Nobody makes it out of their 20s unscathed, if anyone should know about that it’s Paramore. Almost six years since their last album, the emo auteurs have returned with an elevated sound and newfound self-awareness on their new record This Is Why.
Paramore are no longer a gang of thrashing teens. Their commercial success over a nineteen-year career has pulled them into the spotlight to pave the way for modern emo and post-punk sounds. Now in their thirties, Paramore has evolved once more. The culmination of each band member’s own personal development and wider relatable experiences has shaped This Is Why, turning it into an album that profoundly connects with their generational audience.
“If you have an opinion/maybe you should shove it,” Hayley Williams trills in the opening title track. The soft drumbeat and distorted guitar riff build a curious and playful start to the album. There’s something retro about the sound that Taylor York and Zac Farro have created with the instrumentals of this album. Each band member has explored their own distinct sound during their hiatus, coming together to actively collaborate on an album that highlights their true artistry as a group.
“You say the coast is clear but you won’t catch me out,” Williams yelps. The title track explores the unpleasant truth that many people have grown comfortable staying inside, particularly those who have struggled with their mental health during the course of the pandemic. Rather than confront the world outside and be exposed to things that have a negative impact, it has become normal to choose to stay inside for fear of “floating like a cannonball,” in public view.
This theme of exploring mental health and self-management persists throughout This Is Why. It’s introspective and personal, moving beyond the band’s prior coming-of-age sound that has ebbed and flowed over the years.
Conversely, “The News” offers a swift gut punch of reality. “War/a war/a war,” Willams wails while the instrumentals strike, building a post-punk battle cry. Opening up the album to a wider reality, Williams’ growth as a lyricist comes through. Exposing the detrimental effects of the constant news cycle, Williams summarizes shared suffering by succinctly singing “every second our collective heart breaks/All together, every single head shakes.” “The News“, “Big Man, Little Dignity“, and “Thick Skull” all accentuate Paramore’s growth as a band. Narrative and storytelling have been replaced with artistic observation. Perceptively exploring how normality is conditioned by the media, Williams rallies listeners with the bridge of “The News“:
And we don’t know the half of it
And all along we call it normal”
Love Paramore? Check out our list of the band’s six studio albums.
Moving through this album, Williams’ abilities as a lyricist continue to shine. The humor of “C’est Comme Ça” highlights her natural wit, an elevated level of sarcasm similar to that of Ain’t It Fun. “In a single year, I’ve aged one hundred/My social life, a chiropractic appointment,” Williams sings conversationally. The cavalier nature of her observations throughout this song pays tribute to the translation of the chorus “that’s just the way it is.” “C’est Comme Ça” offers a fresh pop sound, balancing new wave and indie instrumentals. The upbeat nature of this short track creates a more subtle irony than previous Paramore songs. Being so self-reflective that you can “atrophy to hell” shouldn’t fit into a playful two-and-a-half-minute song but it works in a way that only Williams, Farro, and York can formulate.
Paramore’s audience has shifted since their humble beginnings. With swathes of listeners spanning from Gen X to Gen Z, there’s no stereotypical Paramore fan. The band’s self-awareness of their impact across the general sub-culture of emo has matured since the release of After Laughter (2017). Rather than trying to relive their initial glory they’ve adapted, bringing in their individual personalities and experiences. Coming together to celebrate growth with their audience, making them an inclusive and easy-to-love rock band. It’s impossible to put Paramore in a box because they’ve turned the box on its head and are performing on top of it.
This Is Why is akin to becoming a seasoned thrift shopper in many ways. In the earlier years of Paramore’s career, the allure of being famous and touring with other big pop-punk bands offered great motivation to produce records like All We Know is Falling (2004) and Riot! (2007). Much like the thrill of discovering brightly colored mid-century glassware at Goodwill.
However, as time has gone on the reality of the pop-punk world has lost its sheen. More and more bands have created their own demise, leaving bands like Paramore to question their place in the music industry. As any seasoned thrift shopper knows, mid-century glassware often contains lead, which is harmful in its own way. In their nineteenth year, Paramore has carved out a place for themselves in the music industry, proudly donning thrifted watches that are “just for decoration.” Similar to the seasoned thrift shopper who has learned to support their local consignment stores, keeping a keen eye for a good deal, Paramore has culminated their experiences and life lessons into a powerful and sophisticated album that deeply relates to their expansive and loyal audience.
Paramore – This Is Why Track By Track Review
1) This Is Why
The intricate guitar on the title track introduces a cool new era of Paramore. One that embraces a retro, playful, sound. Simply stating “this is why I don’t leave the house,” Williams captures a truth that applies to generations of fans who have found comfort in staying home since the pandemic.
2) The News
Vibrant and loud, this track enraptures listeners. Poking at the reality of the news cycles, Williams’ lyrics hold a mirror up to the incessant noise we’ve come to accept as normal. Leaving her audience to question the residual negative impact of being constantly tuned in.
This song is punchy and undoubtedly reminiscent of Riot! (2007) with more mature instrumentals.
3) Running Out Of Time
Witty and self-aware, Williams calls herself out, “intentions only get you so far/What if I’m just a selfish prick?” Making light of a relatable character flaw, this track pokes fun and offers a playful respite from the more serious themes of the album.
4) C’est Comme Ça
Williams screeching “I hate to admit getting better is boring/But the high cost of chaos, who can afford it?” is deeply relatable. The contrast between the high-spirited instrumentals and the discussion of regression is so classically Paramore.
5) Big Man, Little Dignity
There’s an ironic ballad quality to this track. The songwriting is the hero of this track, highlighting archaic male power in a calm and melodic way. Williams has opted for poignant lyrics that expose the lack of integrity of men who have historically abused their power. Making it easy for listeners to draw parallels that relate to their own lives.
6) You First
There’s an industrial sound to this track, and warmth that the other songs on This Is Why don’t quite have. The familiar sound of Paramore returns with a higher quality, as Williams belts “Turns out I’m living in a horror film/ Where I’m both the killer and the final girl.” The instrumentals on this track are rich, and the guitar solos are thoughtful and perfectly timed.
7) Figure 8
Undoubtedly the heaviest track on the album. This song is the perfect balance of Paramore’s original grittier sound and their growth into post-punk and new wave. The build-up from the bridge into the final chorus reignites Williams’ powerful vocals that audiences have been missing over the last five years.
Admittedly Williams’ favorite song on the album, “Liar” is This Is Why’s resident lovesong. The gentle instrumentals and Williams’ soft vocals offer a vulnerable view of falling in love. Williams’ wise bridge quavers “Love is not a weakening/If you feel it rushing in/Don’t be ashamed of it.” Smoothly reassuring listeners of the bravery in love.
York’s skills as a guitarist shine on this track. The thoughtful fingerpicking and mesmerizing low solo are the foundation of the song. Williams’ vocals are layered and warm throughout this track, you can feel that the three individual artists came together to create a song that celebrates the present.
10) Thick Skull
Closing out the album, “Thick Skull” is meditative and thought-provoking. Reminiscent of Last Hope from Paramore (2013), this track offers a new level of self-reflection in Williams’ songwriting. There’s a powerful build to the instrumentals in this track that are classically Paramore, combining everything great about their beginnings and their future, making it the perfect outro to This Is Why.