Petals for Armor – Hayley Williams
Okay. So I’m finally doing this. I’ve written plenty of reviews before but never really this casually, or on music. If you’ve known me for any length of time you would know how incredibly special this record is to me. To help split this up I’m going to do a section on what led up to the album, then one on each song, a summary of each part, and finally an overall album section. God save my soul, this is going to take a while.
Hayley is an incredibly strong woman. That simple fact is the centre of how I view this album. Anyone who has followed the music of her band, Paramore, will know that her emotional life has been a rollercoaster. Over the years, she’s been high, low, and shaken it all about countless times. When they wrote “Riot!”, the main premise was pretty much rage. Its something we’ve seen a lot in her lyrics, and the band’s music. They were built on rage, and they’ve been from expressing it directly, to giving a more indirect outlook on the concept, on their own rage, and on the place that it has led them. “Brand New Eyes” saw yet more of this key emotion, from Hayley in particular, and marked the crucial absence of Zac and Josh Farro from the band. The brothers had been integral, and Hayley saw it as a betrayal. “The Single’s Club” expressed that betrayal beautifully, and was the wave that they rode into what I would consider their most special album as a band, their self-titled. This album discussed their current feelings of confusion and desperation, their outlook on future, past, and present, the way they had acted in the past and where it had gotten them. After Laughter, the follow up, while featuring mainly upbeat indie pop, was actually, when more deeply analysed, a representation of Hayley’s, and the band’s lowest point. The lyrics to this album are the most deeply personal lyrics of any Paramore song, and dive directly into Hayley’s experiences with depression and feeling hopeless. And that leads us to now. 2020. After Laughter has been out for three years, and certain names are floating around. Despite being the most obsessed fan I know, I had only started listening to Paramore, and music in general, after the release of After Laughter. I had never experienced a new release. And I suppose, really, I still haven’t experienced a new Paramore release. A strange Instagram account, followed by Hayley’s manager. That was odd. A mysterious image of flowers, a video of butterflies. A website. And then the announcement. She exhaled. Running through a forest. Simmer. It was coming.
I made my poor parents sit in the room with me, watching the YouTube premiere. They had to pretend to be interested while I bounced around in my chair and cried a little, waiting for the song to come on. And then, after the agonising wait of one timer and then another timer because YouTube does that for some reason, the song began.
Simmer sets the tone of the album immediately. The bass begins, the tsst, tsst ka, ahh (sorry I don’t know how else to describe it haha), and then that deep exhale. Shit is REAL now. This song is coming straight from the bottom of her chest. It begins, and immediately she cries; “Rage”. Remember how I spoke about rage? This song is about rage. Its an emotion we’ve all felt, and Hayley has seen from every angle. If anyone is qualified to speak on it, its her. Simmer describes perfectly the way that we have to deal with this primal emotion. The instrumentation to begin with is simple, yet incredibly impressionable, the percussion is soft, yet the rhythm, slowly but surely chips away at you. “You think that you’ve tamed it”. Hayley has tried and failed to douse her rage more times than she can count, and we see her frustration here; “But it’s just lying in wait”, “Is it in our veins?”. There is no escaping it, no matter how hard she tries to remain calm, this is how she always ends up feeling. There isn’t much to say about the chorus, its catchy, hard hitting, and maintains the same anger as the verses. Perfect for a first single. The second verse is when this song really starts to punch. Hayley’s ex-husband, Chad (most definitely not a Chad fuck that dude), single-handedly planted the seeds for this one. “If I had seen my reflection as something more precious, he would’ve never.” He could never have done what he did if Hayley had loved herself more, and respected herself. She is almost blaming herself here; spitting on her own lack of self-dignity. Here is where it really gets me, though: “and if my child needed protection from a fucker like that man, I’d sooner gut him, ‘cause nothing cuts like a mother”. The idea of having a child with Chad, something she had likely considered, is completely and utterly disgusting to her now. Hayley has never once sworn before. That should tell anyone who isn’t a Paramore fan the impact of this single on release, and you can see it, adorned in history by the internet, this line. A fucker like that man. As if she would ever let him anywhere near her child. She would sooner gut him. Simple, and perfect. This is the rage that she’s speaking about. That is the rage that has driven her all of this time, and that is what makes her strong. The song calms slightly moving into the bridge. The song is about simmering down, and letting go of her rage. Keeping calm; what she’s tried to do all of this time. The whispers that have been heard in the background of the track, and in the trailer for the song begin to take over, and I cant help but squirm as I listen. Then boom. Chorus. Here it is baby!!! Its Petals for Armor!!!!!!
Leave It Alone
Content warning here. This song is about grieving. I don’t recommend reading this part of the review, or even listening to the song, if that makes you uncomfortable. Leave It Alone is the epitome of a tearjerker. The main premise is that after all the years of rage, depression, and suffering, Hayley finally feels happy. Then her grandma died. Yeah. That’s the song. “Don’t nobody tell me that God don’t have a sense of humor”. It’s just unfair, that’s kind of all there is to say about this song. When I say it makes me cry, its not particularly that it moves me, in the way the closer, Crystal Clear does. It just, sort of… sucks. Its beautifully written and produced, but there is no element of hope to it. It differs from the rest of the album in that sense. Its not about growth or strength. Losing a loved one sucks. And its inevitable. The bridge describes this perfectly; “If you know love, you best prepare to grieve. Let is enter your open heart and then prepare to let it leave.” I didn’t even realise Hayley had such a low note in her vocal range until this song. That says something, I think, about what the song represents. The fans didn’t talk much about this one. I don’t think anyone really wants it, me included. We’re all going to lose someone sooner or later. That includes you. I would presume at least one or more people popped into your head when I said that. I’m sorry about that. Good luck leaving it alone, I suppose.
Okay, on a much less solemn note, FUCK YEAH! I love this song! Its about being free! And embracing your femininity! Fuck yeah! This one isn’t about raging at your ex-husband or crying over your dead grandma! This theme carries on through the whole album, its what I discussed at the start and its what I’ll discuss at the end. Hayley learnt a lot about who she is from her therapist. I believe it was a comment from her therapist that led to the name of the album, and a lot of it’s floweriness (pardon the play on words). Soop didn’t like the lyrics to this song, if you’re reading this fuck you Soop all my homies hate Soop, they’re great lyrics just kidding ily but also they are great lyrics so fuck you still kinda. The start of this song is when the experimental side of the music starts to pop out, with odd, almost sensual harmonies and vocal tones, into this weird, almost psych pop aesthetic? I’m not too sure how to describe it, but cinnamon is awesome. Its sort of about being alone, and going crazy, but in a good, confident way. “Talk to my dog, he don’t mind”. Just taking this moment to note that I love Alf (Hayley’s dog). “Eat my breakfast in the nude, lemon water, living room. Home is where I’m feminine, smells like citrus and cinnamon.” Being alone, Hayley is able to be herself unapologetically. Its terrifying and blissful, but she can be who she wants to be. The bridge of this song, on its own, is a highlight. “If ever I let you in… Cinnamon” BUM! And then in the music video she starts dancing with all those freaky clones and the bridge bops “I’m not lonely babe, I am free”. Yes! She’s gone crazy but she sounds pretty happy about it so yes!!!! I love this song. Its probably my favourite in part one.
So this is a real freaky one. The sound makes my spine crawl a little. To be honest, I’m just kinda glad that its not me she’s singing about, haha. Must suck to be on the receiving end of that. Musically, I can’t say it’s a favourite of mine (on the album I mean, overall it totally is), but it has some incredible lyrics! “Poor little vampire baby, we bleed holy water” There’s a bunch of vampire imagery in this song, which is pretty cool. I’m not even gonna lie, I’ve got no idea what the hell she’s talking about, but its cool as shit, so I’m just kinda rolling with it. “Don’t you know that I’m a moon in daylight?” She stands out, she may be a moon but she can shine anywhere. “You hate the taste but you don’t want to forget it, uh. Just keep on suckin’ on the memory of him.” I still don’t know what she’s talking about but its pretty damn creepy, and aaaa I kinda like it idk its weird help me my spine is tingling okay that’s creepin’ I’m done with this one I feel like I’m on LSD I’m moving on lmao
Hehe it’s the horny song, horny Hayley she’s screaming about being horny. Its another weird one in terms of music, its cool, she screams a lot and I like that. “My gentle giant, painful reminder”. This pre-chorus has really pretty harmonies in it, and its almost sad? If I had to guess, I’d have to say that feeling stimulated this way is painful to her, because it reminds her of old feelings. That would explain the lyrics of the bridge, “Won’t fit in the room, big balloon, trails me, and I can’t let go. Everywhere I am, it sticks close like a friend. Just like him. Just like him.” The idea of these feelings tagging on like a big balloon is a great metaphor, its light, she doesn’t always notice it until it won’t fit through a doorway. I can’t say who or what exactly its about, but I would guess that she’s able to push it to the back of her mind, until she experiences an intimate interaction.
That brings us to the end of part one! Of the three, its probably my least favourite, but that certainly doesn’t change the impact that it had, on both me, the rest of Hayley’s fans and the mainstream media! Simmer was a huge radio hit, and the rest of the part was a huge success with fans. Stylistically, I would call this part the least consistent, it sort of goes all over the place, almost like she put the songs that didn’t really fit very well here to keep them out of the way. That was fine though, as every single one moved me in one way or another. At this point the album really starts to sore to knew heights, as it becomes harder to pick and choose favourites, and every single song becomes so incredible. Part one was an excellent start to an excellent album.
Ya ya ya ya ya ya ya! What a great song! Catchy, gorgeous lyrics, and a bang to start off our second part. Somewhat separately from the rest of the song, the opening lines majorly caught me and a lot of fans off guard. “Alright, it took me three days to send you this but, sorry… I was in a depression. But I'm trying to come out of it now.” As far as I can tell, this has nothing to do with the song, its just a note that she sent to Daniel James (who cowrote the song) that she was coming out of her depression, and decided it was something she wanted to leave in. I don’t have much to say about it, other than that it shows her strength; she can keep writing even when she’s in that state. I’ve actually heard the original topline for this song, which you can find on her Instagram. A rare opportunity to hear the talent of her and James, who produced for her, in making the little voice note come to life in such a beautiful way. She begins talking about a dream of being underwater. A lyric that stands out to me every time I listen, “Dyed my hair blue to match my lips. Cool of me to try (Pretty cool I’m still alive).” You can almost hear her laughing at herself. Knowing the state that she was in when she wrote it, its quite bittersweet. The chorus differs significantly in tone. Its about moving on from someone, in a strong way; she’s reflecting on how shitty she felt, and how she made the right choice by moving on. The whole song, though, almost feels like her laughing at herself. “Why was I with you all that time? Why did I try that?”. Its bittersweet, as I said, but its better than if she were regretting it. The last thing of note on the song is the bridge. Its difficult to gauge how I feel on this repeated line. “When I said goodbye, I hope you cried.” The natural reaction is sort of that this is cruel and unnecessary. But thinking back to the way that Hayley has been treated, and how she’s had to feel, you really can’t blame her. It’s a great line to repeat, she sounds slightly unhinged and I think it works really well.
The opposite to After Laughter, this is a very positive, happy, loving song that’s written like a sad one. My friend is generally considered a weaker song, but I strongly disagree. It’s about Brian! We love Brian. The co-founder of Hayley’s hair dye company, Good Dye Young, and the friend that has stuck with her all of this time. She talks about her relationship with him, and how they are irreplaceable. I would agree that its probably musically one of the weaker tracks in the part, however this doesn’t stop it from shining in other ways. It is one of the first fully positive tracks on the album, and marks the beginning of the uphill path that Hayley is taking with the album.
Another heck yeah!!!! This is just a feel good, pump it up, work out track. Push your limits! Overcome it! YEAH! Hayley actually has a short workout video that she did to this song, which I think is quite brilliant. I believe the inspiration for the track is to help depressed listeners to get through those feelings, and encourage them to push through and keep living. Not much to complain about there! It shines musically and thematically. There isn’t all that much to talk about in detail, but that in no way makes the song worse! Sometimes simple does the trick, and this is one of those times.
Roses/Lotus/Violet/Iris, for me, is probably the highlight of the second part of the album, very closely followed by the next track, Why We Ever. In essence, I would call it a crucial core of the album. It is placed in the very centre, and I think it encapsulates the idea of Petals For Armor perfectly. If I had to pick a theme for the song, I would call it womanhood. The first stanza is, in my opinion, one of the most hard hitting openers on any track in the album. “I have seen your body, and I have seen your beauty. They are separate things. Pretty, pretty, pretty things.” Its pretty simple, but it sends the message she was going for beautifully with a nice pretty bow. A person is more than their body. It’s a message we hear a lot, but there is a slightly different spin on it here. Hayley says that both the subject’s body, and their beauty are pretty. The following few lines have one of the prettiest harmonies I have ever heard. As I was listening, I thought about the idea of a harmony. It’s a simple tool, like a knife. But when used effectively, it can also be a deadly weapon. In this song, Hayley brandishes her knife flawlessly. The backing vocals are almost screaming, on top of the calm, quiet lead vocal. It creates a beautiful contrast between beauty and strength, a representation of both the song and the album. The lyrics of the chorus, while repetitive, do not lose a shred of power. “Roses Roses, roses, roses, roses, roses, show no concern for colors of a violet. Lotus, lotus, lotus, lotus, lotus, hopes it won't spark envy in your irises.” Roses and violets are in reference to the poetic cliché, “roses are red, violets are blue”, and the idea of flowers, or outside of the metaphor, women, comparing themselves to each other. The critique of such a common line has a difficult to find power, and really strengthens her argument here. The second half, involving lotuses and irises, speaks to the opposite. Using iris as a play on the eye, it further reinforces the idea of women being forced to compare themselves to others and be afraid of each other. The second verse speaks more directly for a moment, with “Think of all the wilted women who crane their necks to reach the window”. This describes the way that flowers grow towards light (called a phototropism, if you were interested ;3), and uses it in comparison to the way that women are forced to grow and change themselves in a certain way, “cran[ing] their necks”. “Ripping all their petals off, just ‘cause.” This is reference to the famous daisy scene. She constantly calls on references to old classics, to show that women have always been expected to change themselves, to the point where they lose what they once were. “watch me bloom” is a line that we will hear a lot in the penultimate track of the album, Watch Me While I Bloom, and signifies her accepting herself and blossoming into the flower that she wants to be. Finally, the bridge, and the most beautiful part of this beautiful track. “And I will not compare other beauty to mine. And I will not become a thorn in my own side. And I will not return to where I once was. (Gorgeous belted vocal here) I can break through the earth! Come out soft and wild.”
Why We Ever
This is one of the most emotional tracks on the album, and Soop’s personal favourite; for good reason. Musically, it is this awesome, jazzy, sort of pretty, like, god I don’t even know its just amazing please listen please. The first verse captures the vibe pretty well, the song is a ballad, its about forgetting someone in her past. “How do you sound? What do you look like now?” Its quite heart wrenching. Is she trying to move on? Or go back? Its frankly hard to tell, and I think that’s done on purpose, because by the sounds of it she was trying to figure that out too. The chorus, aside from being a whole ass BOP, is pretty simple. “I can’t seem to remember why we ever felt we had to say goodbye.” It really picks up a sort of jazzy ballad feel and it sounds incredible on the Sunday Session, I recommend looking that up if you haven’t seen it. The bridge/outro is the most tear-jerking part of the song. Its all about being alone. “Tried to keep myself from hurting. I don’t know why anymore.” God. What a depressing line. And this is coming from the new, mature Hayley, who has seen and done so much, who has experienced so much, and this is the sentiment that she came out with. Why bother trying to avoid pain? Just learn to deal with it. She then goes on to quietly repeat “I just wanna talk about it. Sorry for freaking out.” For a long god damn while, so yeah. I cried, and what?
That’s it for part two. And look at that!!!! It was even better than part one some how. This is the part where we really start to see the message of the album. It’s coming from the depths of Hayley’s psyche, and it is truly about her growth and strength, as a person, as a woman, and as Hayley fucking Williams.
These next two tracks are musically INCREDIBLE, and I would call them the easiest to pick up and dance to. Pure Love is actually my mum’s favourite song on the album, which she says sounds like Michael Jackson? I’m… not so sure about the Michael Jackson bit, but I definitely see why its her fave! As for the lyrics, Pure Love is about opening up to each other, in order to have a healthy relationship. This is difficult for Hayley, based on the way she talks about it. “If I want pure love, must stop acting so tough.” Another line that stands out to me is in the bridge “Guess I oughta clean up these bloody fists if its alright.” Similarly to Simmer, this refers to the past, where she lived in a state of anger constantly. Finally, she does some awesome fucking belting at the end that makes me want to actually rip my hair out.
This song follows on perfectly from the Pure Love, just as much of a bop, and just as positive. This one has lines like “My feet won’t touch the ground beneath me” that makes me genuinely DESPERATE to dance, you can’t even imagine. Another touching line is “Its easy to see how people stop believing, ‘cause everyone I know’s got a broken heart. And though I’m still picking up my pieces, you make me wanna give it another shot.” Its honestly just super cute and happy, and I love it. The last thing of note for me is the harmony on “I was always on my way, to *him*,” its so pretty!
Sugar on the Rim
This is a pretty sudden turn, its easily one of the most odd, experimental songs on the album, but its still a great song. Even if it’s a little weird, its catchy, and gets stuck in your head. Its another song about her new partner, which is the entire premise of part three. This whole part is so cute, happy and hopeful, and I’m so glad she’s able to feel this way now. A line that sticks out is “Do you taste old shame when you lick my wounds?”, the opening line. Her partner now is clearly giving her what she deserves, and I’m truly thankful for that.
Watch Me While I Bloom
This is my second favourite song on the album. It has more of those sensual belting notes from cinnamon, and it follows the same theme as R/L/V/I, except instead of talking about women, she’s talking about her. Only her. This song is about Hayley’s growth as a person, and what she thinks we can learn from it. It is a great bop, has a great message, and is an all around incredible song. Out of the entire album, I find it stuck in my head more than anything else. This is the song that I would choose to lift me up when I feel down.
Crystal Clear is my favourite song of all time. This probably seems a little bit silly, but I don’t think I actually want to talk about it here. I was talking to my friend today, and I said that sometimes, my feelings for something are so abstract, and so beautiful, that rationalising them with words almost dulls them. And I don’t want to risk that happening. This is a special song for me. I urge you to listen to it, if no other song on this album. Listen to Crystal Clear.
Part three is all about Hayley’s new partner, and moving on from her old feelings, growing and moving on as a person, opening up, and becoming the best her that she could possibly be. It is the definition of a hopeful, positive ending. I hope her life continues on the path that is set.
I had planned to have a big section at the end here to cover the entire album, but to be honest I don’t really think its all that necessary. Similarly to what I said about Crystal Clear, I would argue that the album has a special power that can’t really be put into words. If it isn’t the same for you, that’s okay. We’re all different. That’s a crucial message in this album, we’re all different, we’re all special, and no one should ever have to apologise for that.
Rating? 0/100, she spelt armour wrong.