Paramore’s constantly evolving sound allows the band to showcase a new facet of their talents, with each successive release. With the exception of their earliest works, Paramore continues to explore new musical pathways in each new album, including their most recent “This Is Why.” The band’s sixth album leans into a more indie sound, while maintaining some of the electronic elements present on their previous album “After Laughter,” which at the time of its release, six years ago, was a sharp departure from their usual rock-driven pop sound. Despite the shifting lineups and genres of the band, Paramore has maintained a distinct sound throughout their almost 20 year career due to the unique voice and songwriting of frontwoman Hayley Williams and “This Is Why” is no exception.
As a whole, “This Is Why” still manages to feel like a natural progression from the band while being drastically different from its predecessors. The sound of this album fuzes Paramore’s pop-punk roots with its more recent electronic leanings and a completely new indie style. Songs like “Figure 8” and “You First” would not feel out of place on older albums like 2009’s “Brand New Eyes” or 2007’s “Riot!,” while “Running Out of Time” and “Liar” could easily fit on 2013’s “Paramore” or 2017’s “After Laughter.” Simultaneously, every song on “This Is Why” feels connected and unique in their instrumentals, which all feature an element of contrast.
Throughout the album, quiet verses are accompanied by bombastic choruses that keep listeners on their toes and detailed soundscapes that allow listeners to pick up on new pieces of the instrumental with each repeated listen. This is most prevalent on the closing song of the album “Thick Skull,” which spends the majority of its runtime building to a soaring final chorus that showcases the vocal talents of Williams, the intricate guitar work of Taylor York, and the polished drumming of Zac Farro. The contrast throughout the song builds tension and makes the final chorus much more rewarding, leading to a satisfying conclusion to the album.
Beyond the instrumentals, Williams’ melancholic and mature lyricism is once again a progression from previous albums that ties this one together. While Williams’ teen angst on songs like the 2007 hit “Misery Business” from “Riot!” catapulted them to fame, her quiet anger that seeps into many of the songs on “This Is Why” feels like a more mature way to voice similar feelings of malcontent. The best example of this is on “You First,” a song about the inevitability of karma in which Williams sings, “Living well is not my kind of revenge/ You should take it from me/Living well is just a privilege/ Thought I’d simmer down as I got older/ Can’t shake the devil sitting on my shoulder.”
Another facet of Williams’ lyrical success is her ability to cover relatable topics, allowing new and old listeners to connect with Paramore’s music. The title track “This Is Why” explores ideas of anxiety about leaving your house and interacting with the world, feelings that were heightened by COVID-19 and impacted a large segment of the population while the world was in lockdown. Williams is not afraid to explore even the most boring parts of her life exemplified by “Running Out of Time,” which tackles the mundane idea of simply not having enough time to accomplish the little things in life, and Williams’ feeling like she is constantly running out of time, which is a phenomenon that impacts all people no matter their position in life. The relatability of this album is refreshing in a world of social media, in which people are constantly exposed to impossibly perfect idealized versions of reality.
Clocking in at a runtime of just 36:12, “This Is Why” is a relatively short album. This works to its advantage as no song feels too long or short, and where previous Paramore albums like 2013’s “Paramore” may have dragged in the middle, “This Is Why” feels concise and powerful. Each song is impactful and unique, leaving no room for repetitive filler tracks.
Overall, the album is a perfect blend of old and new that harkens back to some of their earliest work while still feeling fresh and different. There is a song for every type of Paramore fan on “This Is Why,” along with experimental elements that could bring in new listeners. The combination of Williams’ tasteful lyrics, spectacular vocals, and York and Farro’s excellent instrumentation makes “This Is Why” Paramore’s best album yet, and a continuation of their evolution from “emo” band to alternative rock staple.
Alternative rock band Paramore has been seen as an influence on the genre for the past two decades. This band has been together for twenty years, and their style has changed tremendously over time. As they have progressed from an angsty teen group to a more sophisticated sound, their lyricism, and overall message has evolved as well. You can hear all of this in their newest album, “This is Why,” released Feb. 10. This release is the first from Paramore in the five years since their last album “After Laughter” released in 2017.
The album starts out with “This is Why,” which was also the lead single for the album. On it, Paramore explores classic rock elements and introversion in the lyrics. These lyrics are closely related to the effects that COVID-19 had on our views on life, as they explore anxiety, lack of timeliness, loss of “people skills” that were forgotten as a result of the lockdown, and the stress of a constant news cycle. These themes are mentioned throughout the entire album and this album is closely focused on the continuing impacts of COVID-19 on mental health.
Additionally, this album explores the personal lives of the writers. Hayley Williams, the lead singer of Paramore, delved into her complicated relationship with her fellow band member and partner, Taylor York. Williams expressed in an interview that the song “Liar” is mainly targeted towards York and her feelings about their relationship. Williams expresses this with the lyrics, “Love is not an easy thing to admit/ But I’m not ashamed of it.”
“When something has an ease to it and when something feels healthy and again, like, respectful, it must be wrong,” Williams said in an interview with Zane Lowe. “And I fought that feeling and said to myself that ‘that’s just a convenient thing, you’re just trying to go to where maybe your ego likes it,’ I just made up anything that I could.”
These lyrics in the song “Liar” are some of the best on the album. Williams excels in creating a personal connection between herself and the listener by sharing vulnerable parts of her life. She explores how she is scared of hurting York, if they pursue a relationship, and how she has grown to accept that she loves him.
In addition, Williams utilizes strong imagery, singing “I got too good at fighting chemicals/And dodging arrows I was asking for.” While these lyrics are skillfully curated, the simplicity of the concepts were appreciated. Throughout the track, she is experiencing a variety of emotions about this relationship as she explores denial and her fear of harming York if they pursue a relationship, then acceptance as the song progresses. Personally, “Liar” was the high point of the album as a result of their lyrical prowess and powerful imagery.
While the lyricism utilized in this album is their greatest strength, this album held other strong notes. The maturity of this record and how it corresponds with modern times was a valuable aspect. The variety of the songs, and moods was refreshing. I appreciate how several of the songs accompany classic rock, and others explore sadder moods, and more indie elements. This album encompasses the issues that numerous people are experiencing today, making the songs relatable to a larger audience.
The last track, “Thick Skull,” was the first song written for “This is Why.” It explores self-hatred and reflects on Williams’ biggest insecurities throughout her singing career. This is reflected through lyrics such as “Thick skull never did/Nothing for me/ Same lesson again?” This track was a high point because of its depth and personability— its exploration of self-doubt can be relatable to everyone, and act as a way to comfort Williams as she shares her struggle with this topic as well.
While Williams explores self-hatred in this track, she acknowledges frustration in personal relationships, with the lyrics, “I pick em up and now my fingers are bleedin’/ And it looks like my fault.” Again, this album succeeds in showing progress in emotional maturity, while expressing anger at these issues. This track is very therapeutic in a way, because it conveys when processing traumatic events or relationships, it’s okay to still feel anger for the situation.
Overall, this album succeeds in a lot of ways. “This is Why” delivers a very specific sound, with 80s influences throughout the tracks and some modern production choices. This new style they are adopting is interesting, but, as a new listener, the album wasn’t ultimately memorable after my first listen. As a whole, this album was entertaining but unimpactful.