Paramore Make Their Case on the Fantastic 'This Is Why'

BY Wesley McLeanPublished Feb 10, 2023

Paramore's trajectory has been quite incredible to behold. Outlasting most of their peers in the mid-aughts emo/pop-punk bratpack, the band has seen some of the most consistent and continued success of any act from that era. On the flip side, they've seen more changes, shake-ups and internal turmoil than most of their peers, having never maintained the same lineup for back-to-back releases until now.

Hayley Williams, Taylor York and Zac Farro struck gold together on 2017's After Laughter, tapping into the neon aesthetics of the '80s and crafting a record equally suited to dancing or crying. It was a pivot away from the alternative rock, pop-punk and emo sounds that characterized their first four records and saw them heading in a new direction. Diving head first into new wave and synth-pop, bearing strong influence from acts like the Talking Heads and DEVO, not only did the LP earn them heaps of acclaim, it cemented the group's status as a premier band of their era and broadened the scope of their sound in a major way.

With This Is Why, the trio returns, expanding their sonic identity even further and crafting a record deeply rooted in post-punk and art punk traditions. While it's apparent that the band has taken influence from acts like Television, Siouxsie and the Banshees and Bloc Party throughout the record, they approach these new textures in ways that feel unmistakably Paramore. Never veering too far into their forebear's worlds, the trio instead use them as a foundation to build on and make their own. 

This Is Why is easily Paramore's most mature release to date. Williams has spent the last few Paramore records, as well as her solo efforts, sharpening her talents as a songwriter and allowing the work to feel increasingly more personal. As a result, This Is Why houses some of the most intimate and vulnerable moments of her career; for the most part, the album explores her anxieties and insecurities, as well as the jaded existentialism that she's experienced in the pandemic's ongoing clusterfuck.

On top of her songwriting being at its peak throughout this record, her vocals are better than ever. The range she displays in just a 36-minute runtime is beyond impressive; while she's always been an incredible singer, This Is Why finds her deepening her craft even further and exploring luminous new inflections and deliveries.

The album's lead single and title track is a funk-laden post-punk romp with a plucky bass line and an infectious hook. It's a fun, catchy track with an underlying sense of sarcasm as Williams explores the pitfalls of our current social climate, trying to avoid vitriolic discourse and keep to herself. The song also speaks to Williams' experience as a public figure and a woman in entertainment, having to deal with opinions on her and her art from the public, and the ensuing anxiety resulting from it.

"The News," the album's second single, sees Williams further dissect the current societal state, and her relationship to everything happening in the world. The track is punchy and fast-paced and features another earworm of a hook, where Williams' proclamation that "every second our collective heart breaks" hits like a lead pipe to the chest. The song's second verse deals with the residual guilt of witnessing all of the atrocities that come across one's timeline or news feed from the comfort of their home, and is especially potent in the wake of the seemingly weekly tragedies reported across the globe ("Far, I'm far, so far from the front line / Quite the opposite, I'm safe inside / But I worry and I give money and I feel useless behind this computer").

The two songs that follow, "Running Out of Time" and "C'est Comme Ça" are a pair of songs that dial things back to a more personal scale, and function as something of a two-part missive. "Running Out of Time" is the first-person account of somebody bogged down by perpetual procrastination. It serves as a reflection on the damaging effects of their selfishness and the true weight of their intentions, as they examine how they choose to move through the world. The track features some interesting concepts sonically, as each verse begins with a simple bass riff and some light drums, and the instrumentation gets increasingly dense as the instances of being late or underprepared pile-up. It does so until reaching a soft, reflective bridge led by twinkling guitar that bleeds into a heavier chorus, embracing the chaos of this behaviour.

The track is followed up by "C'est Comme Ça," which sees Williams recounting the toll that a year has taken on herself and her mental health, and examines her need for general disorder as a means to constantly be in a state of improvement. The verses are delivered as a tongue-in-cheek spoken word reflection on the regressive nature of her coping mechanism, while the hook brushes everything off, as the repetition of "C'est comme ça" or "it is what it is" dismisses any critique of her behaviour, again flourishing in the destructive nature of her actions. The pair of songs share a similar perspective on disorder, and both come from the point of view of somebody who has an almost incessant tendency to get in their own way as if it were their nature.

"Figure 8" is a standout in the latter half of the album, as well as being one of the few moments reminiscent of Paramore's pop-punk/emo roots. Williams details a relationship in which she routinely became a version of herself that she dislikes for the sake of the other person. The chorus comes in so abruptly and is sung with so much power and emotion that the sense of resentment for this person, and herself for allowing this, is palpable.

Album closer "Thick Skull" is a beautifully sung but rather distressing track on which Williams explores her tendency to make the same mistakes repeatedly and never learn her lesson. The instrumentation feels reminiscent of the Pixies' "Where is My Mind?" with its distorted guitar riffs and heavy drum fills, which is a fitting influence given the tone and concept of the song. It's a phenomenal closing track and one of the best moments on the album.

This Is Why is undoubtedly Paramore's strongest work. At only ten songs and a 36 minute runtime, they left little room for error and made not one mistake. Paramore have once again delivered an album that shows that they cannot be placed in a box, and have shown us that this is why they've been able to maintain such continued success and longevity.

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