TRACK BY TRACK: Paramore’s 'This Is Why'
With their recent return to touring and the infectious excitement of their recent concerts, it's safe to say the bandParamore has achieved the status of alternative rock icons. Their expansive discography boasts numerous hits that range through several styles, from the upbeat cynicism of “Ain't It Fun”, the screaming hard rock approach to “Misery Business”, to the tender acoustic guitar ballad that runs through “The Only Exception”. The band’s 6th and latest album This Is Why serves as a return for the beloved trio after a 5-year hiatus after their 2017 album After Laughter. The cover of the album also features lead singer Halyley Williams, guitarist Taylor York, and drummer Zac Farro pressed up against a glass screen, foreshadowing the themes of discomfort and struggle that travel throughout the album. With the album featuring 10 new tracks from the band’s highly-anticipated 6th project, let’s dive into the world of This Is Why!
1. “This Is Why”
The album opens with its title track and lead single, setting the mood of the album as a mixture between energetic styles of punk, alternative rock, and some traces of funk. The song’s lyrics also seem to reflect on the effect of the quarantine of the past few years due to the COVID-19 virus. “This is why I don’t leave the house…” Williams announces in the song’s chorus, affirming the themes of fear and uncertainty that contrast with the song’s intricate drum beat and funky guitar chords. The song follows the structure of a series of quiet verses, followed by a sudden blast of funk-infused instrumentation in the song’s chorus. Through the song’s verses, Williams’s lyrics go back and forth in an internal monologue, deciding whether or not to take some sort of action to disturb the dreary routine of staying indoors. With these literal lyrics describing the setting of the album, the tracks that follow “This Is Why” expand further on these intrusive thoughts.
Favorite Lyrics: “One step beyond your door / It might as well have been a free fall…”
2. “The News”
The album’s second track, “The News”, continues the driving immediacy of the guitar from the first track with continued force. With a blissful pre-chorus, the song leads to a howling performance from Hayley Willams in the song’s chorus. The song’s lyrics twist and turn like a swerving car, illustrating a barrage of shocking information that “the news” provides. Williams goes back and forth throughout the verses and the chorus, debating whether or not to turn the news on or off. These lyrics of paranoia and uncertainty continue the themes addressed in the first track, expanding the world of the album to include the events of the outside world and Williams’s reactions. Furthermore, Williams’s vocals steal the show on this track, with her careful balance of crooning and whimsical vocals that contrast her signature screams that captured the hearts of her fans to begin with.
Favorite Lyrics: “A war, a war, right behind my eyes / Right behind them just like a headache…”
3. “Running Out Of Time”
“Running Out Of Time”, the album’s third track, features jaw-dropping vocal deliveries from Williams as well as an unforgettable funky guitar riff from Taylor York. The song begins with a muted electric guitar as Williams begins to reflect on stress and its effect on her mind while being cooped up. The song maintains a driving backbeat through Zac Farro’s drums but introduces an emphasis on a dreamlike guitar tone which returns through songs that appear later in the album. As the quieter, reflective choruses turn to sudden blasts from York’s stellar guitar riff, Williams’s vocals drift from internal swirling thoughts to vocal jolts of energy through her added yelps of urgency. Though the song’s urgent lyrics suggest feelings of hopelessness, through lyrics such as “Nevermind, I hit the snooze on my alarm twenty times…” the listener can tell the whole band had a lot of fun recording this song as the band’s energy is matched through both vocals and instrumentation.
Favorite Lyrics: “Intentions only get you so far / (It was on my list I swear I meant to get it) / A harsh reality to discover, ah!”
4. “C’est Comme Ça”
“C’est Comme Ça” is perhaps the album’s catchiest track, with fun vocals that encourage the listener to sing along. The song begins with a brief introduction of York’s guitar riff before entering the song’s infectious chorus of the repeated French phrase “c’est comme ça”. This phrase roughly translates to “it is what it is”, pointing to the deeper meaning behind the energetic chorus. These deeper themes focus on feelings of isolation and methods of coping as spoken-word verses from Williams touch on her coping methods towards the isolation and loneliness she has expressed in the first two tracks. The song’s later musical break almost draws attention to the darkness of the approaching lyrics while adding emphasis to how melancholy the band’s situation actually is.
Favorite Lyrics: “Lucky for me, I run on spite and sweet revenge / It’s my dependence on the friction that really hinders my progression…”
5. “Big Man, Little Dignity”
On the album’s 5th track, “Big Man, Little Dignity”, Paramore trades the blasting electric song introductions of the album’s last 4 tracks for a somber organ and steady guitar riff. This song’s placement at the halfway point in the album introduces a newer sound to contrast their urgent rock riffs, adding smooth vocal performances from Williams and establishing the use of synthesizers. The track is somewhat laidback, more focused on Williams’s critical lyrics that paint the picture of a heartbreaker man who believes himself to be slick. Her vocals continue to take center stage throughout the song, as a backing chorus effect can be heard on Williams’s blissful vocals. The themes of the track center around manipulation and growth through acceptance, as Williams ends the song realizing that the song’s subject is never going to change.
Favorite Lyrics: “I memorized all your lines, I can’t look away, you’re like a movie I love to hate / I fantasize your demise / I should look away because I know you’re never gonna change…”
6. “You First”
“You First” is one of the darker songs on the album, packed to the brim with jarring guitars that bounce back and forth, thunderous drums, and a strumming bassline. This anthem contains a whimsical pre-chorus from Williams, once again sporting her balance of melody and screamed angst against the driving instrumentation. The song’s lyrics also contain themes of self-evaluation, internal struggle, and acceptance through lyrics. One example of this can be found as Williams almost sneers at the listener during the chorus, proclaiming; “Everyone is a bad guy…” This song excellently juxtaposes the previous song on the album, instructing the listener to be on the edge of their seat throughout the album’s runtime. In “You First”, each band member shines in their own way. This can be heard through Farro’s mind-bending drumbeats, York’s guitar work drifting between melodic and heavy, and Williams’s melodic howls in the chorus. The song’s lyrics of internal struggle with good and evil end with a cliffhanger of a note.
Favorite Lyrics: “Turns out I’m livin’ in a horror film / Where I’m both the killer and the final girl / So who, who are you?”
7. “Figure 8”
“Figure 8” returns to the band’s use of dreamlike synthesizers, mixing in York’s jarring lead guitar lines and Farro’s intricate drumming patterns. The use of imagery in this song shines through lyrics such as, “Tapped the last good vein / Don’t know how to shut it off” and “Candlelight, candlelight / Burnin’ at both ends tonight...” The melodic synth also follows throughout the song, adding hints of blissful beauty to the screamed chants of the chorus “I don’t know how to stop...” Williams also delivers, not only through lyrics that center around isolation and confusion, but the standout chorus overlaid with multiple vocal tracks of Williams’s heavenly melodies. The song reaches its peak after an intense buildup provided by shrill guitars and drums that begin to crescendo. The track ends as the synth begins to grow louder and shrill in the last chorus, adding further emotion to the song.
Favorite Lyrics: “I won’t miss the feelin’ / My flimsy spine, unsuspicious mind / I was only bein’ kind / But you mistook me for weak…”
The album’s 8th track, “Liar”, may be the most beautiful and harmonic song on the album. Through Williams’s whispered vocals and tender lyrics, the song paints a picture of how it feels to fight against feelings and the emotional toll it takes on a person. With the song’s softer instrumentation, “Liar” is perhaps the most notable change from the album’s previous screaming choruses and loud guitars. Throughout the song, the swelling chorus puts further emphasis on the relationship between Williams’s vocal delivery and how it is complimented by the strums of the guitar. This laidback beat provided by the band matches Williams’s emotional vocal delivery and draws attention to the lyrics of struggling against love.
Favorite Lyrics: “Love is not a weakening if you feel it rushin’ in / Don’t be ashamed of it…”
The album’s 9th track, “Crave”, successfully compiles the album’s contrasting instrumentals, marrying the melodic synthesizers and pounding electric guitars of previous tracks into a climactic track. As the song begins with shimmering guitars, Williams continues to prove herself as a showstopping lead singer through her complex vocal runs and blissful harmonies. The song’s lyrics center on themes of needing and fleeting moments of satisfaction, further heard through Williams’s signature high note during the instrumental build up to the chorus. The steady mix of dreamlike synthesizers and heavier guitars can be heard in the song’s final chorus, as a growing blast of sound travels to the song’s conclusion. One notable moment in the song is found in the beginning of the chorus, in which Williams perfectly jabs her vocals of the song’s title, as she sings, “Crave!” This track’s placement as the second-to-last song on the album provides long-time fans with a ballad reminiscent of the beautiful wails Williams delivers in songs belonging to the band’s earlier catalog such as “All I Wanted”.
Favorite Lyrics: “I romanticize even the worst of times / When all it took to make me cry was bein’ alive / Look up and see reflection / Of someone who never gave way to the pain…”
10. “Thick Skull”
The album ends with its 10th track, “Thick Skull”, a song which sounds like an emotional epilogue to the themes of isolation and paranoia established throughout the album. “Thick Skull” immediately begins with Williams’s whispered, almost confessional, vocals and the steady strumming of York’s clean guitar. As the song continues, it is established as a slow ending to a winding journey. This can be heard as Williams’s vocals drift seamlessly from verse to chorus and the absence of drums in the first verse and chorus. However, as the Farro’s drums enter, the track assumes a steady but notable urgency reflected in a louder vocal performance from Williams. Each band member has a chance to shine one last time on “Thick Skull”, through York’s shrill guitar solo, Farro’s emotional additions with his drumming technique, and Williams’s iconic high notes. The song ends with a somewhat melancholy finale, with the lyrics painting a picture of defeat and refusal to learn.
Favorite Lyrics: “Hit over the head, Epiphany, Over my head, Repeatedly, Thick skull never did, Nothing for me…”
What's your favorite track off This Is Why?