Zachary Gray

‘This Is’ Paramore

Pressed up against the glass of society, Paramore investigates ‘the end’ – whatever that means to you.

This Is Why is the latest piece to the Paramore puzzle and it interlocks with ease, rounding out their discography (thus far) with a new set of anthemic numbers and rattled emotions. A lot has happened in the five-and-a-half years since After Laughter, the trio’s first wholehearted pop project. The landscape of the world was different then; 2017 saw the start of Taylor Swift’s Reputation era, the rise of the #MeToo movement, a summertime solar eclipse, and the birth of Beyoncé’s twins. Between all of that and more, Hayley Williams’ voice cut through: “All that I want is to wake up fine. Tell me that I’m alright, that I ain’t gonna die.” This is how After Laughter begins, not knowing that its sentiment would ring true for years to come, finding its way into life in the wake of a global pandemic, a music industry on hold, TikTok challenges, and a dreary adulthood. This Is Why is an impressive follow-up to that and expertly blends the sights of sounds of the last half a decade, such as “Ain’t It Fun” and the equally literal and figurative “Hard Times,” with the thoughts and feelings of their younger selves – the ones who released “That’s What You Get” and “Misguided Ghosts.”

The songs are big on This Is Why, and even when they’re not, the mark they leave on you after the fact is. For example, “Ç’est Comme Ca” is one of the few tracks on the record with a dullness to it – mostly due to tiresome repetition. However, the repeated chorus and instrumentals mimic that of the lives many of us led in the early 2020s; a life that was bland, draining, weak, and confusing. We were antsy and halted all at once, so maybe we are all supposed to resonate with the verses in between the chorus, the subtle highlights found in a rough period stuck at home. “In a single year, I’ve aged one hundred. My social life? A chiropractic appointment. Sit still long enough to listen to yourself or maybe just long enough for you to atrophy to hell.” There wasn’t too much we could do in 2020 (for the most part) and we may have thought to ourselves “it is what it is,” so it is no coincidence that the French phrase “c’est comme ça” roughly translates to that. If the end is near, what can you do about it? It is what it damn is – let yourself feel, but hold your head up. That is what the trio gets across.

As mentioned earlier, quite a bit has changed (and continues to) in recent years, including our personal boundaries, expectations, and values. On the lyrical front, it is clear that Miss Williams has taken the time to revaluate what she needed to, share what she felt compelled to (Petals for Armor, anyone?), and express what is true: life is not all that bad when you have the right people around you. Using art as a way to cope, as something to lean on, and as a figure of support is not bad thing, but being able to reflect alongside another person? A trustworthy group of people? Humans to go through life with? That is special. “Liar,” one of the warmest songs on the new album, chronicles what a healthy, positive, encouraging relationship is like. It doesn’t even have to be romantic, because the stunning, borderline jubilant production of it makes it universal and not so ‘love-song-esque.’

On “Crave,” inadequacy rears its ugly head in a way that is euphoric, because… well, who knew a banging pop track could remind you that you are enough, even if not for your current self but the future you to look back on and admire? While it’s true that nobody is ever sure of what moments will have meaning, take precedence, and effect us down the line, the darkest of times can still become sought out memories, reminding you that this already short life cannot be taken for granted. Don’t look at yourself nearing the end of a chapter, look at all that you’ve done in the book so far. Your story is never truly finished, so on another pseudo-love letter, Williams sparkles, belts, and croons all at once to another version of herself. She speaks to the young adult in her heart and the young adults listening with: “What if I told ’em that now that I’m older, there isn’t a moment that I’d want to change?” Her energy is infectious, on here and most of the album, and it should make fans want to reflect on their lives at large and the snippets of beauty they maybe once overlooked.

In 2013, Paramore released their self-titled record (a fan favorite). In 2017, Paramore released After Laughter (a personal favorite). The past 10 years have served the Paramore audience hit after hit: “Still Into You,” “Rose-Colored Boy,” and the latest title track, “This Is Why.” None of these songs correlate and yet each of these songs feel like this band, this Paramore. Hit after hit – record after record, really – the atmospheric tendencies of this band remain intact. Older and wiser and groovier and funkier? Yes, they are all of that and more. Punky and heartfelt and edgy and dynamic? It’s who they’ve been and what you should expect. If they tip-toe into new wave, they have one foot in the world of rock and roll, because slick, memorable instrumentation and biting vocals are their veins no matter the addition of bouncy synths.

Thematically, This Is Why feels appropriately adult. The band could never have released “The News” during their Riot! days, but when they play songs off Riot! on stage today, like “Fences” or even “Misery Business,” the tone still holds up. As we get older and evolve, we experience new things that shape how we think and how we carry ourselves, but deep down we still have that overwhelmed, hopeless romantic, occasionally lost, angsty teenager inside of us. Musicians are not exempt from that. Paramore is not exempt from that, and This Is Why is the pinnacle of where these three are in the modern world, in their relationships, and in their career. Sonically, it covers all the bases of what Paramore is and what Paramore was: an emo kid who spends too much time looking in the mirror – intimately, culturally, and socially – and just so happens to have listened to Blondie’s Parallel Lines more than once.