On Sep. 28, shots of deserted plains and mountains unassumingly end a half-decade hiatus. In come the drums, then guitar and a slow zoom-out on lead singer Hayley Williams informing listeners: “If you have an opinion / Maybe you should shove it.”
This was the beginning of Paramore’s music video for their new single, “This is Why,” their first release in five years. They released two more singles each subsequent month until the album, “This is Why,” named for the lead single, came out on Feb. 10.
The title track is the opener and presents a statement to listeners that the rest of the album slowly and thoughtfully explores: “This is why I don’t leave the house.” This album has a lot to address, with everything that has happened in the world, in music and in the members’ personal lives since their last album.
Last week, the band posted on Instagram, captioning a black and white photo of the three members suit-clad and moody with a bulleted list of experiences the album hopes to explore, including “Righteous Rage,” “Complete and Utter Apathy,” “Moral Superiority” and “Disbelief At The Inconsistencies of The American-English Language.”
The next track “C’est Comme Ça,” French for “it is what it is,” is reminiscent of Alanis Morissette’s “Reasons I Drink.” Both songs are the laments of artists having spent decades in the public eye now feeling it catch up to them. Morisette emotes “The reasons I tell everybody I’m fine / Even though I am not” and Williams explores her frustration that “getting better is boring / But the high cost of chaos, who can afford it?”
The parallels between Williams and Morissette are notable; both rose to fame young, releasing their big-break albums at 19 and 21 respectively. Their albums, “Misery Business” and “Jagged Little Pill,” came 12 years apart, but were both full of grungy, rage-filled scream-alongs for scorned young women.
Written off as angsty teens, both artists have careers full of depth and impressive musical and lyrical productions, and importantly, are both still making music. They are veterans for rockstars, let alone women — Williams is 34 and Morissette 48 — and are releasing songs to match their hard-earned maturity.
This is the sound of 2020s angry-girl rock: grown women, still angry, with an adulthood’s worth of grievances to air.
However, some of this maturity is tempered by Williams’ oversimplified reckonings with the new normal; “Every second our collective heart breaks,” she sings in “The News” before continuing “Turn on, turn off, the news.” This lackluster take on political polarization is uncharacteristic for the singer and the bite fans have come to expect from her. Williams is outspoken across the board. She has been a public advocate of abortion rights, gun control and has spoken openly about her mental health and experiences in therapy.
Her vulnerability shines through in a New York Times profile in 2020 preceding the release of her first solo album, “Petals for Armor.” The article is full of details Williams shared about her reportedly “tortured” marriage, abuse women in her family have faced and various forms of mental health treatment she has undergone.
Less than a year later, Williams released a second solo album, “FLOWERS for VASES / descansos.” A stripped back, acoustic album evokes the similarly pandemic-era “folklore” and “evermore” from Taylor Swift. Paramore, too, had shifted away from its early 2000s pop-punk sound over the years. “Paramore” (2013) and “After Laughter” (2017) saw the band shed the skin it had maintained for their previous three albums.
Her solo albums appeared to be a new career phase for Williams, distancing herself from rock and her band, but “This is Why” is a return to both. The band’s Guitarist, Taylor York, elaborated in an interview with TIME.
“We just kept writing and every song kind of led us somewhere else… we wanted to scratch this itch of playing some rockier music,” York said.
With “This is Why,” Paramore the rock band is back, with new maturity and perspective.
Williams’ vocals are as impressive as ever. “Liar” features soft emotional vocals like those on her solo projects, evocative of the members of supergroup boygenius, who provided backup vocals for a track on “Petals for Armor.” Other tracks serve as a reminder that Williams has been singing pop-punk for 20 years. In “Figure 8” and “Running Out of Time,” she shows off her higher range and a grungy anger, complete with a few powerful screams.
York’s crunchy guitar on “The News” and the classic pop punk sound of the guitar and Farro’s drums on “You First” cement this album as a definitive return to the angsty rock genre they helped create.
Paramore’s impact on the new generation of singer songwriters can not be understated. Mainstream, marketable girl-angst is in, from Olivia Rodgrio’s “good 4 u” and Billie Eilish’s “Happier Than Ever,” to the flourishing alt-indie scene with the likes of Fiona Apple, HAIM and WILLOW.
With a new rock album filled with their trademark venom, Paramore is back and here to stay.
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