In 2017, Brendon Urie landed a role as one of the leads in Cyndi Lauper’s Broadway hit Kinky Boots. Urie’s Broadway stint lasted from May to August of that year. During this time in New York City, Urie began to write songs for a follow up to Panic! at the Disco’s 2016 album Death of a Bachelor. A year and a half later, Urie had enough material for a new album and teased his fans on social media that a new era of music was coming.
Pray for the Wicked, Panic! at the Disco’s sixth studio album, was released on June 22, 2018. Its name is a lyric taken from the second song of the album, “Say Amen (Saturday Night).” This song also served as the album’s first single. With the energetic chorus and Urie’s unbelievable falsettos, the song quickly topped Billboard’s alternative charts.
The album’s sound is similar to that of its predecessor, but this one takes it a step further, taking full advantage of a horn and string section to sprinkle throughout the album and adopting a new lyrical theme. The horns play a prominent role in “Hey Look Ma, I Made It,” “One of the Drunks,” “Roaring 20s,” and “Dancing’s Not a Crime.” The use of horns in these songs are reminiscent of swing and jazz music, genres that Urie has openly expressed his love for. The lyrics on this album are fun and uplifting, with the use of imagery and clever analogies.
Broadway and theatrical influences ooze out of this album, especially noticeable in “The Overpass” and “Old Fashioned,” where background vocals play a big part in the songs. But what’s being constantly praised is Urie’s amazing vocals. His voice has gone through a transformation since the band’s first album. On Panic!’s 2005 debut album, A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, Urie’s voice was strained and sounded like he relied mostly on his head voice. Over the years, Urie has learned to better control his voice, allowing him to shift from low to high notes seamlessly. On Pray for the Wicked, Urie’s voice is dynamic and he is able to hit higher notes effortlessly as demonstrated in “High Hopes” and “King of the Clouds.” Urie’s voice is one of the best things about this album.
The album is pretty consistent with its lively beats and medley of instruments, except for the closing track. “Dying in LA” differs from the rest of the album in that it is a piano ballad that isolates Urie’s vocals. This stripped-down song drives the focus on Urie’s lyrics and soft, buttery smooth voice. It is the perfect way to close the album.
Overall, Pray for the Wicked is an alcoholic overachiever whose favourite book is The Great Gatsby and who loves his mama, as opposed to the weed-obsessed partying frat boy that is Death of a Bachelor.
Panic! at the Disco is currently on tour to promote Pray for the Wicked.