Over the years, Panic! At The Disco have continuously reduced in band members, with 2016 seeing the ‘band’ become a solo-project for once frontman, Brendon Urie. The record released that year, ‘Death Of A Bachelor’, saw Urie ditch the guitars and opt for a jazz-infused, electronic pop album – and his newest record ‘Pray For The Wicked’ is pretty much an extension of that, but not without its problems.
Most of the record takes clear Broadway inspiration from Urie‘s stint as the lead role on the Kinky Boots musical last year. There’s a sassy, horn-filled buzz right from opener ‘(Fuck A) Silver Lining’ – an inviting opener that brings out the fun side of Urie‘s charismatic songwriting.
The record is pretty top-heavy, with bopping lead singles ‘Say Amen (Saturday Night)’ and ‘Hey Look Ma, I Made It’ taking us into the midst of the record. Even the upbeat ‘High Hopes’ was shared prior to release, and follows both of these tracks. While the singles are good, solid, catchy tracks that carry the theatrical, big band-pop mix Urie has made his name with, it’s after this point where the real issues arise.
The rest of the album lacks bite and falls quite short of the mark set by Urie previously in the singles, and ends up just blending into the background. Take ‘Dancing’s Not A Crime’ for a prime example of a song which lacks a certain punch, and almost sounds like a lackluster Scissor Sisters b-side. Elsewhere, tracks like ‘King Of The Clouds’ and ‘Old Fashioned’ showcase Urie‘s exceptional vocals, but just feel overly experimental.
There are still some genuine moments on the record which are impressive, relatable, and inspiring. Take the lyricism for example, which for the most part details Urie reflecting on wanting to become a star, his desire to make it, and living the high life. But, for every brilliant quip like “I’m a hooker selling songs and my pimp’s a record label” on ‘Hey Look Ma, I Made It’, there’s an equally dreadful “Roll me like a blunt ’cause I want to go home” on ‘Roaring 20s’, which needs no explanation.
Essentially, ‘Pray For The Wicked’ is ‘Death Of A Bachelor’ 2.0, just without a lot of the hook that its predecessor had. Whilst it’s great in places, and the personal, reflective theme is interesting, its delivery of these topics doesn’t match. Brendon Urie should be praised for his inventiveness and experimentation across genres, but this release only shows a glimpse of the type of record he could (and should) be releasing.