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I Disagree: Panic at the Disco ‘Pray For the Wicked’

“Overly theatrical?” Going to have to agree to disagree.

Cody Ayres

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As part of CMN’s ongoing Music Journalism Program, our music team was asked to pick out a recent album review that they disagreed with. Their task was to explain why they didn’t share the viewpoint of the reviewer. 

To preface this rebuttal I want to say that I understand the irony of lambasting a review because I believe that it was overly harsh and nit picky. I don’t mind pointing out the positives behind the Immortal reviews perspective on Panic At the Disco’s latest full length Pray For the Wicked.

The review did not take shots at the overall talent that was demonstrated over the course of the 11-song album, just its theme. Author Dylan Yadav clearly did homework, and found parts in certain songs that appeared to be outliers. Referenced in this article are examples such as Urie’s eclectic vocal range in “Dying in L.A.” or “Say Amen (Saturday Night)” as well as the “Spanish vibe” utilized in the track “Roaring 20s”.  

Having said that, I cannot understand the barrage of criticism the review doled out for the album being “theatrical.” Yadav expresses his belief that vocalist and sole-remaining founding member Brendon Urie has become too comfortable at the expense of his work. 

Pray For The Wicked is theatrical – as theatrical as you can get without actually being a Broadway recording. This comes with a problem, however. As much as Panic! At The Disco has always had a dramatic touch to their music, this feels entirely too much like it’s trying to say “look at me, I’m Brendon Urie and I was on Broadway!” 

This is a band who from day one has been intrinsically ostentatious. This is a band called Panic at the Disco, who’s debut album was titled A fever you can’t sweat out and break out song was the highly dramatic “I Write Sins Not Tragedies.” Take a look at the track’s music video which was filmed in 13 years ago:

Defining this entire album by sole criticism of being “overly theatrical” implies that each track lacks the diversity they so clearly carry. It ignores the fact that there’s a huge dichotomy in tracks such as the upbeat, jazzy “The Overpass” and the slow, solemn “Dying In L.A.”

Even songs with similar themes like “King of the Clouds” and “One of the Drunks” or “High Hopes” and “Hey Look Ma, I Made it” have not so subtle distinctions that separate one from the other.  

Most importantly, I previously mentioned Panic’s frontman is the sole remaining founder. While the importance of every single member of any band cannot be understated, the creation of this album was not a democratic effort. With complete creative control and a supporting cast of what is essentially a touring band, Urie pretty much is Panic at the Disco. 

this feels entirely too much like it’s trying to say “look at me, I’m Brendon Urie and I was on Broadway!”

Yadav correctly points out that Panic’s lead man had a run on Broadway with his performance in Kinky Boots. With this being said, I fail to understand the point of critiquing a band who’s last legitimate member is using talents he’s honed through other projects to better his own. It makes as little sense as accusing the sole founder of attempting to steal the spotlight from people he’s brought in to play his songs. 

Oh, and if there truly is a belief that Panic at the Disco is going down a bad path by embracing the theatrical aspect of their music, then how do you explain Panic’s newest single “This is the Greatest Show?” 

If you obsess over singers and bands, and are one of those people who make a playlist for every occasion, join CMN’s Music Journalism Course and get real-time experience, intense feedback on your writing, exposure to music industry insiders, and a great place to display build your portfolio. Get all the details on the Music Journalism Course here.

My name is Cody Ayres and I am a UNCC graduate with a bachelors degree in sociology. While in college I served as the causes coordinator for the campuses concerts and causes club, which put on small shows to raise money for charitable foundations. I am currently living in Charlotte, N.C. where I work as a bartender while also writing for a startup channel called ignore the world. When I'm not working, I enjoy playing soccer as well as watching just about any sport that I can get my eyes on.

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