Brendon Urie gives the fans exactly what they want and that's absolutely fine by me.
For a solo 3-and-a-half-hour drive down to Southampton moving into a new student house, Panic! At the Disco provides. Pray for the Wicked, the latest album from the in flux former emo pop-punk band, may lack some obvious substance, but listened to in full there’s hidden depth there too.
Let’s not forget, this is based on the true story of frontman and one-man band man Brendon Urie, who was plucked from obscurity when he was still at high school to become the lead singer of one of the most influential emo bands of the mid 2000s. I don’t mind him singing songs like the euphoric ‘Hey look Ma, I made it’ and ‘High Hopes’ and the supercharged ‘King of the Clouds’ ‘cos for him, this isn’t some superficial American Dream. Urie lived through the ups and downs and pulled together an impressive musical career by relying just as much on his talent and charisma as on luck. The reality behind it all gives these songs a substance that could have so easily fallen flat coming from a less experienced artist, or just anyone that isn’t Brendon Urie.
Pray for the Wicked provides a warning in much the same way as the story of Icarus flying too close to the sun, referenced in ‘(Fuck A) Silver Lining’’s lyric “no wings of wax”. The song itself is a hyperbolic glimpse at what us normal people would assume is the definition of meteoric success. But for all the euphoria, songs like ‘Hey look Ma, I made it’ also carry a certain scepticism. Because behind all the theatricality and pizzazz hides the secrets to negotiating the fickle world of the entertainment and music industries; the album acts as an ode to those who have tried, succeeded and failed to infiltrate them and been brushed with the tarnish of ‘wicked’ for their troubles. With the highs of ‘Silver Lining’ and ‘High Hopes’ and the lows of ‘One of the Drunks’ and the anti-ballad ‘Dying in LA’, it’s all about transcendence, success and excess and it’s infectious: maybe if I sing along enough my dreams will come true too.
This album matches the flair and incessant pace of the backflipping Urie, egging you on to think about the possibilities of what a live performance of this album would have to offer. You can just see Urie fulfilling every song to its full potential on stage – where all his work really belongs. With the dizzying heights of Urie’s falsetto in ‘Say Amen’ and ‘King of the Clouds’ providing a well-earned treat for his ravenous fans and the deliciously satisfying choruses and constant energy oozing from every song, Urie has delivered.
Depending on your taste, this album has a bit of everything: the jazz and big band aficionado, the pop idol, the musical geek. Frankly anyone who loves belting out a casual showtune or two will find it hard to resist the endless storytelling and adrenaline highs of Urie’s performances.
And for extra brownie points, he recently paid a visit to BBC Radio 1’s live lounge while across the pond for an early tour date at Radio 1’s The Biggest Weekend in Swansea and did a cover of Dua Lipa’s IDGAF. Not really related to the new album but following Dua Lipa’s advice…
Pray for the Wicked by Panic! at the Disco is out now via Fueled by Ramen.