Paramore’s long anticipated album, “This Is Why”, released Feb. 10, was a welcomed and highly anticipated comeback for the band’s fan base of former (and current) angsty teens.
After several years in the 2000s of watershed successes like “Still Into You” and “Ain’t It Fun” as well as features on the “Twilight” soundtrack, the band experienced a period of transition, evidenced in the cancellation of their European tour due to “internal issues” and eventually the departure of the Farrow brothers and bassist Jeremy Davis. After Zac Farrow’s return to the group and another decade of petty drama, Paramore is back and ready to tell us the “why” of where they are today.
Paramore’s most recent release before “This Is Why” was their 2017 album “After Laughter.” The long hiatus was a period of antsy waiting for many a Paramore fan, but I myself had largely forgotten about the group whose hit “That’s What You Get” is responsible for much of the current damage to my eardrums after countless listens at a much-too-high volume. When I heard that the album had come out, however, I was excited to reenter the mind of my middle-school self and bare my soul alongside lead singer Hayley Williams’ voice.
The beginning of the album sets a tone of (shocker!) angst, frustration and overall fed-upness with an unspecified subject, which I can only presume is to be interpreted as both the listener and the general public. “This Is Why” is an anthem for the anti-social homebody, one that touches upon the themes of anxiety and isolation characteristic of the pandemic era.
But rather than being fed up with the regulations of distancing, Paramore is done with us, the world. This generalized grievance against all of humanity transitions into a targeted condemnation in the album’s next track, “The News,” an attack on major media and the general consumption of televised “trauma porn.”
The overall frustrated and punchy sounds of the album are mellowed out in “Big Man, Little Dignity.” With a message similar to that of P!nk’s accusatory track, “Dear Mr. President,” the lyrical accusation combines with a slower, melodic instrumental background to produce less of a finger-pointing “fuck you” and more of a disappointed appeal to the potential of the “big man” to be more than an integrity-lacking sellout.
In the next track, “You First,” Paramore steps off of their moral high-horse and admits to falling victim to pettiness, jealousy, greed and all of the unattractive “bad guy” behaviors and thoughts we all experience. The chorus stays particularly true to this brutally self-aware transition because rather than ever correcting their karmic missteps, Paramore hopes that the karmic retribution “comes for you first.”
“Liar” is the album’s softest track, most reminiscent of old hits like “The Only Exception,” staying true to one the band’s favorite lyrical themes: heartbreak. In contrast to the screams of the surrounding tracks, the gasping vocals of “Liar” are pained, begging for an ear that will listen. The sadness of “Liar” transitions smoothly into the longing and nostalgia of “Crave,” an homage to the uncertainty, despair and — you guessed it — angst of being a young adult still learning to navigate the world. Despite the struggles and the hurts, Paramore craves to “do it all again,” exalting the pained adolescence for what it is: a fleeting moment in a long life story. In the album’s final track, however, we are reminded that the state of inexperience and the journey of maturing are constants, regardless of age. After maturing, learning to recognize the evils around us and within ourselves, we are still foolish, mistake-making kids with “thick skulls.”
My reaction may be the result of my own personal history with the band, but the sounds of “This Is Why” — rather than fully transporting me back to brooding on the schoolbus as a preteen with poorly-executed winged eyeliner — connect my present, ever-angsty self with my younger self, full of emotions but unable to articulate them. Hayley Williams’ voice is still visceral and emotional, and as a listener, I can’t help but experience what her words and tone convey: fury, frustration, confusion and heartbreak as a maturing woman unsure of how to be and how to feel.
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