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!