Perhaps no album from a band in recent months has been as anticipated as Paramore‘s sixth studio set, This Is Why. The group, which currently consists of lead vocalist Hayley Williams, guitarist Taylor York and drummer Zac Farro, released their poppier, ’80s-tinged LP After Laughter in 2017 and later, took a break that resulted in the trio trading the sadness behind their rose-colored glasses for anger — and for what feels like the first time, political discontent.
“Everything is political, and it’s either politicized to a degree that maybe isn’t fair or it just inherently is political,” Williams said in the group’s recently Billboard cover story. “Even if I tried to not say one word about anything political [on the album], I think it was just in the DNA. It was in every conversation.”
And the group tackles the issues seamlessly, albeit with a new groove that sounds equal parts fresh and familiar to new and old fans alike. This Is Why‘s title track (also the first on the record) establishes the band’s mission statement, critiquing society’s lack of empathy and the human tendency to be unyielding with our beliefs. Follow up singles “The News” and “C’est Comme Ça” expands, with the former heaving an exasperated sigh at current events and the latter taking the aftermath with a resigned shrug of the shoulders. The preliminary songs the band offered — and the album as a whole — cut the weight of their themes with a danceable, punk leaning edge.
While there are no definite skips on the album, certain tracks of the group’s newest offering in years do stand out a bit more than others. Here is a preliminary opinion on every song that appears on Paramore’s This Is Why.
Want more on Paramore’s new album? Click here to read Billboard’s cover story with the band, in which they talk at length about This Is Why.
"This Is Why"
Despite being the last track written for the album, “This Is Why” not only serves as the album’s official opening thesis, but also offers a less-than-pleasant look back at these past few pandemic years. Williams expresses discontent at people’s inability to make or accept a nuanced take — a popular point of discussion amongst many users of social media — but instead of allowing herself to be bothered by a perceived lack of empathy from others, she drops out of society altogether (hence the song’s relatable line, “this is why I don’t leave the house”). For a mission statement, parts of the chorus and the respective verses lean hollow, especially considering it’s the album’s first track.
Losing your way in life never sounded so good. “Figure 8” sees Paramore returning to some of their grittier, noisier roots, with Williams telling Lowe the track was one they felt excited about because they “had yet to write a heavy song on this as this iteration of ourselves” while working on the record.
The deeper cut shows off the band’s sheer lyricism, with the first verse alone dripping with metaphors of blood, pearls and addiction before the chorus even sets in. The chorus recalls elements from their 2011 track “Monster,” only more frenetic and desperate as Williams clamors to reclaim the lost pieces of her identity. The chorus, while impactful, feels clipped and as a result, doesn’t quite reach strength of its framing verses.
"C'est Comme Ça"
“C’est Comme Ça” served as This Is Why‘s final single, and amongst die hards was easily the most polarizing of the three preview tracks. It isn’t hard to understand why: Williams’ spoken word verses feels like a full departure from anything Paramore has ever done sonically, but is the reason why the track is so interesting to listen to. The repetitiveness of the “na na na”s in the chorus might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but the tightness of the chorus’ instrumentals and stickiness of the bridge — during which she provocatively admits, “I know that regression is rarely rewarded/ I still need a certain degree of disorder/ I hate to admit getting better is boring” — more than makes up for it after a few listens.
“Crave” feels like a particularly poignant track in light of the pandemic — the nostalgia and related longing to experience the highlights of life again, daydreaming of a time where friends, fun and laughter were at the center of the conversation and the wistfulness these feelings held often resulted in getting a sense of nostalgia for something that didn’t even happen yet. “I romanticize even the worst of times/ When all it took to make me cry was being alive,” Williams sings, revealing that she can’t help but skip a few steps of enjoying herself due to sheer anticipation: “You say, “Live in the present”/ I’m already dreaming of how it begins.”
Any vagueness found in the album’s title track all but dissipates by the time “The News” rolls around. Aggressive guitar work from York and incredibly tight drumming from Farro serves as the perfect backdrop for Williams’ vocals, which brims with tension and threatens to bubble over, as her sense helplessness — at the state of the world and within herself — becomes unshakeable. “I worry and I give money and I feel useless behind this computer/ And that’s just barely scratched the surface of my mind,” she muses, feeling bad while in an advantageous position — two poignant lines that accurately sum up the 2020s thus far.
"Big Man Little Dignity"
“Big Man, Little Dignity” may be one of the most chill songs Paramore has ever done, but beneath its breezy production lies a biting wit that packs a serious punch. Williams berates the subject of the track with subtlety, landing the insults in a manner so reserved, you need to rewind to make sure you catch each line (see: “Your subscription to redemption has been renewed/ You keep head high, smooth operator in a s–t stained suit”).
Given Williams’ recent openness regarding her mental health in recent years, lyrics like those in “You First” are really no surprise. The singer grapples with damnation and can’t seem to shake the persuasive devil that lies on her shoulder (“Who invited you?” she asks it) — but sometimes giving into one’s vices feels a little too satisfying, as mirrored in the track’s euphoric, synth-driven pre-chorus. Such bad behavior comes at a price, Williams preaches (“Karma’s gonna come for all of us”), and the thought-provoking banger shows her desire to be placed back of the line come judgement day.
"Running Out of Time"
Everybody say, “Thank you, Taylor Swift” — because without the “Anti-Hero” singer’s friendship with Williams, Paramore fans most likely would not have received one of the best tracks on This Is Why. After taking a trip to Swift’s abode, Williams was struck with the realization that her life was not together — “‘I can barely remember to send someone a card or flowers,'” she recalled in an interview with Zane Lowe. “There are still Christmas gifts at my house that I have not sent to my friends.”
“Running Out of Time” explores all the should’ve, could’ve moments that plague one’s existence. Williams delivers this painful truth in cheeky confessions — not boldly proclaimed, but under her breath, reminiscent of the little white lies we’ve told others (everything from “There was traffic, spilled my coffee, crashed my car” to “There was a fire/ Be there in five”). With a pounding groove, funky basslines and serotonin-boosting mini-screams from Williams hitting at just the right moments, “Running Out of Time” is easily a standout, and one of the most accessible tracks on the record.
The beginning of “Thick Skull” doesn’t betray how cathartic of a listening experience it ends up being by the second half of the song, a real feat considering the band wrote it day one in the studio. Shoegaze-influenced guitar, thundering drum beats, and even Williams’ own piano-playing create a diverse instrumental backing. Meanwhile, the song’s lyrics build up to an explosive moment where Williams screams into the void, giving one final kiss off to the insecurities she’s endured and internalized throughout the band’s 20 year career.
Paramore’s past album releases always includes a slow burner, but none of those tracks have ever felt as intimate or personal as “Liar.” Williams ruminates on her lack of openness in a relationship that quietly strains in light of her own dishonesty; twinkling guitar instrumentation surrounds her voice like a warm blanket as her true feelings unravel and fall to the floor in soft ribbons. “Love is not an easy thing to admit/ But I’m not ashamed of it,” Williams finally allows herself to acknowledge by the song’s bridge, which shapes up “Liar” to be one of the group’s most emotionally mature and self-aware tracks to date.