Image C/O Atlantic Records
By: Molly Baziuk
Paramore’s most recent album This is Why is the band’s big comeback after a 6 year hiatus and two solo albums from the band's lead singer, Hayley Williams. So the question is: did the new album make the cut?
This is Why seems to be exactly what today's youth needs if they're looking for an angsty way to kickstart 2023. It's true, punk is back and Paramore has delivered. While the album isn't perfect by any means, you can be sure there is plenty of that classic Paramore punk sound sprinkled with the typical daring vocals of Hayley Williams.
This is Why is clearly different from other Paramore albums, but has taken inspiration from their previous works reminiscent of their 2007 album Riot! and self titled 2013 album, Paramore. The one thing that seems to set it apart from the other albums is the maturity felt from the band who started when Williams was just 16 years old. With a now 34 year old lead singer, things are going to sound different. In general, the album is a bit more grounded in its sound. This can be construed as both a positive and negative aspect of the album as one of Paramore’s notable qualities is Williams’ manic vocal technique. The grounding of the album sees Williams’ voice on the backburner with more focus on the music’s complicated and creative instrumentation. The change has caused a degree of backlash towards the band with reviewers stating Williams had “monotone” of “boring” vocals in several songs. What it really comes down to is the fact that the band has matured and is digging into more serious and grounded topics causing less need for the flippant vocals that once defined their sound.
With topics ranging from current world crises to existentialism and presence, the band has delved deeper lyrically than ever before. This is not to say there aren’t lyrical mistakes. In the second track “The News,” Williams is almost too direct with lyrics talking about war and technology topics that have been echoed far too much by other artists especially since 2020. It becomes a bit unoriginal, but not to Williams’ fault, the world is clearly in crisis and it should be sung about, just maybe with a bit more tact. On the other hand, their fourth track “C'est Comme Ça” seems to sprinkle in more original ideas with lyrics depicting social angst and aging. At one point in the song, Williams describes her social life as a “chiropractic appointment.” This felt fresh, and the spoken verses gave off an almost Talking Heads-esque feel to the song. On their penultimate track, “Crave,” lyrics depict an existential angst that is all too relatable to listeners. It speaks authentically about what it means to desire true presence and the pain of being stuck in the past. The complicated ideas of the track really make it feel very original and emotional.
Instrument-wise, there are some serious show stoppers on the album with guitarist Taylor York and drummer Zac Farrow really showing creative direction. When it comes to most creative instrumentally and vocally, the three star tracks on the album have to be the titular track, “This is Why,” and their sixth and seventh tracks “You First” and “Figure 8.” “This is Why” is the band’s first single and is conveniently placed as the first track on the album. It sets the scenery for what the rest of the album will express, the fear of leaving one’s comfort zone and trying to manage life in a world full of fear and noise. The lyrics coupled with a surprising alt-rock chorus definitely make the track worth a listen. “You First” and “Figure 8” go very well together as well with Zac Farro really shining in both tracks. The complicated instrumentation of both songs give the whole album a more creative backdrop with “You First” probably being the catchiest most classic Hayley Williams chorus on the album and “Figure 8” giving a familiar sound reminiscent of Paramore’s Fifth album, After Laughter. The track is the most instrumentally creative on the album and actually gives the listener a feeling of spinning in a figure 8.
This is Why is fresh. It has everything listeners need to feel validated about world crisis and angst with catchy riffs and a classic Paramore feel. If you are looking for a more alternative punk vibe with creative direction, this album is for you. It is not perfect and there is nothing insanely profound about it, but Paramore succeeded in originality and will surely create an even greater influx of punk buzz in 2023.
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Ryan Ford '23,