined by Urie’s high note hiatus. The melancholic and regretful tune reflects everything Urie could have been but isn’t. It’s a somber ballad that describes an artist’s fear of ending up unsuccessful in the city of angels. “Dying in LA” could be a continuation of “LA Devotee,” a song from Death of a Bachelor, which also mentions the famous and uprising city as dangerously intriguing.
Multiple songs from the album, similar to “Dying in LA,” express the positive messages and cruel realities Urie has come across over his years in the music industry. In “Hey Look Ma, I Made It,” Urie cheerfully sings about the contrasting topic of lies and fraud that the music industry is forced to endure. He indirectly exposes not only the industry, but also certain record labels which take advantage of artists.
“I see it, I want it, I take it” – “Hey Look Ma, I Made it,” Pray for the Wicked
To many old fans, the rest of Pray for the Wicked served as a step-down from his previous works. For long-time fanatics like ourselves that listened to Panic! as a ways of escaping the cookie-cutter, artificial pop music that tends to contaminate so many playlists, Pray for Wicked may have fallen into exactly what we were trying to avoid. Brendon Urie is an amazing singer, a talented lyricist and incredibly respectable musical artist and person as a whole, and we will always be Panic! fans, but Pray for the Wicked just left us wanting more.