Paramore, the Tennessee rock act most notable for being one of the most quintessential bands of the mid 2000’s pop-punk and emo scene has been at it for nearly TWENTY YEARS now. That’s weird to think about because I’ve always seen them as a very young band. I think a huge part of that is because, while other bands they came up with broke up, are no longer getting mainstream attention, or quite simply stopped making good music, Paramore still feels like a band that is in their prime. But even back in the day, Paramore was always a league above their contemporaries despite what early 2010’s fandom and Tumblr would have you believe (the fact that Panic! At The Disco was considered part of the “emo trinity” and not Paramore is, was, and always will be insulting). From the very beginning on albums like “Riot!” and “Brand New Eyes”, the group showed a great knack for sticky hooks, irresistible riffs and grooves, unbridled energy, and, of course, outstanding vocals from the incredibly talented Hayley Williams. Once they reached the 2010’s, the band started expanding their sound to incorporate elements of power pop, new wave, and synth pop on their self-titled record and “After Laughter”, respectively, and despite what some overly nostalgic listeners may tell you, these records were just as good if not better than their “classic” material. However, the band hadn’t exactly had it easy up to this point, as they have constantly been dealing with personal issues, mental health struggles, public band drama, legal issues, and a constantly changing lineup, with even Hayley leaving for a brief period. The now trio has been noticeably burnt out from all of this, and after finishing the tour supporting “After Laughter” the band quietly paused all Paramore activities and focused on their individual endeavors, most notably Hayley releasing two solo albums.
But here we are, six years later. Paramore is back, there’s more love for them than ever, we have a new album, and by the grace of god it’s with the same lineup they had back on their last album. A TRIUMPH of the ages. Oh, and I guess it’s notable that “This Is Why” is also a pretty great album.
I think the big question fans were having as they were waiting between albums is what Paramore’s first album in six years would sound like. Would they return to their blast of rock energy roots, would they continue in the more pop friendly direction of their later records, would they sound like Hayley’s alt-pop material? The answer is that “This Is Why” is none of these things . . . and all of these things . . . it makes sense when you listen I promise. “This Is Why” takes a lot of influence from post-punk and dance punk, and the result is an album that sounds completely new and fresh for the band yet still sounds distinctly Paramore. This is still very much a rock inspired album, especially more so than their self-titled record and “After Laughter”, but instead of the fast and loud fury of eighth note power chords that made up their first three records, guitarist Taylor York, drummer Zac Farro, and bassist Brian Robert Jones play off of each other with riffs, beats, and instrumentation that feature syncopation, polyrhythms, and groove. This is easily Paramore’s grooviest record. Alongside Hayley shouting vocalizations and catchy hooks, the band sound reminiscent of Bloc Party, Foals, and Talking Heads, and more than ever before their love of funk is a prominent aspect of this record’s sound. The title track, “C’est Comme Ça”, and “Running Out of Time” are some of Paramore’s most danceable tracks to date, while songs like “The News”, “You First” and “Figure 8” call back to Paramore’s classic emo inspired pop-punk sound but update it with their more groove inspired sound. This isn’t so much Paramore “changing their sound” as it is interpreting it through the lens of anxious, unsatisfied adults instead of the angsty teenagers they once were.
Now don’t you be fooled by the playful riffs, funky beats, and catchy hooks you silly little goose, because if one thing’s for sure when it comes to Paramore, it’s that they are not okay. Like “After Laughter”, the trio pairs their dancing grooves with unhappiness, anxiety, and depression, but while “After Laughter” used the bright and fun instrumentals as a front to the unhappiness lying beneath the surface, “This Is Why” is very blunt with their dissatisfaction. This is a MOODY record. Not necessarily doom, gloom, and despair, mind you - much of the moodiness of this record comes out in the form of jaded, burnt out, sarcasm and snark. It’s like your friend making a self deprecating joke about their mental health or the state of the world every couple of minutes. Think less a face full of tears and more so an eye roll and a resting bitch face. However, once you’re deeper in the tracklist the record starts to unmask and show some of the heavier emotions underneath. Hayley write about struggling with personal growth, dealing with the constantly awful state of the world that keeps piling onto itself, shitty men who don’t face accountability of their wrongdoings, struggling to accept a positive relationship after so many unhealthy ones, feeling like the best moments are passing you by, and internally dealing with all of your insecurities and the shitty things people have said and think about you and considering whether or not it’s all true. This moody attitude and heavier themes combined with the post-punk instrumentation feels like a meeting point between “Brand New Eyes”, “After Laughter”, and Hayley’s solo albums, and in a way feels like a closing chapter for the second half of Paramore’s career.
Potentially hot take - this might grow to be my favorite Paramore album. I know, I know, it’s very new, but I think this might feature some of the best examples of what Paramore does to date. It’s catchy hooks, great tunes, Zac’s drums are groovy, Taylor’s guitar and production is colorful and playful, Hayley’s voice is still amazing after nearly twenty years, it’s funky, it rocks out, the emotional gut punches hit right on target, the lyrics feel truthful and relatable, and it feels like a natural and fantastic evolution from the angsty kids they once were to the moody, unsure, and unhappy adults they are now. But more than anything, it’s great to see Paramore still have the magic they did years ago and still put out records that are exciting and feel fresh. So many artists in Paramore’s scene either burnt out and dissolved or cashed in to put out soulless, unimaginative records without any heart in them, but Paramore stills feels like they’re putting all of themselves into their music and the result is music that’s up to par if not better than the records that put them on the map. While this is the last album they needed to fulfill their original contract, the moody, post-punk dance party on “This Is Why” shows that Paramore are nowhere close to the end of their prime, with hopefully many years and great albums to come.
Hopefully with the same lineup as well, maybe 🤞