The road to a legendary legacy is always questionable at best.
Then there was one. In enters Brendon Urie, the main squeeze from one of the most popular and prominent emo-punk bands, Panic! At The Disco. Except this time, as was stated, he is the last man standing. It seems that each band member has left for various personal reasons. Instead of transitioning to a personal project/title, Urie has found it necessary to keep the band alive, as the sole member. What are some possible consequences to finding yourself playing the role of “head honcho” to a previously successful band? You might change gears a bit, you might lose track of direction occasionally, hey, you might even let it get to your head. Well, that kinda looks like what happened to their brand new album, Death of a Bachelor. Urie has already warned fans that the new approach will be Panic!, meets Frank Sinatra, meets Queen (his idols from the past). What is presented is at times fun, yet different and a more pop centered Panic! then we may be used to. But more importantly, is the “gone to his head” problems. What seems to be the drive of this new album is that Urie has found it a fitting time to declare to the world that he wants to be a legend. Not just a cool group, not just a good guy, but rather a legend. And what follows is a personal conflict of sorts. To be a legend one must drop the respect of many, and the results are sometimes disheartening, sometimes inspiring, and sometimes edgy (you don’t get popular for songs like I Write Sins, Not Tragedies or Miss Jackson without being edgy). So, to be completely fair, we are going to break this review up into Urie’s following groups; the bad and the good.
The Downside to Stardom
While not all the songs I mention here will be completely (or hardly) depraved, with zero redeeming qualities. There are, however, two sore thumbs in the lot that really, really need discretion. The first being Don’t Threaten Me With a Good Time. While musically, the song seems a bit forced when it comes to the “Head Banging” factor, it still has a compelling and original flare to it. Not the lyrics though. When the song is not uttering the H word (mostly to the phrase “H*** of a feeling”) about 25 times (if I am exaggerating, it is only barely), it is drenched in Urie’s willingness to indulge in drinking, drugs (cocaine, respectively), ending up naked after a party (the album art comes from this song, and we trimmed a bit of Urie’s “flesh” out, if you hadn’t guessed), and straight up riotous behavior. In the cool, big band sounding Cool=Genius, Urie unfortunately once again let’s his need for chaos ensue. Once again, alcohol and drugs creep into this rambunctious party, but this time it is accompanied by 3 F bombs.
As I previously stated, one of the big head-turners in this album is Urie’ evidential need to be “king” to some degree. No track better represents this mentality than The Emperor’s New Clothes. Now, this song contains almost zero references to profanity, drugs, alcohol, or sex (aside from the phrase “all dressed up and naked.” Though it seems to indicate his decision to be transparent with the world, rather than suggestive in nature). Along with that, there are fewer displays of the sheer spine chilling genius when it comes to his vocal abilities than in this song, he truly shows the entirety of his range. Yet, his decision to do essentially whatever it takes to get to the top, plus the menacing tone throughout, is a real concern. It’s hard to imagine letting your kids jam out to a song that states, “If it feels good, tastes good, it must be mine” or the popular phrase, “finders keepers, losers weepers.” Victorious likewise shows Urie’s decision to throw caution to the wind when it comes to doing what he wants. While it is an upbeat, positive, and catchy song, it still seems to over glorify himself at times. Particularly with the (once again) references to drinking a bunch at a crazy party (also, there may or may not be a brief sexual quip thrown in. I say that because it went over my head many a time, and it’s not overly obvious…). It should be noted that Urie likes his drink, and it is brought up (briefly or mildly) in mostly clean songs as Death of a Bachelor, LA Devotee, and Golden Days (which also briefly mentions a sexy Polaroid – which is a camera BTW).
Lastly, Hallelujah has the off putting illustration of a worship-like assembly where dance is encouraged. Now, there is a bit more to the meaning, but it is still a strange/inappropriate message nonetheless. Also, within the song he once again confessing to over drinking, and also to cheating on his wife (“caught under the covers of second hand lovers”)…
The Upside to Individuality
What the song is still trying to emphasize is the need for fessing up to one’s mistakes, and admitting we are all “sinners,” This is so that we can all move forward and improve our lives. Which isn’t such a bad message (with a catchy tune), even if it is a bit much…
Now like I said, the album definitely has a push for Urie’s love of self and of indulgence. But within this tattered message, there are still glaring examples of sacrifice, love for life, and other non-controversial topics. The pinnacle for this is definitely Death of a Bachelor which tells the tale of a love struck dude who will do and sacrifice anything (essentially, himself) for this new adventure of a lifetime, love. It is sung to the suave and old-school tunes of Frank Sinatra meets Punk. Speaking of Sinatra, Impossible Year concludes the album reminiscing about a lost love, in a very classic, slow-paced fashion. House Of Memories, while being a bit of an admittedly average song, also is a song looking to the past, and hoping for a better future (but Urie’s vocals really shine near the end).
In Urie’s quest for becoming a legend of sorts, we get some cool call backs to other legendary pop-culture references. In these cool throw-back songs, we see Urie at a place of vulnerability and sincerity when dealing with his true self. While The Good, The Bad, and The Dirty may be a bit over aggressive in its stance with critics and possibly past relationships, the super catchy song about defending and standing up for yourself is still a high point. Golden Days likewise has many shout out’s to the 70’s culture, looking to the past for better and important days for individuals. While Urie’s attempts at bringing a classic vibe to his pop-y (less punky sound than usual) are at times, a bit awkward, and possibly disheartening for fans. Still, my favorite song from the album is probably LA Devotee. It is a once again a blend of old-school band sounds, but accompanied by a fun and pop centered song about the love for the city, LA. Urie seems to mirror his and his wife’s relationship to this grandiose city. Though there are rough patches, though there are faults, still the stargazed eyes can’t turn away from such an important and influential place.
Brendon Urie’s quest for success can be a bit spotty, don’t you think? At times, his songs perfectly resemble the caution of Matthew 16:26 which begs the question, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” Yet, in the conclusion, the answer is murky at best. While Urie’s self-centered, and drunken self-obsession is clearly his most prominent trait in such songs as Don’t Threaten Me With a Good Time, The Emperor’s New Clothes, Crazy=Genius, and Victorious. It is still hard to deny his obvious desire for much more in life in such songs as Death Of a Bachelor, Hallelujah, LA Devotee, and Golden Days. So we are left to assume that Urie’s own inner conflict is still to be determined. Even if this uncertain determination is in the form of an overly rambunctious and flawed, albeit fun, Death of a Bachelor.