Panic! At the Disco – Pray for the Wicked
Written by TJ Petras on October 4, 2018
By: Bri Bradley
Panic! At the Disco; a punk rock band formed in 2004 by childhood friends, released their sixth studio album, Pray for the Wicked, on June 22, 2018 produced by Jake Sinclair. This album followed the departure of Dallon Weekes one of Panic’s! bassist, keyboardist, backing vocalist, and songwriters. The singles “Say Amen (Saturday Night)” and “High Hopes” were the first two tracks to be released from the album and received positive feedback from audiences. The writing for the record took a span of about four months over the course of a year and a half. Debuting at number one on the US Billboard 200, it is the band’s second US-number one album. However, after listening to the album (and cringing), I’m not sure how.
The album starts off with some older jazzy music with a man’s voice talking in the background and slides into Brendon belting out the opening lyrics. 30 seconds into the album and I’m already disappointed. This opening track reeks of the band trying to rebrand themselves and their sound with a bubblegum radio pop track with weak lyrics and vocals. This track being the opening track, you would hope would be one of the best and keep you wanting more of the album, but it actually turned out being the worst track off the album and made me want to give up listening right then and there.
Sadly, the rest of the album is much of the same. Over-produced and upbeat radio singles. If the band’s goal was to cater to the brand of teens who like to go around saying that they’re “really into emo pop punk music dude”, then they succeeded. Interestingly enough, the album is full of extremely weak choruses, but there are songs with strong verses such as “Dancing’s Not a Crime”, “One of the Drunks”, and “Say Amen (Saturday Night)”. Brendon’s vocals, which are typically one of the best parts of the album, are even a little subpar. Lacking in variety, and the range of vocals seem dry and boring.
However lacking the album is, there are still a few points of praise to be made. The album has some very strong track openings and even stronger instrumentals. The band has always played around with unique samples at the beginning of their tracks and they still bring that to this album thankfully. For example, “One of the Drunks” starts off with a smooth electronic sounding beginning that reminds me of “Whatcha Say” by Jason Derulo and “King of the Clouds” begins with a sound that transports you back to Panic! circa A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out. The band also really experimented with many different instruments and the album has some standout instrumental moments. There is a heavy trumpet influence throughout the album that is utterly impressive.
Unfortunately, the album ends off just as horribly as it began, with the track “Dying In LA”. This is the ballad of album, which is an interesting way to end off an album. This song reminds me of an *NSYNC ballad in a bad 90s way. Considering this is the big ballad of the album, Brendon’s vocals are decent but are definitely lackluster. Once again, the strong instrumentals save this track. There are beautiful violin sections that transport you to what seems like an entirely new song. It’s not that this track is horrible by any means but as it is the closing track, it is an extremely unsatisfying ending to the album but at least the band stayed consistent right?
I will always admire Panic!’s willingness to experiment and take risks with their sound, but this was an experiment that left me yearning for that A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out and Vices and Virtues sound the band used to have. But after this album and Death of a Bachelor, I don’t foresee that old Panic! At the Disco sound we all fell in love with coming back for future records.
Favorite tracks: “One of the Drunks”, “Say Amen (Saturday Night)”, “King of the Clouds”