Paramore "Hard Times"
Songs That Defined the Decade

Songs That Defined the Decade: Paramore's 'Hard Times'

"It was all about acknowledging the bulls--t of your own life."

Billboard is celebrating the 2010s with essays on the 100 songs that we feel most define the decade that was -- the songs that both shaped and reflected the music and culture of the period -- with help telling their stories from some of the artists, behind-the-scenes collaborators and industry insiders involved.

You can stop playing “Misery Business,” but you’ve still got to learn to deal with some misery.

A decade after Paramore’s 2007 breakthrough, Hayley Williams was running on fumes. The frontwoman felt worn out and wronged — by the road and by release schedules, by a revolving door of ex-bandmates who‘d left on less-than-amicable terms, once with a thorny lawsuit. The band’s sprawling self-titled 2013 LP produced Paramore’s first Hot 100 top 10 hit, but even the choir-backed salvation of “Ain’t It Fun.” couldn’t prevent the band from going longer without a follow-up album than ever before. For a brief time in 2015, Williams privately quit Paramore.

“‘Hard Times’ was all about acknowledging the bulls--t of your own life,” Williams says. “Accepting, moving through, sometimes defying it.”

Paramore returned in early 2017 with “Hard Times,” a Talking Heads-inspired sonic detour from the raucous pop-punk that had defined most of its career, yet arguably its finest single yet. With all its tropical-flavored dance grooves and schoolyard shout-alongs, “Hard Times” was a rallying cry, a down-but-not-out act of defiance against Paramore’s demons. Throughout After Laughter’s press cycle, Williams was frank about her battle with depression. “It’s crucial for me to write as a form of therapy,” says Williams, now just into her 30s, recalling “Hard Times” lyrics about personal rain clouds and wanting to crawl into a hole in the ground. “It shows me things about my life and emotional landscape I might otherwise overlook.”

After Laughter earned Paramore more critical acclaim than ever before. They’d always been heroes to hair dye aficionados and MySpace-era Warped Tour regulars, but by pushing their sonic palette towards Tame Impala licks and pastel, “Passionfruit” colored-sunsets (they frequently covered the Drake song on tour) their audience diversified considerably.

In another stroke of hard-earned maturity, Williams reenlisted and reconciled with drummer Zac Farro, who’d quit the band in 2010 out of frustration with the frontwoman’s share of the spotlight. Paramore’s original heartbeat restored, guitarist Taylor York -- now the band’s second-most tenured member -- came into his own with his chirpy, tight rope tones threading together “Hard Times”’ every burst and boom. Collectively, Paramore provided a blueprint for 2010s rock band survival; the open-hearted valor that left them rejected by hipster tastemakers years prior was now their celebrated calling card.

“I cried the first time I watched the Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense,” Williams remembers. “The end is very celebratory -- the band is going wild and the camera pans to the crowd… there was a clear mix of white and black kids all enjoying the s--t out of themselves together. I want our shows to feel that way.”

Every one of Paramore’s After Laughter concerts ended with “Hard Times,” its three minutes stretched out to a sprawling jubilee with a mini-cover of Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” during an extended outro. “We’d look around the crowds and see so many different kinds of people: brown skin, tan skin, pale skin, all sweaty and gorgeous,” Williams remembers. “What a gift.”

Songs That Defined The Decade