PANIC! AT THE DISCO
"Pray for the Wicked"
BOTTOM LINE Brendon Urie’s Broadway stint brings him a creative burst and a theatrical bent.
Panic! At The Disco’s Brendon Urie has never lacked ideas.
However, starring in “Kinky Boots” on Broadway in 2017 seemed to have pushed him to new heights on Panic’s sixth album, “Pray for the Wicked” (Fueled by Ramen / DCD2).
It’s not just his singing — which often climbs to new, more theatrical heights across the album’s 12 tracks, including one stellar note in the first single “Say Amen (Saturday Night)” — that has developed. It’s Urie’s whole approach to how much he can pack into a song. (Let’s not forget this is a guy who put songs like “The Only Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide Is Press Coverage” on the band’s debut.)
He drops mentions of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” and William Golding’s “Lord of the Flies” as he deals with social awkwardness at a rooftop party in “Roaring 20s.” “Oscars and Emmys and Grammys, everyone here is a trophy,” he sings, over an intoxicating mix of Latin dance rhythms and big-band orchestrations. “Maybe I’ll elevate. Maybe I’m second-rate, so unaware of my status.”
Urie tries to reconcile his Mormon upbringing with his pop-star pursuits without judging either side in both the dramatic “Say Amen (Saturday Night)” and the charmingly upbeat “Dancing’s Not a Crime,” where he hits Michael Jackson-esque notes from the “Dancing Machine” era. In “Old Fashioned,” he combines Imagine Dragons’ cadences in his delivery with trap rhythms and horn flourishes to pay tribute to his formative years, singing, “Remember your youth in all that you do, the plank and the passion.”
The album’s closer, “Dying in L.A.,” may have the most Broadway influence, as a piano-driven ballad with plaintive vocal runs that could fit in “Dear Evan Hansen.” But it also shows Urie has learned how to find the right musical combination to suit his messages best.