From apocalyptic headlines to horrible men shielded from accountability, Paramore covers the full spectrum of modern despair in their stunning new album, “This Is Why.” After years of championing the emo genre, the group made the controversial choice to shed their punk rock roots in favor of 80s synths and glitzy pop in 2017’s “After Laughter.”
Now, after a lengthy break from the spotlight and nearly two decades into their career, Paramore uncovered their best sound yet, and with it released their best produced, most ambitious and experimental record yet. “This Is Why” consists of a concise ten tracks, and while this makes for a nearly flawless record, one can’t help but long for more of this wonderful new sound now that they have unearthed it — especially after such a long hiatus. Well, here is hoping for a deluxe edition soon.
“This Is Why”: Starting off on a high note
Paramore began this new era with the fantastic lead single “This is Why” back in September. As the opening and title track, it remains the album’s funky yet cynical thesis. The song “This Is Why,” like the album, is a homage to a much more grown-up type of angst than the kind Paramore sported in their youth. It is also one of the few great post-quarantine tracks with its themes, which include existential dread and agoraphobia. These are tackled in a way that feels specific to the times without being tacky or dated.
“Running Out of Time”: The SpongeBob soundtrack, but make it Paramore
Unlike the previous track, “Running Out of Time” takes on an incredibly relatable struggle of adulthood that for some reason no one has thought to write a catchy hook about — poor time management. Thankfully, Hayley Williams is wise enough to realize that the mundane isn’t always unnoteworthy, and that’s what makes “Running Out of Time” so great. The song has some delightful creative elements, like in the second verse where Williams shouts out excuses — “there was a fire!” — while soft vocals are layered underneath admitting how false those claims really are — “metaphorically.” Another great element is the instrumentation — which many fans have pointed out shares an amusing similarity with the ukulele soundtrack featured in “SpongeBob.” It’s funky, catchy and oh-so relatable.
“C’est Comme Ca”: The album’s weakest moment
“C’est Comme Ca” starts off strong. Williams opens the track with a gloomy spoken narration chronicling what feels to her like her life’s gradual, painful decay. “In a single year,” she drawls, “I’ve aged one hundred.” As the song goes on, she admits that she craves the disorder and self-destruction of her youth, and finds the stability and healing she’s worked so hard to cultivate in her adulthood to be boring. It’s a bleak but achingly relatable premise that fits perfectly with the album’s overall theme. The problem is the track’s chorus. Sing-talky hooks are great when done right, but when not they’re downright annoying. The first time Williams sings the hook “c’est comme ca,” it’s fun and poppy, but by the fifth time in the same chorus, it’s already tedious — and tagging a series of high-pitched “na na na’s” onto the end doesn’t help. Still, the track has its gut-punch moments, particularly in the bridge, which contains some lyrical gems like “I hate to admit getting better is boring / but the high cost of chaos, who can afford it?”
“You First”: A welcome blast from the past
“You First” is a fan favorite, and for good reason. There are many moments on this album where old Paramore and new Paramore come together, but never have they illustrated a mastery of their old sound as perfectly as in “You First.” It’s not just the sonic familiarity that makes this track feel like teenage Paramore, with York and Farro fully rocking out on the instrumentation as loudly and defiantly as ever. It is also the lyricism too — calling “everyone a bad guy” is a very emo, black-and-white take — heavy on the black — that screams “Riot!” and “All We Know is Falling.” But God, if the world does not feel that way sometimes.
“Figure 8”: A heart-pumping but melancholic rock-out moment
Don’t let this track’s loudness distract you from the fact that it’s one of the album’s darkest moments. The production is phenomenal, with an eerie, electric motif and a sweeping, heavy chorus that crashes into you in the best way. Farro’s drumming is nothing short of breathtaking. Paired with Williams’ belting vocals, it results in an especially emotionally cathartic moment in the final verse, where the two feel completely in synergy as they give it their all. By the end of the recording they were probably out of breath, and you can’t help but feel like you’ve had the air knocked out of you too.
“Liar”: Proof that Paramore does quiet moments as adeptly as their loud ones
Every Paramore album features a stunning, emotionally devastating ballad, from “Misguided Ghosts” in “Brand New Eyes” to “26” in “After Laughter.” “This is Why” maintains this tradition with the gorgeous, dreamy “Liar.”
“Crave”: A breathtaking career achievement
Here is not only an album highlight, but a career highlight the members of Paramore can contently rest their hats on. “Crave” is a gorgeous meditation on yearning, an ode to the present moment that eludes us as quickly as it greets us. If you listen to nothing else from “This is Why,” let it be this one.