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Teen’s summer music list includes Panic! At the Disco, the Weeknd and Taylor Swift

Aug. 12, 2021 Updated Fri., Aug. 13, 2021 at 8:50 a.m.

Brendon Urie and Taylor Swift perform “Me!” at the 2019 Billboard Music Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.  (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
Brendon Urie and Taylor Swift perform “Me!” at the 2019 Billboard Music Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
By Jordan Tolley-Turner The Spokesman-Review

There are a few underrated artists and a few underrated albums by some of the biggest names of the past, present and all time. Here’s what I’m listening to now and what makes these artists and albums so great:

Panic! At the Disco

I first discovered Panic! At the Disco from the 2018 smash hit “High Hopes.” Brendon Urie’s move to pop in “Pray for the Wicked” proved to be a great decision with mainstream success in “Hey Look Ma, I Made It” and “Say Amen (Saturday Night),” as well, the album being solidified as one of my favorites with amazing vocals from Urie, a jazzy horn section, smooth orchestra and 11 unique songs that blend into one album of ambition, tales of Hollywood with Broadway flare and the elements of a party lifestyle that comes with “making it.”

But the album was a segue to a 17-year-old history of six albums, as well as a sound I probably wouldn’t have found if it wasn’t for Panic! Peculiar is a good word to describe the band that began with four members but gradually ended up with Urie as the solo act. Each album is different, and that might be the beauty of the band’s history along with the reason why it has fans of all kinds.

There’s the epitome of 2000’s pop-punk/alternative album “A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out” and breakout single “I Write Sins Not Tragedies,” “Pretty. Odd” with the same eccentric lyrics but with a folk twist, “Vices & Virtues” bringing in early 2010s concepts and modern pop-rock, “Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die” escorting listeners to Urie’s hometown of Las Vegas in electric glamour and exploring emotions of many kinds and “Death of a Bachelor” with jazz inspirations, a Sinatra meets 2016 title track, party songs and those for rainier days.

When I say there is a song for everything, believe me, there is a song for everything.

The Weeknd

The 2021 Super Bowl Halftime Show performer Abel Makkonen Tesfaye, aka the Weeknd, got there for a reason. The past year and a half, he’s taken over mainstream radio with “Save Your Tears, “Blinding Lights” and more from his 2020 album “After Hours.” Bringing the image of “Vegas in the 80s,” his R&B sound consists of great features, synth, bass and a falsetto that doesn’t get old.

All of his albums have a darker tone, some songs being more explicit than others. And within the pop sound, it’s easy to overlook purpose, but his exploration of fame, love of all kinds amid the party lifestyle and the classic Hollywood fall is well done. He sets many moods perfectly, and his production has as many details as the musical story he’s been painting for years.

Queen

The legacy of Freddie Mercury and Queen is still alive and going strong. With such a wide range of music, unique style and, of course, Mercury’s voice, Queen has spanned decades and found consistency among the ears of new generations easily. Perhaps the most timeless example of the classic 1970s sound, that piano, famous opera harmonies and Brian May’s guitar skills are truly a musical paradigm.

Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift has always been one of those artists whose music is difficult to avoid for better or worse. From country to pop, she’s had the career most can only dream of, but her 2020 indie-style albums “Folklore” and “Evermore” are where her skills are really shown off.

The sound is relatively consistent and mostly acoustic, with the piano and orchestral portions being my favorite and driving the two albums, but some of those electric guitar moments, which can be a bit hidden in the production, also really shine.

A bit more uncommon are the harmonica and lap steel guitar that also make great appearances in the more country songs. Swift’s storytelling abilities are displayed beautifully and transport you to the tale inside each song, the vivid details and portrayals of perspective reciting narratives of love, lust and broken hearts.

Swift’s darker or more sorrowful lyrics here, exploring consequences, doomed relationships and even murder, are interesting. Each song feels and sounds like a different story all intertwined by the emotions Swift is able to capture into sound form, and in the past year when we found our emotions all over the place, yet more alone than ever before, Swift’s double-album year couldn’t have come at a better time.

Twenty One Pilots

You might not recognize the name, but I can almost promise that when you hear “Stressed Out,” “Ride” or “Heathens,” you’ll remember 2015-2017 radio. The duo, drummer Josh Dun and multi-instrumentalist/singer Tyler Joseph, found an alternative sound that can easily be placed into the mainstream, doing so by covering genres from rap and rock to indie and pop.

Lyrically, a lot has been done, as well, with songs about finding love, religion, depression and more. But among all of that is a theme of pushing forward and not giving up, something that strikes a chord with many. The new album “Scaled and Icy” might not be the usual, sounding more upbeat than the others, but after a few listens and really listening to Joseph’s lyrics, the hip-hop vibes, blissful instrumentals and the oddly different final two tracks have me hooked.

Jordan Tolley-Turner is a high school summer intern. He begins his junior year at Shadle Park High School in the fall. He can be reached at (509) 459-5153 or at jordant@spokesman.com.

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