Graphic by Michael Kearney.
Following a six-year hiatus, the ever-evolving rock band Paramore entranced listeners on their new record This Is Why — a body of work that touches on themes of growth, vengeance, yearning and dissociation. With members Zac Farro, Taylor York and lead vocalist Hayley Williams, the American band has trekked through an array of sounds with every new release — This Is Why is no different. Since the band formed in 2004, Paramore has curated a discography that guarantees a memorable song for every type of listener, whether they prefer heavy pop-punk anthems or melodic new wave bops.
The group of agitated teenagers were signed to Atlantic Records after being discovered in Franklin, Tennessee. They released their debut album All We Know Is Falling in 2005, taking the emo/alternative rock scene by storm. At the time, the band consisted of its current members along with bassist Jeremy Davis and guitarist Josh Farro. The album entranced young emo enthusiasts, burning another album into their iPods and updating their profile theme songs on MySpace. Drenched with heavy electric guitar riffs, punchy drums and enraged vocals, All We Know Is Falling fuses these elements together to emphasize the grief, loss and conquest of everyday relationships. The album successfully captured a dedicated fanbase, setting Paramore on track to become a world-famous rock band.
Paramore’s 2007 sophomore album Riot! — the true catalyst to their renowned stardom — rose to the top of the listening charts, reaching the Top 100 albums in the United States. Riot! captures the raw, regurgitated feelings of angst during the writing phases of the album, with Williams describing the term ‘riot’ as “an unbridled outburst of emotions.” The breakout album enhanced the initial vision of All We Know Is Falling, being better produced both melodically and lyrically than their debut album. Charged with cult classics like “Crushcrushcrush,” “For a Pessimist, I’m Pretty Optimistic,” “That’s What You Get” and lead single “Misery Business,” the album proves Paramore’s rightful place in the grunge atmosphere.
After two years of riding the Riot! train, Paramore widened their punk-centric discography even more with Brand New Eyes — the younger yet more mature sibling of the previous two albums. With lyrics that dive deeper into personal experiences and songs produced with new acoustic sounds like “The Only Exception” and “Misguided Ghosts,” Brand New Eyes began to show the band’s urge to shift and explore new genres. As the emo/punk scene started to lose popularity in the 2010s, the album’s closing song, the cathartic and climatic “All I Wanted,” serves as a finale to the 2000s emo era — in the most vulnerable way possible. A redefined Paramore was to come next.
Starting the new decade with their 2013 pop-rock self-titled album allowed the band to grow from their niche, emo audience to an even broader one. Before production and release, the Farro brothers left the band, and Paramore was comprised of solely Jeremy Davis, Taylor York and Hayley Williams. With lingering hints of punk and gushier instrumentation choices, like xylophones and violins, Paramore served as a great medium between their punk background and newer pop ambitions. Williams hones her vocal range especially well in the album. Interludes with Williams’ stripped-back vocals contrast her chanted voice on the fiery anthems like “Now” and “Part II,” showcasing her growing vocal maturity. The Grammy-winning single “Ain’t It Fun” and critically acclaimed “Still Into You” brought a new surge of listeners to their discography, leaning into Paramore’s newfound pop focus.
Their fifth studio album After Laughter dives into Paramore’s softer side. It taps into genres of synth-pop and new wave, immersing listeners into a relaxed and heartfelt state of mind. With the reunion of Zac Farro to the group, he provided After Laughter with a musical direction similar to his psychedelic and indie pop band HalfNoise. The bubbly summer-infused album lacked substantial punk elements, which upset a great deal of their older fans. However, the album did chart on Billboard 200 after release, appealing to a new audience. Years later, Hayley Williams went on to release two solo projects, Petals for Armor (2020) and FLOWERS for VASES / descansos (2021).
With the announcement of This Is Why, the album’s sound and production were a total mystery to fans. Was it going to be pop-centric, like After Laughter? Or would it resort back to Paramore’s roots? As the singles rolled out, it was difficult to exactly tell what their intentions were. The lead single “This Is Why” captures hints of After Laughter with funky guitars and a laidback bridge that plays along with vocal layering. Months later, “The News” was released — a total switch in tempo that fixated on clashing and drilling instrumentals, an homage to Paramore’s initial essence. The third single “C’est Comme Ca” adds a little boogie between looping phrases that bathe in high-energy euphoria, celebrating new wave influences. The clashing of styles between the three singles polarized the fanbase, further adding to the mystery.
This Is Why drags the listener through the full range of Paramore’s sound, highlighting post-punk derivatives, alternative rock foundations and new wave spinoffs. Paramore reemerges in a way that sounds mature — a modernized version of their decade-old self-titled album that walks the line between punk and pop elements. Rolling Stone perfectly described the band as matured “emo adults,” and Paramore has been able to garnish their highlights over their discography to shape This Is Why into a retrospective, post-punk piece.
The fourth single “Running Out Of Time” compliments the tempo and lyricism of “C’est Comme Ca,” playing with Williams’ poor time management skills and lack of control over life. New experimentation to their production is shown in the songs “Big Man, Little Dignity” and “Figure 8,” which both open with woodwind instruments not typically heard in Paramore songs. The jazz-influenced former highlights men who don’t own up to their actions, while the latter complements it in a painful cyclic rage, spewing Williams’ personal turmoil from these men.
The second half of This Is Why bombards the listener with “You First,” heading face first into Williams’ splitting internal dialogue — a complicated mix between grungy and groovy sounds. The pace of the album decelerates as “Liar” recounts the relationship between Williams and York, with her first feeling wrong for falling in love with a band member but then being grateful for it. The song likens love to war with imagery that illustrates “fighting chemicals and dodging arrows” or even trying to put the “pin back in the grenade.” The wistful lovesong stands out as a territory not often witnessed in Paramore’s catalog.
“Thick Skull” and “Crave” help close the album to thread the connections between This Is Why and the history of Paramore. The slow-burn “Thick Skull” unravels Williams’ insecurities and self-blame throughout her career in a cathartic crescendo. This Is Why is their last album under the same contract they started with, and Williams feels the need to unleash her demons and leave these troubles in the past. Contradictory to this, the yearnful “Crave” immerses itself in nostalgia, with Williams longing for the days of her youth and the beginnings of her career. Paying homage to the painful vocals present in early albums, as well as Paramore’s ever-evolving sound, she tightly sums up these feelings in the bridge:
Any second, feel the present
Future and the past connectin’
This Is Why is a full circle moment for the band. It showcases their reformed outlook on music, drawing on many themes and sounds visited in their previous albums, while adding in new instrumentations and lyrical components. Paramore’s ability to diligently transform their musical production over the decades has led to their famed success and an everlasting impact on the music industry. They have adopted a diverse, dedicated fanbase that weaves between punk, alternative, pop and rock backgrounds, forever living up to their name of being a paramour to all.