When Billy Joel was honored by the Kennedy Center in 2013, Panic! at the Disco’s Brendon Urie was there to perform and offer his congratulations.
It seemed like an odd pairing considering Panic! was best known for amping up its emo leanings so much that it could battle for space on pop radio. But Urie’s eclectic new album, “Death of a Bachelor” (Fueled by Ramen/DCD2), puts his love of The Piano Man in the mix, along with a bit of Frank Sinatra, some shout-outs to various Beach Boys, and a whole lot of Fall Out Boy-ish rock and danceable hip-hop.
The Joel-like piano ballad “Impossible Year” lets Urie, who essentially recorded the album himself, show off his phrasing and delivery without losing his own vocal sound and songwriting style, even slipping a reference to Joel’s “Souvenir.” On the title track, Urie adopts a bit more Sinatra swagger, over an elastic bass line, muted horns and skittering trap beats. For “Crazy=Genius,” he goes for a big band explosion, while trying to reconcile the observation, “You’re just like Mike Love, but you’ll never be Brian Wilson.”
These artistic stretches don’t mean Panic! has abandoned its rousing trademark combinations, though. The current single “Don’t Threaten Me With a Good Time” combines a hip-hop groove with over-the-top vocals and a sample of the B-52s “Rock Lobster” with spectacular results. It fits nicely with the soaring previous single “Victorious,” with its gang vocals and tongue-twisting lyrics delivered at breakneck speed. On “Golden Days,” he melds an insistent rock guitar to a Latin-leaning rhythm, allowing the song to blossom with the compelling story.
With “Death of a Bachelor,” Urie seems determined to graduate from being one of the leaders of his genre to being one of the leaders of pop. Mission accomplished.