panic at the disco
paic at the disco (Image via Hidden Jams)

Panic! At The Disco’s ‘Pray For The Wicked’ Follows Its Own Religion

Lead singer Brendon Urie's struggles with substance abuse and mental health are front and center in the new album.

Panic! At The Disco has released a new album, titled “Pray for the Wicked.” The album covers multitudes of subjects as well as past elements that have always made their music a joy to listen to and experience.

For example, Brendon Urie (the singer and only remaining member of the band) has always included religious influence and baroque pop in his music. This genre combines components of rock music with components of classical music.

It actually works really well with religion because many people think of elegant-sounding instruments, such as the piano or any sort of stringed instruments, when they think of church. Classical music seems to fit hand-in-hand with religion.

Religious Influence

It is immediately obvious to the listener that this album will contain numerous religious allusions and references, as exemplified in the title. Urie grew up in a Mormon household, so he is quite familiar with religious rhetoric. It’s something that has always influenced his music ever since Panic! At the Disco released their first album, “A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out,” which contains their most well-known song, “I Write Sins, Not Tragedies.”

He actually recorded a video where he explains the role of religion in Panic! At the Disco’s album. He explains that, while he himself isn’t religious anymore, religion is still a part of himself that he cannot deny. His childhood was saturated with it, and he tends to romanticize it now. Utilizing the imagery and rhetoric of religion is something he enjoys and will continue to do. Urie even states that he has a religion of his own: music.

Urie discusses his practice of praying in the second song, “Say Amen (Saturday Night).” He sings, “I pray for the wicked on the weekend.”  He actually tweeted about this specific lyric saying that, “I pray for all the wicked people doing wicked things and for all the good people doing good things every day. I pray, but not to any one specifically. More to myself, pleading to stay positive and loving and open-minded.”

He also includes another version of the lyric “pray for the wicked” in the song “Hey Look Ma, I Made It.” He sings, “I’ll be praying for the faithless.” Even if Urie does not consider himself religious, he is still an actively spiritual person.

Alcohol/Drug Consumption

Contrasting with the usage of religion, Urie also discusses alcohol and drug consumption in Panic! At the Disco’s album. He even celebrates it. This is most obvious in the song, “One Of The Drunks,” where he mentions multiple different alcoholic drinks, like Grey Goose vodka or bourbon.

Not only does he juxtapose alcohol with religion, but he intertwines the two when he sings, “Sip up ’til you’re tipsy, night’s young. Searching for a feeling, big fun. Dancing with the demons, Holy Spirit, Holy Spirit. Grips you like a pistol, wet the whistle, wet the whistle.”

It is clear that alcohol is important to Urie when you listen to “Old Fashioned,” another song and the name of an actual alcoholic drink included on the album. He sings, “So pour out some liquor, make it an old-fashioned.” Urie is also becoming sentimental in this song and sings about how his youth was “the best of times.” He promotes “one more sip for the past.”

Drug usage is also slightly encouraged in the album. In the song, “Roaring 20’s,” Urie compares himself to a blunt.

Having Fun

Urie also seeks to highlight the fun that you can have in life with your friends. This is exemplified in his song, “Dancing’s Not A Crime.” Similar to the other songs in this album, this one is upbeat and radiates a pleasurable attitude.

In an interview with Coup De Main, Urie explains that this is the direct inspiration behind the song. He says, “I’m always that obnoxious friend that’s dancing in public, and they’re embarrassed to be around me. So I was like, ‘Hey man! Don’t leave me out of the loop! I’m here to dance and have a good time. It’s not a crime!”

Ambition and Success

Urie also focuses on the need for ambition and drive in your life. He emphasizes the necessity for these things if you ever hope to succeed in life. You have to continually try and challenge yourself, and not be too discouraged when you fail.

All of these sentiments are illuminated in the song, “High Hopes.” He sings, “Had to have high, high hopes for a living. Shooting for the stars when I couldn’t make a killing. Didn’t have a dime but I always had a vision.”

He also mentions the impact his mother had on his strive for success and how she continually encouraged him in his musical career. He reiterates the need for ambition in the song, “King of the Clouds.” He sings, “Some only live to die, I’m alive to fly higher.”

In the outro of the song, he sings that he “keep[s] searching.” This could mean that he still aims to achieve higher success than he already has. Refusing to settle with what he has already accomplished, he doesn’t believe that he has fulfilled his entire potential. Not yet, at least.

Urie also aims to highlight the success that he has already achieved in his song, “Hey Look Ma, I Made It.” Instead of illuminating his desire for recognition and fame, Urie is declaring that he’s already received those things. He is proclaiming his success, comparing his life to a dream, as shown when sings, “If it’s a dream, don’t wake me. Think I must be dreaming, wide awake and dreaming,” and characters such as Beyoncé (“Silver Lining”) and Carl Sagan (“King Of The Clouds”).

Mental Health

Urie has been diagnosed with anxiety and ADHD since he was a child.

The topic is referenced in Panic! At the Disco’s album, especially the song “Roaring 20’s.” He sings, “Maybe I’ll medicate, maybe inebriate. Strange situations, I get anxious. Maybe I’m overjoyed, maybe I’m paranoid. Designer me up in straitjackets.” This is also the song where Brendon compares himself to a blunt, and you can realize that he utilizes drugs, as well as alcohol, as forms of self-medication.

There seems to be more desperation and less celebration in this song, as compared to the previous ones. Urie is confused about his place in the world, and he wants to return to someplace that makes sense.

With this newest album, Urie has managed to discuss important topics, while continuing to include the elements that have never failed to appear in Panic!’s music, and ultimately make it successful. Whether you’re a fan of Panic! At The Disco or not, the lyrics can definitely spark a debate between even the closest of friends.

Ashlyn Leigh Willis, University of North Alabama

Writer Profile

Ashlyn Willis

University of North Alabama

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