Panic! At the Disco tread water on “Pray for the Wicked”

Alex Toth

One thing Panic! at the Disco has never done, from the emo cabaret of “A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out” to the dark electropop romp of “Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die,” is make two albums that sound the same.

Somehow, despite their past strategy of changing genres every record, lead singer Brendon Urie, and whoever happened to be playing with him at the time, always found a way to keep a consistent fan base and stay relevant in the realm of alternative pop-rock. The band’s admirable stylistic versatility (owing perhaps, in part, to the high turnover rate of band members) promised something different every time a new Panic! album saw the light of day. That is, until now.

“Pray for the Wicked” marks the second album from Panic! at the Disco’s time as a moniker for a Brendon Urie solo project. As such, it carries quite a few similarities to Urie’s first solo effort, “Death of a Bachelor”. The bombastic brass and simple pop structures return, along with the catchy, sing-along choruses and Urie’s occasional show-off moments on vocals.

Brendon Urie

However, while “Bachelor” was something new and exciting for the “band,” especially with Urie’s Sinatra-esque vocal tendencies and “I’m a rockstar and I know it” swagger, “Wicked” feels like a watered-down retread of what we got from Panic! three years ago.

Luckily for Urie, “Bachelor” was an excellent album, so making a part two of that record isn’t a terrible idea. And “Pray for the Wicked” isn’t terrible either. It’s just that for the majority of its 34-minute runtime, it’s terribly boring.

Most of the songs on this album feel like b-sides from Urie’s previous effort. It’s as if he was given a week to write and record an album and just threw together a hodgepodge of ideas he already had from last time in the studio without taking the time to come up with anything completely new. As a result, the album feels underdeveloped and shallow.

Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t make “Pray for the Wicked” a bad album. Although it lacks originality, it’s impossible to say the music isn’t catchy and enjoyable, and there are a few definite highlights scattered throughout its 11 songs. Among these are the first two tracks, “Silver Lining” and “Say Amen,” which were also the album’s two lead singles.

The former is a scattershot mess of a song, but it’s bursting with energy and glam, along with a chorus that won’t be leaving your head any time soon, like it or not. The latter, meanwhile, uses glitchy electronics to add an interesting accompaniment to Urie’s always-stellar vocals (which include a ridiculous sustained A5 and a short B5 in the last chorus). However, that same chorus unfortunately does fall victim to the “woah oh syndrome” that has infected pop and alternative music as of late.  

Other highlights include “Dancing’s Not a Crime” and “Dying in LA,” both of which showcase not only some of Urie’s best vocal performances yet, but also Panic! At the Disco’s best attempt at straight-up radio pop to date.

Most of the other songs on the album, unfortunately, go in one ear and out the other. None of them are outright terrible, but none of them stand out and demand the listener’s attention either. Sure, you may find your head bobbing along to a great chorus or catchy brass section, but for a band that’s made a point to always change it up and push the boundaries of their sound, “Pray for the Wicked” is the first Panic! at the Disco album that feels like a regression.

Sails: 3/5

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