Review Summary: Mama, Can I get another hit?
It is always interesting to watch entertainment professionals navigate a rebirth of popularity. Many of the late 2000s Panic! At the Disco fan base has faded away over the years after numerous lineup changes and sound disparity between studio albums. Now the band is simply a vehicle for lead vocalist Brendon Urie to get his music out into the world with a household name behind it. These changes have resulted in a much younger fan base. 2016’s Death of a Bachelor
catapulted the solo act to new heights, going from selling out clubs to selling out arenas off the double platinum effort. The one thing it lacked though was a top 40 hit.
Two and a half years down the road we have 6th Studio effort Pray For The Wicked
. An album described by Urie as an album that he “surprised got made”. Maybe that would have been for the best.
Compared to even their last record, Pray For The Wicked
is a drop in quality. There is nothing here overly offensive to the longtime or casual fans but there is some glaring weaknesses to behold. One of the biggest issues with Wicked
is Brendon Urie’s dynamic vocals are no longer at the forefront of the music. Throughout the career of the pop outfit, and most prevalent over the last 5 years, Urie’s vocal chops typically stole the show. While this record still shows some signs of that, it is mostly Urie attempting to wail over an obnoxiously loud instrumental. A good example of this is album opener “(*** A) Silver Lining” which I would liken to the equivalent of “So if we play loud, people might think we are good”. The song is just a complete mishmash of instrumental ideas that fails to turn into anything.
Another issue with this album is Urie’s incredibly juvenile lyrics. While it is true that lyrics have never been his strong point, this album reaches a new low.
”Roll me up a blunt because I wanna go home” – “Roarin 20s”
“Everything is cherries and cherries, everything is cherries on top” - “(*** A) Silver Lining”
”Mama said….” – “High Hopes”
“Mama can I get another amen!” – “Say Amen (Saturday Night”
Matriarchal fascinations aside, the single biggest flaw in Wicked
is how every damn track wants to swing for the fences to get that illustrious top 40 hit. Throughout the entire record tracks with incredibly promising starts are bogged down by loud, cliché filled choruses. “High Hopes” is a standout track that is ultimately foiled by repetitive lyricism and an attempt to be overly upbeat. “Roarin’ 20’s” was also incredibly promising until the chorus starts, and then it becomes a poor man’s version of “Mambo No. 5”. “King of the Clouds” is the biggest victim of this, with an incredible opening and lyrics foiled by a chorus of seven total words.
However despite the mediocre two thirds of the album there is a few examples that the group still has the refined flair for the dramatic that we have seen since their inception. Lead single “Say Amen (Saturday Night)” is just too damn catchy to be overlooked. This is an otherwise run of the mill pop song brought to life by the vocalists satisfying croon. The featuring brass on this track is also well placed and not overly pompous. In closing track “Dying In LA” the elements are stripped away leaving it just to a piano and Urie’s voice. And while it is hard to take this seriously for the third album in a row, it comes off sincere. The best work to be found here is “Overpass”, this is where all these over eccentricities come together to create an incredibly solid power pop romp.
All in all Pray For The Wicked
is an inoffensive, rushed, mediocre, giant bag of missed potential. There is a lot to love as a longtime fan of the band, but Brendon Urie needs to learn that part of what made Panic! At The Disco so endearing is the willingness to push the envelope. It feels like here he is settling to make something quick and easy. Hopefully mama has some advice to get past this one.