For long-time Panic! at the Disco fans, it may be hard to believe that the group’s first album came out over a decade ago and that their most recent release, Death of a Bachelor, is the work of only one of the original members. Despite Panic!’s consistently varied sound and member make-up, one thing has remained the same — the presence of Brendon Urie.
As the lead singer, Urie has always acted as the face of the group — a face that has reflected the dynamism of their sound. His voice is theatrical, strong and, at times, overbearing. Death of a Bachelor showcases Urie’s ability to mimic a retro cabaret croon and hit Broadway-level notes all in the same song. Though Urie’s vocal chops are undeniably impressive, his skill isn’t enough to deem his latest attempt at relevance a success.
The album’s high points come when Urie creates a narrative, using his jumping, low register vocals to tell a story of intrigue. “The Good, the Bad and the Dirty” constructs one such narrative. Using Panic!’s perma-layered percussive instrumentation, the track manages to relay promiscuous and cheeky lyrics without coming off as desperate for mainstream recognition.
Another high point, “LA Devotee,” is instantly the most capturing. The combination of brass instrumentation and the fluctuating, high-energy chorus stating, “Drinking white wine in the blushing light / Just another LA Devotee,” makes the track radio-ready yet classic in its signature Panic! delivery. The lyrics also shed light on Urie’s personal life, showing his devotion to Los Angeles and all of its oddities.
“LA Devotee” traverses a rough transition into “Golden Days,” which showcases Urie grasping for youth. The track starts out well enough, with Urie delivering a powerful yet warbling narrative, moving smoothly into a bass-driven crescendo of a pre-chorus. Next, Urie’s voice essentially screams at listeners, “We’ll stay drunk, we’ll stay tan, let the love remain” before moving into the repetitive singing of “Golden days.” At this point in his career, Urie’s choice to resort to lyrics about partying and youth comes off not as an honest representation of his pop-star life, but as a last-ditch effort at musical significance. The lack of lyrical complexity, especially when considering some of Panic!’s previous work, is disappointing.
Continuing with this substance-fueled trend, “Don’t Threaten Me With a Good Time” is predominantly overwhelming. Though not entirely devoid of wit, the few charming lines are not enough to save the track. Phrases like “I lost a bet to a guy in a chiffon skirt / But I can make these high heels work” play on the androgyny and sexuality of early Panic!, but don’t go much further than that.
Aside from the forced party-themed tracks, the album does feature some more enjoyable mellow tunes. Songs like “Death of a Bachelor” and “Hallelujah” are more genuine and feature insights into Urie’s life — referencing his recent marriage and Mormon upbringing. The closing track, “Impossible Year,” is by far the most sincere. It’s the first track that will make you feel something other than the false adrenaline rush that comes with talk of alcohol-induced fun. The honest and somber tone is accompanied by swelling, orchestral instrumentation and, upon listening to this final track, most of the album seems trite and unnecessary.
Death of a Bachelor is a testament to the fact that Panic! at the Disco works best when Urie embraces his strengths as an artist of vocal prowess and lyrical candor. Unfortunately, the album ultimately falls victim to Urie’s inability to cope with his changing status.