They just don’t miss. Paramore’s latest venture into a completely new genre is one of the most interesting moments in the band’s nearly 20 years together, and one of their strongest albums to boot. Hopefully, they stick with it this time.
Release date: February 10, 2023 | Atlantic Records | Website | Instagram | Twitter
It’s hard to properly grasp just how much Paramore has skyrocketed in cultural importance in the six years since the band last released an album. At times an afterthought in the incredibly problematic, sexist, and male-dominated mid-2000s emo scene; it took a while for the band, started by 14 year-old Hayley Williams, to get the recognition they deserved. Fast forward almost 20 years and it could not be more apparent who the most important figure to come out of the Warped Tour days is.
Hayley’s influence is inescapable. Paramore was surprisingly important to the emo-rap boom (especially for artists like Lil Uzi Vert), equally important to indie rock standouts like the boygenius trio, and an ever-growing new wave of popstar devotees like Billie Eilish and Olivia Rodrigo shows that we’ve probably only begun to see the scale of how influential Hayley will end up being. Musically, projects like the band’s newest album This Is Why show why Paramore has had such a broad appeal for so long.
Beyond just Hayley’s influence, the original pop-punk sound that Paramore was known for has come back in full force, and it’s refreshing to see the band completely refuse to take advantage of the trend. Less creative and talented bands from the same era (*cough, cough* Fall Out Boy *cough, cough*) have already announced their return to their classic sound. If Paramore wanted to just make Riot! 2 it would have been one of the biggest albums of the year. Instead, this post-punk change-up shows what should have already been obvious – none of their contemporaries were ever on their level.
The newest sound in the band’s arsenal is far from anything Paramore has ever tried before, yet still right in their comfort zone. This Is Why is phenomenal at mixing in the band’s post-punk influences while keeping a pace that lets Hayley dominate both the slower moments and the energetic ones.
“Running Out of Time” is one of the most creative vocal performances Hayley has ever given. Starting with an almost sleepy vocal delivery to perfectly complement the song’s lethargic themes, Hayley soars on the hook and turns the track into a complete fucking banger. Even the tracks that feel a tad reminiscent of the original Paramore style like “Crave” blend perfectly with the more mature instrumentals.
Hayley’s vocal talent has long let the band mix in pop, electronic, and alt-rock elements at will, and she turned features like “Airplanes” and “Stay The Night” into hits. After Laughter showed just how easily the group could dominate the crop of ’80s pop throwback albums, and vocally, her skills stand out on the group’s latest, more so than ever before.
Title track “This Is Why” has been out since September, and it still hasn’t lost a bit of the off-the-wall energy that a first listen brought. “The News” is one of the best goddamn tracks Paramore has ever released. The blistering pace is incredible, Hayley’s 1-of-1 vocals dominate a damn near math rock beat, and Zac Farro gives the best drumming performance on the project for one of the biggest standouts on This Is Why. As impressive as Hayley’s ability to adapt to new styles is, it needs to be said how wild it is that Farro and guitarist Taylor York crafted both “Hard Times” and the perfectly bitter “You First”, which York especially shines on.
This Is Why front-loads the more energetic tracks, but that doesn’t mean the back half’s slower moments pull any punches. “Figure 8” is by far the liveliest of the last four tracks, with a strangely alluring glockenspiel backing for Hayley’s verses and some classic loud Paramore emo flair on the hook. “The News” is going to be the standout for many, deservedly so, but no track has grown on me more than the album’s closer. “Thick Skull” is a flawless slow burn, and the track takes complete advantage of Hayley’s ability to perfectly move between her vocal range at the drop of a hat and the tracks.
‘Only I know where all the bodies are buried
Thought by now I’d find ’em just a little less scary
Might get easier, but you don’t get used to it
Keep on autopilot, mmm
What’s the body count up to now, captain?‘
This Is Why does have some of the flaws that you would expect from a band’s first try at a completely new sound.
“Big Man, Little Dignity” has the foundation of a great track but it’s just missing… something. It feels like a track building towards a killer breakdown or a great outro, just something that isn’t the beat running for an extra minute. “Liar” is a bit of a whiff as well, but thankfully neither track are even close to being as big a disaster as “No Friend” was on After Laughter.
In an ideal world, Paramore would focus on this sound and iron out a few of the minor kinks they have in what might be their most interesting experiment to date. After Laughter is one of the best projects of the ’80s pop revival wave, but the group switched from potentially ruling that lane. Another style shift wouldn’t be surprising, but it might be a bit disappointing given how much promise This Is Why shows for what Hayley and co. can accomplish here. Either way, Paramore’s more than proven that they can accomplish whatever they put their minds to.