When Pete Wentz was quoted describing Pray for the Wicked as ‘Death of a Bachelor on steroids’, I personally worried we would end up with either cutting room floor songs or a recycled album. However, ‘Say Amen (Saturday Night)’ floored me and gave some understanding into exactly what ‘Death of a Bachelor on steroids’ means. Since then every single released has thrown me off the mark but also made my curiosity insatiable. Of course, Panic! At The Disco have always been notorious for shaking up their sound each album but as a long time fan there is always the worry that this album will be the one that flops. Off the bat, Pray for the Wicked is an intense musical journey from weed-fuelled dreams to the Broadway stage to an array of overwhelming emotions that can only be described as ‘Dying in LA.’ Infused with R‘n’B beats, laced with magical strings and kept alive by funky horns, Pray for the Wicked is everything that was missing from Death of a Bachelor. By no means was Death of a Bachelor a bad album (by both chart performance and personal opinion) but Pray for the Wicked is an accumulation of all Brendon Urie has learnt through his career as a musician and can be described as nothing short of musical art.
Hey Look Ma, I Made It
We’ve all got big dreams and a lot of our dreams involve making the people who raised us proud. Whilst the title of ‘Hey Look Ma, I Made It’ might evoke warm feelings of parental pride, the actual lyrics and accompanying music video sing of a much darker story. The first verse compares being a musician to being ‘a hooker selling songs’ and your ‘pimp’s a record label’, whilst the second verse goes onto describe the ‘honeysuckle phonies’ having any level of success can attract. The entire song is a tongue-in-cheek reflection of the burdens of success and the struggles to get there. Produced by Dillon Francis, ‘Hey Look Ma, I Made it’ begins in a sombre tone before bursting into a celebratory chorus, the beat infectious but the lyrics hooking in their naked truth.
For as long as I can remember, I have been absolutely obsessed with musicals so it’s no surprise my personal favourite track from Pray for the Wicked is ‘Roaring 20s.’ Even before knowing it was the song specifically talking about Brendon’s time on Broadway, the theatrical element is impossible to miss. The quick step, jazz vibe keeps the song rolling on uncontrollably until we hit the bridge that gives way to a slowed down chorus you can feel in your bones. Whilst the sound of the song needs to be worked into some kind of stage production, the lyrics deal with the uncertainty Brendon felt before taking on the role of Charlie Price in Kinky Boots. In recent interviews, the Panic! At The Disco frontman has revealed he nearly cancelled the day before his first show until he realised how selfish that would have been. His commitment and determination allowed him to experience something that has carried beautifully into Pray for the Wicked, giving us some poetically relatable lyrics like ‘my tell-tale heart’s a hammer in my chest.’
Dancing’s Not A Crime
If Michael Jackson and the Scissor Sisters had ever done a collaboration, ‘Dancing’s Not A Crime’ is what it would have sounded like. Brendon even gives a respectful nod to MJ in the first line of the song, ‘I’m a moonwalker, I’m like MJ up in the clouds.’ A little less heavy than the material making up the other songs on Pray for the Wicked, ‘Dancing’s Not A Crime’ is an endearing, fun song about just doing whatever makes you feel good.
One of the Drunks
‘One of the Drunks’ is exactly what is says on the tin; a song about the exploitation of binge culture and how we shouldn’t all be buying into it. Death of a Bachelor gave some glimpses into Brendon’s previous party lifestyle (‘Don’t Threaten Me with A Good Time’) but ‘One of the Drunks’ does not glorify the lifestyle, instead laying out the dangers of it. The repetition of ‘this is what is feels like when you become one of the drunks’ being played to a swirling backing track that sounds like something from Too Weird To Live! Too Rare To Die! (Panic’s fourth studio album) gives that feeling of being off centre and completely lost. The off-hand ‘I guess’ at the end of each pre-chorus and bridge hold so much weight, explaining in two words how such a lifestyle can leave you feeling unlike yourself but not questioning it because it’s just what everyone else is doing.
‘The Overpass’ tells the tale of a romance kept in the shadows, the narrator encouraging their love to meet them ‘at the overpass’, a secluded spot usually reserved for ‘sketchy girls and lipstick boys.’ However, unlike many hidden romance songs, the fast-paced sound is not one to seduce you but to confuse you and rush you to a decision that is made more with your heart than your head.
Damn, I have to give full appreciation to songs that make me ridiculously nostalgic at twenty-one but ‘Old Fashioned’ is one of those songs. Beginning with a down right seductive beat, the track reminisces about liquor spent youth and reflects on all those wasted years just poured down the drain (or more accurately down your throat). But, of course in typical sunshine beaming Brendon fashion, the song also encourages you to not remain bitter about those years but celebrate your mistakes and the fun you had because it made you the person you are today. ‘Old Fashioned’ is completely uplifting with its Vices and Virtues like chorus, joyfully and almost tearfully reflecting on ‘the best of times.’
Dying in LA
The power, the power, the power this song has to make me cry every time I hear it. After grooving away to Pray for the Wicked I was unprepared for the absolute heart wrenching beauty of ‘Dying in LA.’ Telling the other side of the story to ‘LA Devotee’ (Death of a Bachelor), ‘Dying in LA’ is a ballad about those hopefuls who move to the big city only to become everything they promised they would never be. Pray for the Wicked is possibly one of the most quotable Panic! At The Disco albums, with so many golden lyrics, but ‘Dying in LA’ uses simple, stripped down metaphors to represent the complete honesty and vulnerability concerning the fears that plague you when pursuing your dreams, captured also in Brendon’s soft and soaring vocals. The song begins only with vocals and piano before opening up to a string arrangement that raises goosebumps and fades out like something from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Brendon has revealed since the album’s release that the vocals and piano heard on ‘Dying in LA’ were the only recordings taken and only adds to the realness of the track. Even the birds that poetically send both the song and the album out were recorded outside Brendon’s studio and just keep us looking forward to a bright future but never forgetting the past that got us here – an overall reflection of Pray for the Wicked.
Review by Skye W. Winwood