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Interview: Panic! At The Disco Gets Dark, Channels Kanye West on New Album

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Courtney E. Smith
Courtney E. Smith Courtney is the pop producer for Radio.com and the...
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“There were some different influences this time around,” Panic! At The Disco singer Brendon Urie explained of their new album, Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die! “From pop, with Depeche Mode and a-ha and stuff like that. Even some drum parts that were [from] XTC and Toto. Stuff like that, it just kind of jumped around. But a lot of the production with synths and making electronic beats were inspired by hip-hop.”

Of course, for a band who have historically worn their influences on their sleeves, they would do just that again. But Panic! At The Disco proved how massive their consumption of pop culture must be in the course of one interview — half the time their references were the answers to the questions Radio.com posed. So if what you like is what you’re like, Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die! may well be their 808s and Heartbreak.

“The way hip-hop has…gone from ‘look at all the stuff I have’ — which it still does, it has its moments in its roots in doing that — …[to] getting just raw and confessional: that’s something that we started doing a little bit more,” Urie said. “The lyrics for [our lead single] ‘Miss Jackson’ were inspired by something that I actually went through, that I experienced and had something done to me as well that made me see myself in a new light.”

The video, shot outside of Barstow, Calif. (which is saying something because Barstow is already outside of nowhere) and co-starring Katrina Bowden of 30 Rock, captures the sense of seedy, dirty songs about love that Panic! At The Disco are specializing in with this album — and turning into dance jams. Urie gets his catharsis quite literally when he chops off the the head of the showgirl played by Bowden.

“I think why some of the songs do have that darkly romantic feel to them is because I was just preparing to get married,” Urie said. “So I was feeling, I was in a different place altogether with my now wife, where I thought about, ‘Wow, in retrospect I’ve never had this before. What was different about [past relationships]?’ I never talked about it. So being able to reach back and be kind of nostalgic, in a way, but being able to reach back and talk about memories the way I remembered them, trying to recall exactly what happened, exaggerating some points here and there.”

While the album explores relationships, specifically the negative side of them, it also plays with the group’s relationship to Las Vegas. It’s their hometown, though they don’t reside there full-time now. The Strip was always an influence, despite the detail that Panic! members weren’t old enough to partake in its debauchery for the majority of the time they lived there. Back then, they wished they were from anywhere else but now they see (specifically in the track “Vegas Lights”) what an asset the city was to their development.

“A side we wanted to touch on [was] the Vegas people who don’t grow up there don’t really know or haven’t seen driving from one place to another,” Urie said.

The album ends up being an airing of the dirty laundry, in the spirit of Kanye: the romances gone wrong, the broken hearts left in the wake, the wounded pride and the flashing lights. All provided by way of Las Vegas, a locale that, when you get down to it, specializes in wounded pride and flashing lights perhaps better than any city in the world.

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