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2nd March 2023

Album review: Paramore – This Is Why

Paramore return to their rock roots with their first studio album in six years, This is Why
Album review: Paramore – This Is Why
Photo: Paramore ‘This is Why’ Official Album Cover

Paramore’s sixth studio album This is Why offers a wisdom that can only come from 18 years of making music, and the hard work to communicate and deliver from the band’s current iteration provides a musically deft and lyrically searing record.

Expectations were high as it’s the band’s first consecutive album without a line-up change, and they have successfully topped the predecessor, After Laughter, with a return to alternative rock and clear intentions to divert away from simple melancholy. Instead, through a slower, more delicate, and emotionally rich record, This is Why features stronger individual tracks that culminate into a more coherent and insightful album.

Paramore came of age in the noughties emo scene, breaking through in 2007 with their album Riot!, which characterised their early message as one of anger, retaliation, and raw emotion. As they’ve moved between genres, from pop-punk to new wave, to After Laughter’s synth-pop, Paramore have been lauded for their influence in alternative music. Their sound can be heard in recent tracks from artists like Olivia Rodrigo, Willow, and Billie Eilish, whilst pop-punk has resurfaced at the top of the charts.

Anticipation for Paramore’s next album following their six-year hiatus, then, naturally built amongst fans. I was excited for a seemingly inevitable U-turn back to their more heavy routes.

I’ve been a fan since 2013 when they released their self-titled album, and the discovery of their earlier music defined my ‘not-like-the-other-girls’ secondary school emo phase. Given that nostalgia for this era and pop-punk are on the rise again, I was admittedly desperate for another angry, angsty, pop-punk album that would have me reaching for the orange box dye.

To my initial disappointment, I found myself wishing the album was heavier, with stronger vocals. However, I think slightly less belts and lighter, more cultivated music works better for the more mature album. Whilst the heavier punk might work well with TikTok microtrends, I’m glad Paramore chose not to play into that or make a fan-service album, even if my inner teen is left wanting more.

The opener, title track, and lead single ‘This Is Why’, starts with scratchy guitars and welcomes you into an explanation of why Paramore don’t want to leave the house. Throughout the album, lead singer Hayley Williams, sings of a tiring world, horrible people, and exhausting cycles in life one may encounter, and the opener cleverly invites you into this shared reckoning.

The next track, and the second single, ‘The News’, however, sent my expectations crashing down. Its message is almost reminiscent of when celebrities released a video singing ‘Imagine’ by John Lennon at the beginning of the pandemic. Williams sings of far-off wars and collective heartbreak, but then just turning off the news to feel better.

Whilst it veers on the edge of being punk, I cannot like this song as it is just too cringeworthy. There’s a sense of irony in the lyric “Exploitative, performative, informative / And we don’t know the half of it”. But overall, the track remains a bad attempt at political commentary. It becomes apparent though, that Paramore are very stressed and want us to know it.

‘Running Out of Time’ builds on this and has the best bassline on the album, with an After Laughter-esque hook that introduces a string of commendable hooks on the rest of the record. There’s also the first unofficial Taylor Swift reference with the lyric “Should’ve, Could’ve, Would’ve”. Whilst I think the track had the potential to go a bit harder, and falls into being monotone in parts, it is relatable and successfully makes you want to dance along.

The next, song ‘C’est Comme Ça’ feeds that desire for a punkier track, following three songs about stress, anger, and exhaustion, it declares that “It’s Like That” (in French), accepting the reality with a catchy song that plays into the classic alternative trope of the “Na Na Na Nas”.

‘Big Man, Little Dignity’ brings the tempo back down, and Williams sings “No Offence…” and then proceeds to completely, and fairly, tear into “men who are not held accountable for their actions”. You can feel, and probably relate to, the pain and frustration poured into this by the band. It’s a track that could easily fit on their self-titled album from 2013 if the music was more alt-rock, and part of me wishes Williams would belt her frustrations to make it so, but in the track’s delicacy there’s certainly a welcome air of vulnerability.

The sixth track, ‘You First’, discusses karma, repeats the message that Paramore are stressed, everyone’s horrible, and so is the world. Overall, it’s a very catchy song, with an incredible hook which features one of my favourite lyrics “I’ll do better when you’re better”.

‘You First’ would fail to hold its own without its high energy hook, especially as it is followed by ‘Figure 8’, which finally has some classic Williams belts and is a quintessential Paramore song, drawing on the synth and cowbells of After Laughter in its opener but delving into heavier rock during the track.

Whilst the sixth and seventh songs build you up, ‘Liar’ brings you back down again as the album begins to round off. It’s on this track that the raw emotion is most apparent, it remains delicate, with lighter but nevertheless impressive vocals from Williams. It feels like a confessional letter, and the anger is directed inward, a subversion of Paramore’s traditional essence of retaliation.

From that, the album exhales. The ninth track, ‘Crave’, has more belts, talks of savouring happy memories and always craving more, even if they are amongst the worst of times. The band admit they’ve romanticised these times, yet crave returning to the pauses, the moments of exhalation, and offer such a pause to listeners as their album comes to an end. It appeals to the desire for nostalgia; it is self-reflective, but less angry than their other tracks. It leaves you feeling like you can breathe out, and again makes you want to dance along.

This Is Why’s closing track, ‘Thick Skull’, is the most vulnerable in its self-reflection. Williams sings she is “Coming out with my hands up” – they have exposed how difficult the past six years have been, how it continues sometimes, and how exhausting modern life can be. Sometimes, realising these things can feel like a hit over the head, as expressed in the chorus of the track.

Whilst This Is Why makes feeling stingingly obvious, the record is a musical luxury that pleasantly surprised me in its relative delicateness. You come away thinking life can be horrible, but you can exhale, and there are always those excellent basslines to dance to.



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