High Hopes

Album: Pray For the Wicked (2018)
Charted: 12 4
Play Video


  • The overarching theme of the Pray For The Wicked album is growth and maturity. Panic! At The Disco mainman Brendon Urie has seen the trials and tribulations of the music industry firsthand over the years as the other band members gradually left, leaving him the last remaining member. It was this tale of triumph over adversity that set the tone for the album.

    Had to have high, high hopes for a living
    Shooting for the stars when I couldn't make a killing
    Didn't have a dime but I always had a vision

    The song came from the beginning of a fresh realization for Urie that he'd been setting his bar too low amidst all the turbulence within the band. "I spent too long not setting my expectations high enough, worried about how it felt to fail," the singer explained. "I hit a point when I realized I had to aim high and fail, fail, fail in order to keep growing."
  • This song was years in the making and involved nine different songwriters. The "Mama said, don't give up" refrain was written by Tayla Parx (Fifth Harmony's "Bo$$," Normani's "Love Lies," Ariana Grande's "7 Rings" and "Thank U, Next") at a BMI writing camp in September 2016. Penned as an experimental motivational rock song as a nod to her beloved mom, Parxx gave the track to Panic! at the Disco after two years of looking for a vocalist. Brendon Urie then worked on the song with several other collaborators, including his producer, Jake Sinclair.

    Eventually, the massive chorus came together. It was clear the song had immense hit potential, but needed a storyline to tie it all together. This is when Sam Hollander, who had worked on the 2015 Panic! track "Emperor's New Clothes," came into the picture. Using the "mama said" theme, he came up with opening verse:

    Mama said
    Fulfill the prophecy
    Be something greater
    Go make a legacy
    Manifest destiny
    Back in the days
    We wanted everything, wanted everything

    "On 'High Hopes,' we were talking about Brendon's story and Brendon's journey, but I was also thinking about my own," he said in a Songfacts interview. "The first verse channels part of a conversation with my mom. She provided me with the confidence that I needed as an insecure little kid. And then the flip side is a dialogue with my own daughter. She comes home from school and we have these talks, and just like any other kid she has good days and bad days. There are fragments of those conversations in there as well."

    Along with Urie, Sinclair, Parxx and Hollander, the other writers who contributed to the song are Lolo (Lauren Pritchard), Jenny Owen Youngs, William Lobban-Bean, Ilsey Juber and Jonas Jeberg.
  • The dream of maintaining success in the music industry is something that Urie has felt from a young age. He told Topsify:

    "I want[ed] to talk about my childhood and having this dream as a kid. Making a cardboard cutout of a guitar and standing front of the mirror, dreaming of being on stage. Now it's come to fruition, and that is what ["High Hopes"] is about. It's [this] all encompassing idea of how it started and where I am now [and] the vision I had."
  • Directed by Brendan Walter and Mel Soria, the video sees Brendon Urie bring the artwork for Pray For The Wicked to life as he climbs up a skyscraper in a physics-defying act. He joins his band at the top, and they proceed to jam out on the roof. Urie said of the clip:

    "No matter how hard your dreams seem, keep going. You might even have to climb up the side of a building in downtown LA, but it'll all be worth it at the top. Stay up on that rise."
  • Brendon Urie really did walk up the building in the visual - it wasn't a CGI trick. A behind-the-scenes video shows footage of the heavily harnessed Panic! frontman scaling the building step-by-step. Mel Soria said that Urie walked up "almost 75 feet" during one take. "He would've walked up the entire side of the building, but we actually had to say, 'No,' because of insurance," she added.

    The rest of Urie's journey was created with a green screen.
  • The song achieved the rare chart feat of reaching #1 on Billboard's Alternative Songs, Adult Pop Songs and Pop Songs charts. The triple-tally-topping achievement had only been done on three previous occasions: Goo Goo Dolls' "Iris" in 1998, Green Day's "Boulevard Of Broken Dreams" in 2005 and Gotye and Kimbra's "Somebody That I Used To Know" in 2012.
  • The song's music video was voted video of the year by the readers of UK's Kerrang in 2018. The magazine said: "There have been many impressive, clever, gripping and interesting clips released this year. But only one where a man literally walked up the side of the building."
  • The song featured in the NHL's promotional campaign for the 2018 Stanley Cup Final.
  • MTV apparently considers this a rock song; they awarded it Best Rock at the 2019 VMAs.

Comments: 3

  • Laverne Jones from Evansville InWhat kind of car was used at the beginning of the video? How would I be able to purchase the copyright use for a video to be used at a University?
  • Siahara Shyne Carter from United StatesHad to have high, high hopes for a living

    Shooting for the stars when I couldn't make a killing

    Didn't have a dime but I always had a vision

    I love that part too!!!! and The end of the Music Video is just so Amazing ;-)
  • Bridget from CoStill love this in 2020
see more comments

Editor's Picks

90210 to Buffy to Glee: How Songs Transformed TV

90210 to Buffy to Glee: How Songs Transformed TVSong Writing

Shows like Dawson's Creek, Grey's Anatomy and Buffy the Vampire Slayer changed the way songs were heard on TV, and produced some hits in the process.

Bill Medley of The Righteous Brothers

Bill Medley of The Righteous BrothersSongwriter Interviews

Medley looks back on "Unchained Melody" and "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" - his huge hits from the '60s that were later revived in movies.

Timothy B. Schmit of the Eagles

Timothy B. Schmit of the EaglesSongwriter Interviews

Did this Eagle come up with the term "Parrothead"? And what is it like playing "Hotel California" for the gazillionth time?

Tim McIlrath of Rise Against

Tim McIlrath of Rise AgainstSongwriter Interviews

Rise Against frontman Tim McIlrath explains the meanings behind some of their biggest songs and names the sci-fi books that have influenced him.

Gentle Giant

Gentle GiantSongwriter Interviews

An interview with Ray and Derek Shulman of the progressive rock band Gentle Giant to discuss counterpoint, polyrhythms, and... Bon Jovi.

Song Titles That Inspired Movies

Song Titles That Inspired MoviesSong Writing

Famous songs that lent their titles - and in some cases storylines - to movies.