Panic! at the Disco: Death of a Bachelor

P!ATD

Panic! at the Disco: Death of a Bachelor

Panic! at the Disco’s fifth studio album, Death of a Bachelor could be considered frontman Brendon Urie’s tabula rasa, as he is now the only remaining original member and in complete control of the alternative rock band. Currently sitting atop Billboard’s Top 200 Album’s chart, Urie’s latest offering has been described as lyrically and thematically inspired by the singer and multi-instrumentalist’s two-year adjustment period to married life.

Although the 11-track set clocks in at a mere 36 minutes, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot to digest here. Death of a Bachelor jump starts with the cheerleader-like recitations of the hyperactive opening track “Victorious,” but quickly switches gears to the sobering lyrics of “Don’t Threaten Me with a Good Time.” The ode to over indulgence begins with a sample of “Rock Lobster” by The B-52’s, and finds Urie openly confessing: “Don’t think I’ll ever get enough / Champagne, cocaine, gasoline / And most things in between.”

We’re then plunged ears first into the jazzy refrains of the title track, which exudes sentimental reflections of leaving single life behind, then without warning we’re immersed into what sounds like an intimate conversation between Urie and his wife during “Crazy = Genius.” The referential Beach Boys homage allows us to be privy to Urie’s inner dialogue: “She said you’re just like Mike Love, but you’ll never be Brian Wilson / And I said if crazy equals genius then I’m a fucking arsonist / I’m a rocket scientist.”

Omnipresent lyrical avowals coupled with a multitude of contrasting musical styles, Death of a Bachelor ultimately sounds like the aural equivalent of Queen and Sinatra doing a mountain of cocaine-manic, but in an acutely engaging way. The album’s artful combination of youthful confessions and various proclamations of debauchery, all coalesce to make a peculiarly eclectic, yet decidedly gratifying album.

As the last man standing in a band that previously existed as a quartet, Urie ironically manages to create an album that ironically sounds the most like the band’s 2005 debut, almost begging listeners to ponder if perhaps Brendon Urie has been the dominant force of the band all along?

Queen of Pop Plays Music City

Madge live

(Rebel Heart Tour: Bridgestone Arena Nashville 2016)

Pop music icon Madonna played Nashville last night at Bridgestone Arena during a stop on her global Rebel Heart Tour. The two-hour-plus show was the first Music City performance of the superstar’s career, which now spans more than three decades. This egregious fact didn’t go unnoticed by the singer as she jokingly professed to be a “Nashville virgin” when she took the stage.

The concert opened with “Iconic” (featuring a rapping Mike Tyson), as images of the pop music innovator splashed across a colossal video screen as she was eventually lowered from the ceiling in a metal cage. The all but sold-out crowd roared as Madonna emerged from the cage and was delimited by ten male dancers dressed as medieval executioners adorned in gold and black and armed with large metal pikes.

The pop diva’s show was divided into four themes: Samurai, Asian, Latin and Party Celebration. Each segment was individually characterized by distinguishing wardrobe changes, choreography, and song selection. The show’s setlist heavily incorporated material from the singer’s most recent album Rebel Heart, but also contained many fan favorites, some of which she hasn’t performed in years, namely “Dress You Up,” “True Blue,” Deeper and Deeper,” “Who’s That Girl” and an electrified version of her early hit “Burning Up.”

The musical spectacle’s wow moments included Madonna body surfing atop a nun while swinging from a crucifix-shaped stripper pole during the racy “Holy Water,” which segued midway into an updated version of “Vogue.” Also noteworthy was a death-defying routine choreographed to “Illuminati,” which featured several dancers swaying back and forth over the audience while atop twenty foot poles.

But the evening’s most unique moment arrived halfway through the set when Madonna unexpectedly broke into an acapella version of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire.” The impromptu cover was interrupted as the singer explained in a faux southern accent “Okay let’s start this again ‘cuz I fucked it up and I’m not gonna embarrass myself in front of Johnny Cash right now. You have to understand I did not rehearse this, it just came into my head, underneath the stage a couple of minutes ago. Let’s start again okay? So, I’m playing my pussy (the opening notes of the song were synchronized with Madonna’s vaginal hand movements), that’s what I’m doing,” the singer humorously clarified.

Throughout the night, Madonna seemed surprisingly unguarded and radiated a vivacious spirit and playfulness which was devoured by the enamored audience. We were treated to an engaging mix of high-energy dance numbers such as “Music,” as well as a few stripped-down acoustic numbers including “La Vie en rose.”

Ultimately, the ambitious production concluded with an energetic encore of the singer’s first hit single “Holiday,” which had the late night crowd up on our feet as we clapped, danced, and sang along with the Material Girl, until she eventually disappeared after being hoisted up into the air. At age 57, Madonna convincingly demonstrated she is still a force with which to be reckoned when it comes to the art of live performance. The reigning Queen of Pop delivered an incomparable show, the likes of which Nashville will doubtfully ever see again.

Remembering David Bowie

Bowie final

Where to begin when discussing David Bowie? It’s almost impossible to define one of the most influential artists of all time with a musical legacy of near-mythic importance. Especially considering his career spans from 1962 to 2016 and includes such classics as “Starman,” “Rebel Rebel,” “Heroes,” and “I’m Afraid of Americans.” Not to mention his vast canon of 25 eclectic albums, each one a divergent musical statement contained within an illustrious work of graphic art.

Nearly every Bowie fan has a favorite period or persona with a specific entry point, making it all the more difficult to attempt summing up the gender-bending, sexually ambiguous performer and musician’s life and accomplishments without writing an entire book (of which there are already more than a few of in existence). So instead I’ll try to sum up what impact the icon of music, film, art, and fashion had on my life.

My initial exposure to David Bowie was from top 40 radio and television shows such as The Midnight Special, Soul Train, and Saturday Night Live during the 1970s. As a kid I already liked the songs I’d heard (“Space Oddity,” “Fame,” and “Golden Years” were my favorites), but as a sheltered pre-teen I was jarringly taken aback, even frightened by him when first exposed to his spaced-out androgynous Ziggy Stardust persona. My initial reactions to the glam rocker were fear, confusion, and intrigue as I’d never seen or heard anyone like him, but my initial perceptions morphed into unadulterated admiration in the 80s.

I can remember being completely blown away as I sat transfixed the very first time I saw the “Ashes to Ashes” music video on MTV. This resulted in my newly awakened interest, just in time for Bowie’s latest incarnation, as he dominated the new music video age. Let’s Dance was the first Bowie record I purchased (as I became hypnotized by the infectiousness of “China Girl” and “Modern Love”), which led to my own personal discovery period as I began to delve into and devour each of his past albums from Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) to The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, to The Man Who Sold the World, and Space Oddity.

My rekindled interest continued as I greedily consumed all of Bowie’s output from that point forward, especially Labyrinth and Never Let Me Down, which culminated into my all-time favorite Bowie tour and live recording, his epochal Glass Spider Tour (although it’s often maligned and dismissed by critics and fans alike). I would watch my VHS copy with such repeated regularity, it eventually caused lines of distortion to run through the worn video image. Let’s just say I was in desperate need of upgrading my fuzzy video years later when it was re-released as a DVD/CD combo. As the years went by, Bowie grew to be a perpetual constant in my life as one of my favorite artists, as it never ceased to be a major life event for me whenever he’d release a new musical opus.

I’m pleased to say in 2004, I finally had the opportunity to experience one of his electrifying and unequaled live performances during what was sadly to become his final concert tour. The two and a half hour set was truly one of the greatest moments of my life (as well as one of my most cherished ticket stubs) and not a moment too soon either. Just weeks after attending his concert, Bowie underwent an angioplasty procedure for a blocked artery and the remaining dates of his A Reality Tour were cancelled.

Following his heart surgery, Bowie seemed to all but disappear until 2013 when he quietly surprise released The Next Day, his first album of new material in a decade. Well worth the wait, TND debuted at number two on Billboard and received glowing reviews. After a 10-year span of virtual silence, it was a sigh of relief to hear exciting new material. This excitement continued as “Moonage Daydream” was forever immortalized as part of the Marvel Universe while featured in the film and soundtrack of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, which was soon followed by news that we could expect another album early in 2016.

I was elated when Bowie’s Blackstar was released on January 8, the artist’s 69th birthday. I spent that entire weekend enraptured by the eerily dark, but strangely hypnotic new music. I couldn’t help noticing an indescribable undercurrent within the lyrics the more I listened, especially in “Lazarus,” “Dollar Days” and “I Can’t Give Everything Away,” but I was too elated at having new Bowie music to dwell too deeply. However, this uneasiness became all too clear when I awakened on Monday morning to the shockingly unforeseen news that Bowie had passed away after an 18-month struggle with cancer. My first thought was that it had to be an Internet hoax, but sadly it was confirmed as I watched the plentiful tributes begin to pour in from around the world.

Death is an unfortunate reality for all of us, but it almost seems as if some people are supposed to miraculously beat the cosmic odds and defy death. Somewhere deep down in my subconscious, I think I always believed that if anyone could escape the Grim Reaper’s grasp, it would have been David Bowie.

Thank you Mr. Jones for sharing your talent with us mere mortals and giving the world such a magnanimous and inspiring body of work.

“There’s a starman waiting in the sky/He’d like to come and meet us/But he thinks he’d blow our minds/There’s a starman waiting in the sky…”

Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot

Sunflowers

It’s that time of year again when we find ourselves stretched between the realms of the past, present, and future. But before moving forward, it only seems fitting to consider those brilliantly talented souls we lost in 2015.

Sadly, the music world had to say goodbye to: country singer Lynn Anderson, British pop vocalist Cilla Black, soulful songstress Natalie Cole, gospel singer-songwriter-choir director Andraé Crouch, Grand Ole Opry icon Little Jimmy Dickens, Lesley “It’s My Party” Gore, Motörhead leader Lemmy Kilmister, legendary blues singer/guitarist B.B. King, prominent Nashville producer Billy Sherrill, soul legend Percy Sledge, and the inimitable frontman of Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver, Scott Weiland, just to name a few. They may be gone, but their momentous musical contributions will be eternal.

Although it’s painful to accept those who are no longer with us, a new year allows us to gleam into the future with great eagerness of what is yet to come. This year promises thrilling new releases from David Bowie (January 8), Panic! at the Disco (January 15), Elton John (February 5), Radiohead, The Cult, Green Day, Lady Gaga, Nine Inch Nails, Katy Perry, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Gwen Stefani, Rooney, and Lucinda Williams.

So here’s to a new year, new music, and making new memories in 2016.