Panic! At The Disco
Pray For The Wicked
Release Date: June 22, 2018
Label: DCD2/Fueled By Ramen
Review by Jared Stossel
"All my life been hustlin' and tonight is my appraisal/'cause I'm a hooker selling songs and my pimp's a record label" are the opening lines to "Hey Ma, I Made It", the third song on Panic! AT the Disco's (well, vocalist Brendon Urie's) sixth studio album Pray For The Wicked. Several songs throughout the album, like "Roaring 20s", "One of the Drunks", and "The Overpass" feature lyrics like this. Lyrics that touch on the idea of fame, the idea of not being able to fit in, maybe being a bit too in over your head.
Urie has been at this since he was in high school. Panic!'s career began fresh out of twelfth grade, after Fall Out Boy bassist Pete Wentz signed the four original members to his new label imprint, Decaydance, and helped fund their cabaret-meets-nightclub debut album A Fever You Can't Sweat Out, launching them into almost instantaneous stardom. He's the only member of Panic! that has been featured on every single release (in the beginning, the band was comprised of Urie, guitarist/lyricist Ryan Ross, bassist Brent Wilson, and drummer Spencer Smith). As the albums went on, member by member left to pursue other projects, some left for family, and others just found the touring lifestyle wasn't for them anymore. The idea of seeing through the idea of fame and the Hollywood lifestyle being touched upon greatly in Pray For The Wicked doesn't surprise me in the least, and tracks like the aforementioned numbers are brilliantly produced and composed.
After two albums either nearly or completely on his own, Brendon Urie has finally found his groove on Pray For The Wicked. While Death of A Bachelor was a stellar album, and the release that launched Panic! back to the top of the charts and arenas around the world, this improves upon the faults that could be found within the cracks of Bachelor. Older Panic! fans will still find a way to gripe about how it doesn't sound like A Fever You Can't Sweat Out, but we're not here to listen to them. We're here to listen to a project that has evolved over the years, taking the modern influences of today and still making them sound like one of the most unique bands to grace the Billboard charts.
The two lead-in singles, "(Fuck A) Silver Lining" and "Say Amen (Saturday Night)", bring forth braggadocio vocal melodies, pop sensibilities, and overtly synthesized instrumentation that perfectly represent the new era of Panic!. Drum machines have been substituted with drum sets. Distorted guitars have been replaced with horns and saxophones. It's Frank Sinatra meets modern day pop music.
"High Hopes" features Urie really showing off what he can do vocally (he's grown miles beyond his peers in the scene, as far as performance goes) as trumpets blare and strings pluck behind him in time with 808 beats. To go back on an earlier comment I made about "Frank Sinatra meets modern day pop music": just reference "Roaring 20s", the fifth track. It's as close to the olden days of Fever as you'll ever get.
"Dancing's Not A Crime" seems to pull influence from the 80s tracks that lit up the dance floor of night clubs all around the world, while "One of the Drunks" shows Urie crooning about what I can only assume to be the world of partying in LA, and constantly searching for that rush. "The Overpass", one of the best tracks on Wicked, opens with a bombastic horn line, akin to Big Band acts of the 1930s, before sliding into a fast and powerful chorus. "King of the Clouds" and "Old Fashioned" bring forth trap-style hip-hop beats that back lyrics about the past and moving forward into the great unknown future.
Pray For The Wicked closes with "Dying In LA", a song that I've come back to time and time again since receiving the record. It's perhaps the strongest song that Urie has ever written, emotionally impactful and brutally honest in more ways than one. It's clear that Pray For The Wicked stands out among the ranks in Panic! At The Disco's adventurous discography, and one that will be revisited time and time again by fans for years to come.