Paramore have come out of the woodwork slowly but surely, while teasing us all along the way. The band had stayed silent since their last tour in 2015 (unless you want to count the band’s cruise ship extravaganza Parahoy! last spring). They hinted at new music in several interviews and social media assumption articles, but only in the past few months has Paramore started to make it known they’ve been up to something special.
The band became the talk of the town again once ex-drummer Zac Farro started popping up on Hayley Williams’ social media. Many rumors started to stir, only to later be confirmed by the band that Farro would, in fact, be performing on the newest record (and perhaps indefinitely). The band started then teasing the album artwork on social media piece by piece, insinuating that a new era of Paramore was downloading.
On April 19th, Paramore released “Hard Times,” the first piece of music since their self-titled full-length in April of 2013. The long-anticipated album Paramore was much more on the pop side than the rock side, but many people found it to be “awesome” and “fun” and “different, but in a good way.” Dedicated fans considered this album to be the band’s biggest breakthrough as they were “doing what they truly wanted to do” and were “finally happy,” especially after the turmoil of the Farro brothers’ departure after Brand New Eyes in 2009. However, this is not the majority response I have seen about “Hard Times” (or the recently released “Told You So”) and the upcoming release After Laughter.
Now, I’ve been a die-hard Paramore fan since Day One. If anyone knows one fact about me, it’s that Paramore are my bread and butter for survival. Naturally, then, I have been receiving the same question over and over again: “How do you feel about the new Paramore music?” Well, of course, I love it, but don’t let my dedication to the band deter you from making a very clear point about the band’s musicianship and development. Let me explain why.
Ever since the release of “Hard Times,” Paramore have consistently been breaking the internet Kim-Kardashian-style. The issue that has been erupting all over social media is Paramore’s new controversially pop sound. Many fans are upset that Paramore are tearing away from their alternative-rock roots, while others are quite pleased with the direction they’re falling into.
Paramore’s sophomore full-length “Riot!” (2007) is the album that ignited the airways as well as their musical career. The album is full of classic pop-punk elements paired with Hayley’s striking vocals and relatable, cathartic lyrics. However, many fans (of Riot-era Paramore) cannot grasp Paramore’s need for growth and new direction. They’re upset by the first note and can’t give the song a chance. As a long-time fan, I was also taken aback by their sound at first. With the release of Paramore, it took me a long time to warm up to songs like “Fast In My Car” and heavily listened to songs more like “Part II” and “Now”. However, I expected them to continue to lead in a more mainstream direction, but not this poppy. Does it upset me? Not at all. Do I feel Paramore is losing touch with their roots? Musically, yes. As a band, not the slightest bit. The lyrics in “Hard Times” are no different than any other record, and the message of After Laughter is as melancholy as ever before.
When prompted during an interview with iHeart Radio, Williams states, “After Laughter is about the look on people's faces when they're done laughing. If you watch somebody long enough, there's always this look that comes across their face when they're done smiling, and I always find it really fascinating to wonder what it is that brought them back to reality. So, that's what After Laughter is.”
Amongst their interviews with highly reputable publications such as The Guardian and The New York Times, Paramore have openly discussed the trials and tribulations they have endured and continue to struggle with while trying to find the willpower to stay in the industry. Collectively Hayley Williams, Taylor York, and Zac Farro have given their honest input about the aftermath of the Farro brothers leaving, the courage in experimenting and changing their sound as a band, the recent lawsuits against the band by ex-bassist Jeremy Davis, and their overall fight for existence in the real world.
At first glance, “Hard Times” and “Told You So” have an indie-pop sound much like their colleagues in Chvrches and Tegan and Sara (who have been through a similar sound development over the course of their career). However, if you pay attention to the lyrics and message behind the music, Paramore are putting out an album more raw and honest than anything they’ve released in the past. To be truthful, I personally believe this album may be the band’s most genius release as it is saturated with irony and contradiction. It highlights the reality of dancing to a sad song. The upbeat and electronic music mask the subliminal messages of barely being able to make it out alive and struggling to see the light of day (a concept very well depicted in the music video for “Told You So”). “I couldn’t imagine putting something on an album that says ‘life’s great, everything’s cool, party with me,’” Williams said in the interview with The New York Times.
Whether you can get down to their catchy tunes or not, Paramore deserve a round of applause for their elegantly portrayed play on mainstream music by weaving in the harsh reality of life and its downsides. The album is not just a mere piece of music being put out in the world; it is a collection of life experiences Williams, York, and Farro have persisted through to make it up to this point together and individually. If the pop sound throws you off, there’s nothing wrong with that--to each their own, right? To say that Paramore are selling out for experimenting with different musical genres (as they have on every album they’ve released), then you have missed their point entirely. I advise everyone, fans new and old, to give After Laughter a well-deserved chance come release day on May 12th. At the end of the day, whether you stick around or not, Paramore is still a band.