Emily Kinney Reminisces on “Boy Band Hero”

By Rhiannon Levengood
Photo by Lindsey Byrnes

With her soft, innocent voice and distinct, creative lyrics, Emily Kinney gifts us with a brand new single “Boy Band Hero” straight off her third full-length album Oh Jonathan, due to release August 24. Similar to her last single “Mermaid Song”, Kinney’s newest release takes on the same rounded, electronic vibe as she experiments with beats and synthesizers, as opposed to her typical acoustic guitar and keyboard combo. The new sound is fresh and showcases her vocals so well, giving her music a more mature energy than before.

“Boy Band Hero” begins with a gentle beat and sets an illusory scene of a younger Emily daydreaming in the middle of class about her “boy band hero from junior high.” Throughout the lecture, she dreams about meeting him at a concert, the two falling in love, and just as her daydream is getting good, her teacher slaps a ruler against her desk and snaps her right back to reality. The instrumentals, especially during the bridge, directly portray that dreamlike trance of staring out the classroom window.

The music video for “Boy Band Hero” is reminiscent of Kinney’s high school days and includes pictures from her childhood along with staged footage of kids attending school and football games to effectively paint the illusion of being a hopeless romantic teen again.

Emily Kinney’s new single mirrors two of her older songs, “Rockstar” and “Kids.” In “Rockstar”, she describes her plans of marrying the frontman of a rock band, following him on tour, and growing old with him. The song is hopeful in contrast to “Boy Band Hero”, which could be viewed as Kinney giving up on her dream of living that glamorous, rockstar life with her beau: “Oh, oh, oh, I’m sending up a prayer. Oh, oh, oh, a little goodbye cry for that boy band hero from junior high.”

“Kids” is a single off Kinney’s debut album Expired Love and recounts a story of the pure kind of love that children have. It’s fearless and carefree, young and naive, shiny and new. “Boy Band Hero” alludes to “Kids” directly with the line, “grass-stained jeans, my head in the clouds,” which parallels with, “wash off all your grass stains, I’ll pull off my shoes” from “Kids.”

This little peek into Emily Kinney’s new album is just what her fans needed to get them excited enough to pre-order Oh Jonathan in various merch bundles on her PledgeMusic page. Stay tuned for August 24 and make sure to follow Emily on Twitter and Instagram so you don’t miss out on a possible tour before the end of 2018!

“Pray For The Wicked” is Cherries on Top

By Rhiannon Levengood

Quit folkin’ around and get your dancing shoes on because Panic! At the Disco just dropped their latest record Pray For The Wicked, and Brendon Urie is not shy about making those high heels work. From jazzy start to soulful finish, Urie delivers nothing but an absolute masterpiece featuring 11 brand new bops for his congregation of sinners. And if you thought that wasn’t enough, he’s already got you covered with a comedic, but blatantly dark music video for his newest single “Hey Look Ma, I Made It” and international tour dates for 2019.

Take a breath. It’s a lot to absorb.

Pray For The Wicked opens with a starry-eyed dreamer of a jam “(Fuck A) Silver Lining”, which was one of the first two singles from the album. This song sets an ambitious tone for the record as Urie aims high and expects nothing less than a shiny life full of gold linings. He even gets a little nostalgic by explaining the success of the band as “[falling] to the top.” A booming horn section accompanies Brendon’s Broadway pipes, and together, they create a mind-blowing first track. That loud, brassy sound continues right into the album’s first single “Say Amen (Saturday Night)”.

The music video for “Say Amen” adds a much needed prequel to the trilogy that Panic! has been building since their fourth album Too Weird To Live! Too Rare To Die! The storyline follows Brendon, who finds himself in possession of the “devil’s key” and a butt-load of trouble. Check out the three-part, miniseries below!

Panic!’s sixth album mellows out a little as it transitions into “Hey Look Ma, I Made It”, another song with reminiscent elements. Urie reflects on just how far he’s come as a musician conquering the industry one successful record at a time, and even addresses those who have tried to tear him down. Fittingly so, the music video, while amusing and theatrical, shows the sinister side of the music industry as a Brendon look-alike puppet takes a beating from record label pimps, drugs and alcohol, a couple of BDSM dominants, and even critics in the form of muggers.

The upbeat and optimistic lyrics give the album such a feel good vibe that only rolls right into the fourth track “High Hopes”, yet another sentimental anthem about relentlessly “shooting for the stars.” In this song, Brendon proclaims that he’s always had high hopes for his career in music, and again, looks back on just how far he’s come. With a band of vibrant horns and well-worked beats, Urie victoriously rewrites the history of Panic!’s sound, giving it a funky alternative rock sound you’d hear with Imagine Dragons.

Pray For The Wicked takes an unexpected, showtuney turn with its fifth song, “Roaring 20s”. Written as musings on his experience as Charlie Price in Broadway’s Kinky Boots during the summer of 2017, Urie describes his personal struggle with anxiety, which he is transparent about with his fans. The instrumentals are catchy and sound like they came straight out of a cabaret from the 1920s, but the lyrics are a bit more modern, leaving Panic! fans with an inevitable jazzy earworm. As you finish your perfected Charleston dance and jazz hands, you can slide right into a moonwalk with “Dancing’s Not A Crime”, another bop with Broadway musical allusions, specifically to Footloose. This whole record has given off a jazz-like vibe until now.

“Dancing’s Not A Crime” is an ode to living your life to the fullest without a single care as to what those around you are thinking. The song is dancy and light-hearted, but most importantly, it sounds like a song that Prince would release. Every aspect from the lyrics to the rhythm, the dramatic saxophone, and even the spoken line, “Whatever they tell you…” is evocative of Prince. On top of how big this song is, Brendon adds a little Easter egg for his LGBT+ fans with the line, “I just wanna be your boyfriend/girlfriend, oh yeah.”

With more than half of the record finished, Brendon finally gives us a couple of party songs. “One Of The Drunks” and “The Overpass” are two feel-good jams that remind us of crazy college parties complete with cheap booze, good friends, and guilt-free love. “One Of The Drunks” in particular describes a not-so-healthy lifestyle of binge-drinking in search of a numbing high. While the story itself sounds like a good time, Urie adds components of regret with the words, “Damn, it’s all good, I guess.” In contrast, “The Overpass” feels like the backing soundtrack of an action movie. It has a big, funky sound with a solid driving beat, perfect for a video montage in a James Bond film. Lyrically, the song represents a story of forgotten love and the longing one feels for it and every little detail of it, right down to your past love’s perfume.

The most anticipated song off the album was “King Of The Clouds”. After teasing his fans with a short snippet of the song tacked onto the end of a mini-tour recap video, Brendon Urie finally dropped the song a few days before the official album release and gave his fans its backstory. The lyrics were collected by one of Urie’s friends one night when he was stoned out of his mind and talking out of his ass, and then composed into a song that delves into the idea of interdimensional travel and the possibility that parallel universes could actually exist. It gets melancholic and portrays the effects Urie’s anxiety has on his life. Out of context, the song could even represent depression, dissociation, and thoughts of suicide.

Instrumentally, “King Of The Clouds” doesn’t quite fit into the general sound of Pray For The Wicked. As the last track to be added, it is one of two songs on the record that does not have an elaborate horn section. Despite the differences, “King Of The Clouds” is actually Brendon’s, and many others’, favorite track on the album.

That subtle shift doesn’t stay for too long as “Old Fashioned” takes us right back to the previous boozy vibe. Brendon once again reflects on his past lifestyle choices as he describes his habit of binge-drinking during his years as a teenager freshly severed from the Mormon church he grew up in. He opens up about his mental health disorders again during the very first verse as he recounts his experience with being medicated. Aside from the regrettable bits of his past, “Old Fashioned” slaps like any good rock anthem and could easily be a high school graduation song.

Which brings us to the final installment of Pray For the Wicked. “Dying In LA” is much slower than the rest of the album. It’s a beautiful piano and string piece about the struggles one faces when moving to Los Angeles to pursue a music career. “Dying In LA” is metaphorically similar to Panic! At The Disco’s song “LA Devotee” from their fifth album Death of a Bachelor in that Los Angeles is both extremely powerful and desirable, but also spiritually draining. The ballad closes Pray For The Wicked in such a quiet and serene way that it’s actually reflective of the album itself as a whole.

Altogether, Pray For The Wicked embodies an optimistic sense of nostalgia. It progressively moves forward while not forgetting the band’s upbringing and success. This album is a step in the right direction for Brendon both musically and cognitively. Check it out below!

Good Love Is Hard To Find: Aly & AJ Show Review

Written by Rhiannon Levengood
Photo courtesy of Aly & AJ’s Facebook

There’s a certain kind of feeling that radiates through a crowd the moment the house lights go down and your favorite band walks on stage. Excitement courses through your veins. It overflows your body, spreading from your gut to your fingertips as you jump, clap, and scream to expel the sudden burst of energy. A permanent smile finds itself tugging on the corners of your lips as elation washes over you from the very first chord to the very last word. The people around you, singing, dancing, and connecting to the very same songs you’ve connected to, are now family. All the stresses and shortcomings in your life are forgotten, and the only things that matter are you, the crowd, and the band.

When Aly & AJ walked on stage in Philadelphia for the first time in 10 years, I realized that this feeling was love.

Aly & AJ opened their reunion show with “The Distance” and “I Know”,  two jams off their newest EP Ten Years, before bringing back “Closure” from their sophomore album Insomniatic. In honor of Pride Month, the show took a very special turn in Philadelphia, PA, a city known for its everlasting passion and love; and before performing their newest single “Good Love”, the sister duo extended their compassionate nature to their fans and happily welcomed Lexi and her girlfriend Kristen on stage for an unforgettable marriage proposal.

The love continued as Aly & AJ performed “Boy” and “Hothouse” from their unreleased album under band name 78violet, and a fan favorite “Chemicals React” before playing a cover of the Cure’s “Love Song” for the vivacious, sold out crowd. Our ladies wrapped their gig with “Flattery”, “With You”, and “Rush”, another iconic song from their early years, leaving the audience restless and begging for more. Lucky for us, Aly & AJ were not done rocking out in the City of Brotherly Love just yet.

For their encore, they returned to the stage and performed a cover of Nancy Sinatra’s “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” before launching right into power, pop rock anthem “Potential Breakup Song”.

Aly & AJ officially and successfully closed their show with an energetic performance of “Take Me”, their very first single since returning to the music scene. You can still catch them on tour this summer, but if you missed them this time around, they are planning on touring again in 2019 when their television shows iZombie and the Goldbergs wrap.

Be sure you follow them on Twitter and Instagram so you’re the first to know when they’re hitting your city next!