Review by Carmen Mueller
Straight off of Broadway's Kinky Boots is Brendon Urie and Panic! At the Disco with their 6th studio album Pray for the Wicked. The direction of this album is far from the emo-pop jams that have come before. A mature sound filled with powerful beats, trumpets and belting vocals are to be expected instead. However, the skill and personality that has always made Panic! At the Disco’s songs a staple in the music scene are not lost. This album has a ton of powerful songs that will not only make you dance but understand Urie a little more.
Never has it felt so damn classy to say, "screw having hope". In "(F*ck a) Silver Lining" Brendon really dives into the foolishness that is undying hope. Cherries on top of a sundae, making millions, and shining accolades don't mean a damn thing when everything is bound to fail. It's a song that exposes the downfalls of success and the possibility of losing yourself as you scurry to the top. However, this is Brendon Urie, which means he will pair a song filled with dark tones with a danceable tune so we don't feel too discouraged.
The feeling of being uneasy with the future flows into the next track. "Say Amen (Saturday Night)" is the prequel to the beloved tracks "This is Gospel" and "Emperor's New Clothes". What does the future look like when everyone you've ever cared for are no longer who they say they are? People change, and while that's inevitable, the question is: who will you become when everyone else is gone? Transformation is a heady task and that can be saved for another day, because right now, it's Saturday night. Of course, the track has fast paced beats and electronic tones so we can appreciate the weekend for all it's worth.
"Hey Look Ma, I Made It" follows the sort of desolate celebration of success. Similar the story in "(F*ck a) Silver Lining" Urie recounts the good and the bad that comes from working in the industry. You sell your soul to sell a song and work hard regardless of how much you lose by doing so. He also reinforces what is said in "Say Amen (Saturday Night)" when he mentions that it is hard to trust those around you. Because friends could actually be foes waiting to watch you fail. Or it could be worse; a person could simply be using you for all that your worth, while parading around as someone who cares. It's very tongue-in-cheek to be able to say, "I continuously have little faith in those around me and I sacrifice all that I have to sell my albums, but hey, look ma, I made it".
Don't be down in the dumps for too long! The only way you could survive is if you believe you can. In "High Hopes", Brendon describes the fear and uncertainty that can come hand-in-hand with trying to make your dreams a reality. Envisioning being a musician is nerve wracking especially if you start from the bottom. Unlike the opening track, this song makes it seem like there is, indeed a silver lining; it bursts with an almost parade-like quality. The whole album as of yet has been a rollercoaster of two extremes: disappointment and cynicism on the low then climbing back up to the feeling of optimism and pride.
It makes sense that Brendon Urie can now be credited as a Broadway star, because in the track, "Roaring 20s" he continues to play a character. The track bursts with a sound that can only be described as a pub in the 20's, where the smell of champagne and regret linger in the air along with the feeling of desperation. For some people there is a need to perform; drink a little, medicate, smile in order to fit in and feel better about ourselves. Keeping up with the persona of being just like everyone else can be exhausting; but in order to survive a sacrifice must be made.
How many sacrifices is one willing to give? In "Dancing's Not a Crime" Urie sings of a love that he will fight to keep. There is a sort of foolishness and naivety that comes into play; Urie sings about a lover who refuses to play games and wants true love. "Dancing is not a crime unless you do it without me", so what does one do when their dancing partner is not much of a partner? It's a sad question, but the song could fool you. Underneath the booming drums and cymbals is a person who just wants to find their person, even if that other person doesn't have any love to give back.
"One of the Drunks" reveals the mindset you can have when you find yourself being taken over by indulgences. No drink is strong enough when you've already had the best. There is a never ending search for more for better. There is a chance to lose yourself in the feeling, but for right now "it's all good, I guess". It's a powerful jam that continues with the orchestral sound that has dominated the record.
Possibly the most jazz-mixed-with-James-Bond sounding track can be found in "The Overpass". It wakes you up with a grand sound of trumpets and sends you straight into a feeling of exhilaration. The thrill of meeting up with that one person you've been dying to see is the driving story. It fun and exciting and possibly the least cynical on the whole album.
This song is pure escapism; "King of the Clouds" plays with the need to run away, even for a short while. When sleep no longer works, alleviating yourself from everything and everyone is necessary to remain sane. But not only is this a story about getting away, but it is about trying to work towards the bigger and better things in life. No matter how many times you will trip and fall, you need to get back up on your feet until you're the king of the clouds. Urie has a powerhouse of a voice and the larger-than-life feel of the track makes so much bigger.
In "Old Fashioned" Urie reminisces on the better times of life: being young, dumb, bright eyed and bushy tailed. Ignorance is bliss, so before you become jaded towards the world, grab a drink and enjoy, because this is the best you’ll ever get. This song has horns that create an almost hip hop inspired tune; yet Urie's voice makes the song incredibly unique. The story may be a little bleak, but Urie will make you feel like you are having the best time of your life, even if it’s all downhill from there.
Slowing it down for the first time on the album is the last track "Dying in LA". This piano driven ballad tells the story of the bittersweet truth that comes from being in the music industry. Everyone around you has the same dream and it can be very isolating to try to create a name for yourself. Los Angeles can look like Emerald City for a lot of people, but amidst the glitz and the glamour are people who are struggling just like everyone else. Somehow, Urie still makes the song sound hopeful; yes, there are plenty of trials and obstacles, but if you truly have a passion, you will do whatever you have to do.
If you are looking for an album that is fast paced, powerful, and easy to groove to, I would recommend this album. It is a ton of fun and never gets boring. The tennis game that is being played between the two overarching themes: despair and hope makes the album have a lot of character. Additionally, a lot of the strength in this album can be found in Brendon Urie's performance. If there is one thing that is always a guarantee, it is that Urie will never give an underwhelming show. He brings so much charisma and charm to the songs that will leave you playing the record on repeat.