Brendon Urie is the star of his own ongoing, over the top, show-stopping broadway production. At least, that's essentially been the overarching conceptual tone of his band Panic! At the Disco since at least 2011's Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die! -- and that tone definitely informs his sixth studio album, 2018's Pray for the Wicked. It's a conceptual notion that also made 2016's surprisingly affecting Frank Sinatra-goes-emo-crooner masterpiece Death of a Bachelor such an unexpected joy. In many ways, Pray for the Wicked feels like a companion album to its predecessor, informed as much by '90s R&B and hip-hop as it is Urie's love of driving, hooky pop/rock. Produced once again by Jake Sinclair, it's a bombastically overstuffed production, full of pounding marching-band beats, tidal-wave synths, horns that punch at bright angles, and a DJ's penchant for twisting and reconfiguring arrangements with Thanos-like disregard for human physics. Throughout it all, Urie paints himself with Michelangelo-esque strokes as a flamboyant cross between James Cagney, Biggie Smalls, and Beyoncé, singing "I'm a moon-walker, I'm like M.J. up in the clouds" on "Dancing's Not a Crime." He also has the same obsessions: religious iconography, the lure of Los Angeles, and the constant struggle between social concern and personal interest. As he sings on the anthemic "Say Amen (Saturday Night)," "And if I try to change my life one more day, there would be nobody else to save/And I can't change into a person I don't wanna be, so/Oh, it's Saturday night." The rest of the album pulses with an equal level of throw-your-hands-in-the-air energy, as Urie soars through the arrangements, his voice as highly resonant and stage-ready as ever. Admittedly, his embrace of slick pop aesthetics, Rat Pack swagger, and cheeky turns of phrase can be a bit much on first listen. But that being said, when it's backed with a strong hook and just a modicum of earnest emotion, as on the sanguine club jam "Hey Look Ma, I Made It," it's hard to deny.
AllMusic Review by Matt Collar