Panic! At The Disco is one of my favorite 21st century bands, yet when I sat down to make my initial list of no-skip albums, I failed to list them. Then, I was listening to Taylor Swift's new album, which includes a song called ME! She sings with Brandon Urie, Panic's lead singer, and I was reminded of my love for the band. I particularly enjoyed 2015's Death of a Bachelor. I realized, though, that I needed amend my list and include 2018's Pray For The Wicked.
This album is a blast from first track to last and contains exactly zero skippable songs. It's highly theatrical in its songwriting and production, which appears to be an influence from Brandon Urie's days appearing in the musical Kinky Boots. Many of the songs sound like their from a stage show and after repeat listenings the last couple of days it's easy to see a story being formed from it. I suppose there's always been a theatricality to Panic! At The Disco, but Pray For The Wicked revels in it in an almost Jim Steinman-esque manner.
The first song, "(Fuck A) Silver Lining," is all about not settling for less and looking for more than just the positives in a difficult situation. "Say Amen (Saturday Night)" is a sermon on trying to change while also accepting yourself, warts and all. Both songs are bombastic and infectuous and I enjoy them, but the first song on Pray For The Wicked I truly is "Hey, Look Ma, I Made It!" It's a straightforward tune about the people who are with you all the way to the top and knowing who the sycophants are. I like the beat on this one and Brandon Urie's vocals are superb on it.
The rest of the album is filled with equally fun, upbeat stuff like "High Hopes," "King of the Clouds," and "Old Fashioned." "Overpass" and "One of the Drunks" are also strong. But, there are two other songs that stand out for me: "Roaring 20s" and "Dancing's Not A Crime."
"Roaring 20s" is about Urie's experiences in Kinky Boots. What should've been a mountaintop experience was, at first, very difficult. He was homesick and riddled with anxiety. And the song itself is a highly theatrical piece influenced by the sounds of Prohibition Era jazz.
"Dancing's Not A Crime" is by far my favorite song on Pray For The Wicked. It's fun, infectuous, and one of the most '80s sounding songs I've heard that's not an actual '80s songs. The lyrics talk about that one guy who embarrasses his friends with the way he dances in public. Apparently, Brandon Urie is that guy. When I was in high school, I loved going to dances and was not shy about particpating. I believed (and still believe) that the purpose of a dance was, literally, dancing. I did not go to stand on the wall and watch. I didn't require a partner, though it was always nice to have one or more. The best times were those when a group of us would stand in a circle and dance together. I wasn't very good, mind you. I imagine my moves as a prehistoric ancestor to those displayed in that classic scene from Napolean Dynamite. What I lacked in rhythm, grace, and style, I made up for with enthusiasm, confidence, and reckless abandon. I still love to dance even if I don't do it very often. "Dancing's Not A Crime" reminds me that it's okay to tap into the me at high school dances and let loose.