You know that feeling when you’re a huge fan of pralines and you get yourself a big box of em and you’re hella excited? Got your glass of rosé, rockin’ the pj pants, 10 Things I Hate About You on TV – all in all the perfect afternoon. And with a grin as wide as the chesire cat’s you bite into that first delicious chocolate-covered parline and you find out it tastes like stale coffee? And you think, oh, maybe it was just the one, so you opt for a safe-looking one cause maybe it’s hazelnut and everyone loves hazelnut. But it turns out to be amaretto? So you spit it into a tissue and just hope to god the third one’s at least somewhat tasty. But it’s friggin mint! Disgusting. Do you know that feeling?
Ok maybe I have some unresolved issues involving chocolate pralines. But what I’m trying to say is this was exactly my experience with Panic! At The Disco’s latest album Pray for the Wicked.
I’m a big fan of P!atD’s music, especially the Death of a Bachelor album was gold, in my opinion and even Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die! was a staple in my playlist for a good while, along with some honorable mentions from the band’s early days. But Pray for the Wicked just did not resonate with me at all.
Musically, the album is fairly decent. Not terrible but also nothing to write home about. The first song I heard was Say Amen, which was released as a single with its own mv. Aside from severely disliking the video – was it supposed to be comedy? – I wasn’t too keen on the song either. Throughout, there was never a moment where the melody reached a smooth, continuous flow (though, granted, that might have been due to the mv being edited with interruptions to the song) and I was left with bits and pieces that seemed just very awkward.
The entire album seems like a curious concoction of various music styles and genres that have that distinctive P!atD sound, but still don’t complement each other particularly well. What, according to Urie himself, is supposed to be the sound of a 20s/30s speak-easy in Roaring 20s is mixed in with summer party-esque numbers such as Dancing’s Not a Crime and more introspective acoustic pieces like Dying in LA. We know this type of combination well from P!atD, so maybe it was the succession of those certain songs or maybe just the songs themselves which made it simply not work out in this case.
One thing that stood out to me with nearly every song was the unrestrained gratuitous repetitions. I’m not unneccessarily nitpicking, it actually got annoying to listen. Not only are the repeated lines not exactly dripping with meaning but often it also felt like Urie was trying his best to extend the songs’ runtime. You need to look no further than the first track on the album (Fuck A) Silver Lining; the pre-chorus includes the word “cherries” six times. Nuff said.
However, the repetitive nature of the lyrics wasn’t the only thing that bothered me about them. P!atD and Brendon Urie are known for crafting lyrics that are smart, meaningful and poetic. Yet Pray for the Wicked is a bust on that front as well. I mean, maybe the deeper meaning of “roll me like a blunt cause I wanna go home” escapes me, but color me unimpressed for the time being.
Judging from the content and imagery of the lyrics, I’d say Pray for the Wicked is Urie’s way of working through some personal troubles involving the LA rockstar lifestyle and the vapidness and surface-level engagement with addiction that come with it. But at the same time, this criticism of, for instance, drug abuse is at times woven into, other times completely washed over by songs celebrating the celebrating. The mv to Hey Look, Ma, I Made It obviously criticizes the excessive partying that is supposedly in the past. But then Old Fashioned, contradictorily, calls for a cheers to remembering that past because it was “the best of times”. One of the Drunks is the best example for my confusion. Saying on the one hand that being drunk makes you “uncomfortably numb” but then on the other hand, a few lines down “it’s all good” and “K, alright, one more time, here we go.”
I find it disappointing that such topics as the ones addressed in Pray for the Wicked, that so obviously come from some deep corners of his heart, didn’t resonate at all with me since they seemed as though Urie himself wasn’t exactly sure on his stance regarding these themes. Especially considering that we’re so used to great lyrics paired with great music from Urie.
Of course, there are a few songs that I can enjoy on this album, namely Hey Look Ma, I Made It and Dying in LA. Unfortunately, that ain’t enough for me to call the album anything but an unexpected let-down.
Naturally, I’ll continue to support Urie as an artist and hopefully in 2 years we’ll see another incredible album like we already have before.