Have Panic! At The Disco Finally Found Their Niche, Or Are They Just Becoming Predictable?

Perhaps the most defining trait of the ever-evolving act of Panic! at the Disco is their inability to be defined. Starting out in the scene by formulating catchy, theatrical techno-rock, they firmly established this characteristic with the shocking transition in their second album to a sound blatantly inspired by The Beatles and the psychedelic sonic atmosphere of the 60s. Since then, between every one of Panic!'s albums has been a musical moat of sorts - each era's aesthetic gets adopted and abandoned with the entrance and exit of its respective record.

The very first thing I noticed about the two singles that dropped Wednesday, the first indication of what Panic!'s sixth album will sound like, was that they lack a stark distinction from the feel of Death of a Bachelor. In fact, what seems to be the only major difference is Brendon Urie's interesting use of samples in each song, the prevalence of which suggesting that this will likely be a theme throughout the record.

The eleven-track collection is set to be released June 22nd of this year and is entitled Pray for the Wicked. It is clear at this point that Panic! is taking the religious/sinning motif they've fine-tuned over the past few years and running with it, the chiefly promoted single even christened "Say Amen (Saturday Night)". As a long time Panic! fan, listening to another song with religious themes was frankly underwhelming. "Say Amen" is unarguably written well instrumentation-wise (it's unlikely any song by Urie could be terrible in that department), however, it does overall come off as what I've seen described as a "Death of a Bachelor b-side". So, if your ears are searching for something a bit more original, I'd turn to its far more overlooked counterpart.

Upon my first listen to "(Fuck A) Silver Lining", I was confused. Maybe that's not the most eloquent way to put it, but at the time I genuinely was at a loss for words to describe precisely how I felt. The track opens with the song's very intense chorus, which gives the listener the (correct) assumption that the song will be much more unpredictable than "Say Amen". Despite my initial impression that the song was messy and distasteful, the past few days have allowed me to discover I actually like the track. A lot.

"Silver Lining" makes up for where "Say Amen" lacks, especially lyrically. The latter's lyrical themes have been explored by both Panic! themselves and other artists many times over, begging for many to draw the conclusion that its instrumentation was finalized long before most of the lyrics. In "Silver Lining", on the other hand, the words and music complement each other perfectly, especially in lines like "No wings of wax or endless mountains / Tragedies with penniless fountains" that will satisfy long-time Panic! listeners that crave the vivid lyrical imagery the band used to be known for. The more one listens to this track the more they grow to love the chorus (which initially can come off as repetitive) and the more they savor the diversity of the track at large.

Despite the two singles overall giving a positive first look into Pray for the Wicked, my initial issue still stands. Even "Silver Lining" sounds like it could fit somewhere into Death of a Bachelor with its explosive chorus and horns. One part of me is disappointed that Panic! is beginning to retire the unpredictability that has always defined them, but the other part is proud that they've aged with such grace. The band has been through seemingly countless members since the original four, with Urie the only one remaining. They could've easily pulled a Mania with this coming record if they wanted to, but Pray for the Wicked is looking to be a great album that is, quite importantly, sure of itself.


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