Paramore go in new directions on ‘This is Why‘


Paramore in 2018 | Wikimedia Commons

Ezequiel Melian

Paramore has returned with their sixth studio album “This is Why” after a five-year hiatus and solo projects by their lead singer Haley Williams. With more introspection, the band took their sound in a new direction.

No one anticipated that Paramore would phase out of the pop-punk sounds the Nashville, Tennessee, band originated in.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, guitarist Taylor York spoke on how current events and conversations surrounding mental health affected the tone of the record.

The entire world went through a traumatic season that we’re still in and recovering from and trying to figure out,” he said, referring to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This record, there’s a lot more aggression than we’ve had in a while.”

These experiences led the album’s sound toward post-punk, similar to bands such as Bloc Party or Talking Heads.Compared to their last album, there is certainly more punch, rawness and weight that more accurately reflects the band’s mood.

A few years after their self-titled album in 2013, Paramore engaged in a sudden genre change that led to their new album.

The result was the 2017 release “After Laughter” which — along with a new sound inspired by new wave and synth-pop— saw lyrics that drew from Williams’ own personal troubles navigating adulthood and her relationship with the band.

The album’s themes of depression, identity, social pressure and expectation, sprinkled with doses of Williams’ perception of reality and her psyche, created a contrast of serious topics set to peppy music to hammer the message home.

The album displayed a penchant for introspective and mature songwriting many previously thought was impossible for a band with Paramore’s reputation.

The lead singles on “This is Why,” specifically the album’s eponymous track and “The News,” reflect the band’s new sound and substantive approach their music takes this time around. The title track bounces with a funk-inspired bassline and shows its teeth during its chorus, as Williams matches the guitar’s impact with gang vocals as she sings: “This is why I don’t leave the house. You say the coast is clear, but you won’t catch me out.”

Overall, the song paints a view of Williams’ mental state. It includes her perspective on handling the turmoil which plagued the world for the past years coming back to bite her, noting how divided people have become and the rampant tribalism driving her to disillusionment.

Similarly, “The News” carries itself with a propulsive, math rock rhythm as Williams gets political. She sings about the relationship between the overt exposure of the news cycle over atrocities — including the war in Ukraine — and her struggle to actively dissociate from it. The chorus, in an explosive rush of distortion and drums, echoes this sentiment as Williams sings how “our collective hearts break” over these conflicts, turning the other cheek by “turning off the news” but acknowledging ignorance isn’t exactly bliss.

Other tracks on the record showcase more of Williams’ songwriting prowess and the band’s continuously evolving sound.

The lead singer continues themes from the previous album and chooses to delve into more contemplation and self-reflection, whether it be moral dilemma on “You First” or the cynical self-evaluation in “Figure 8.”

In the latter, an opening synth arpeggio gives way to a haunting melody before Williams passionately sings about her discontent with being used and bending the knee, “drained dry” as she despises the person she has become for another’s sake by “spinning in an endless figure eight” and feeling trapped.

But other tracks on the album, such as “Running Out of Time” or “Liar” offer moments of levity for Williams to poke at herself and transcend the insecurities that plagued her by owning up to them, further exemplifying her growth as a songwriter and building a strong contrast between who she is now and her teenage self.

With the album’s closing track, “Thick Skull,” the record is capped off with a slow burn that details Williams’ thoughts on repeating mistakes and being impressionable, while fostering a conviction to push through in spite of it.

It is the best way to close the album, not only because of what it represents stylistically for the band, but also because it shows they are not in the same place they started. It demonstrates a glimmer of what is in store for them going forward.