Paramore released their self-titled album 10 years ago and it hasn’t aged a day. Full of huge songs, dark tones, experimental flourishes and very honest lyrics from the mind of frontwoman Hayley Williams, this is an album that should be remembered for pushing the band forward.
Now is the lead single off of the band’s self-titled album and is seen as the transition from a five-piece into a three-piece. The band had already been through a turbulent time during the recording of their previous album, Brand New Eyes, but what came next would greatly influence this album. Founding members Josh and Zac Farrow would leave the band, with Josh releasing a scathing public letter about frontwoman Hayley Williams.
“The first half of this record … was all about getting to a new place, moving forward. And when we wrote ‘Now,’ by the end of the song I was like ‘We’re there. We got to that point and now we can really focus on what’s next.'”
Most people would give up and hide away, but Williams and the rest of the band, Taylor York and Jeremy Davis picked themselves up and got to work, writing and recording their next batch of songs. The Singles Club EP included four new songs. Two years later, the band released their self-titled album, looking forwards and making the most of a bad situation. What was produced is quite honestly some of their heaviest and most interesting work up until that point.
While NOW is heavy, full of distortion and a battle cry of sorts from the band, with Williams’ vocals howling above the noise, their follow-up single Still Into You is a little more bubble gum. It’s fun, it’s sweet and is one of the few love songs Hayley had written up until this point. It’s still punk as hell and is accompanied by a music video that illustrates what it’s like to be in love.
In retrospect, knowing what is to come, it feels very much like the words of a woman who is still trying to hold this relationship together. She talks about the start of the relationship, the butterflies and their worst nights. It would be years later that we would discover what her relationship with Chad Gilbert was really like. But since then, she performs this for the fans, telling them that she loves them. And that is lovely, I am very glad that one of their best and biggest songs has been able to be reclaimed by the singer.
Daydreaming is a power ballad that really does pack a punch allowing Williams to show off her vocals range. On the album, it acts as a little refresher, along with the first ukulele-driven Interlude, before we get back into the more upbeat songs off of the record, which is their next single Ain’t It Fun.
Ain’t It Fun is full of soul and makes you want to just get up and dance upon hearing it. Along with Williams’ stellar vocals which are shown off in a completely different way here, it is Taylor York that takes centre stage. York began developing the song on his keyboard and brought a bass guitar and xylophone to the recording. Both he and Williams began working on layering vocals before recording a six-person choir instead to really bring that Southern gospel sound to the record.
You can already hear a new partnership forming during this song, by taking away everyone around them Williams and York begin to figure out their own style of writing. This would hold success for them throughout the rest of their careers. Both artists push each other in new and innovative ways while bringing a new perspective to the table that will never feel stale.
Paramore’s self-titled album is often not spoken about enough but it is one of the best this band has produced. It shows how much the group has grown while still retaining that punk rock sensibility that made them popular in the first place. This is also the album where we get to hear the first moments of the partnership between Hayley Williams and Taylor York, who will become a force to be reckoned with. Yes, they have written together throughout Paramore, but this is truly just the two of them. Maybe one of the best songwriting partnerships in a very long time.
The album is broken up into four sections, with each one being divided by an Interlude, each with its own name, Moving On, Holiday and I’m Not Angry Anymore. All these songs are performed by Hayley Williams on vocals and Taylor York on ukelele.
The first four songs include both NOW and Daydreaming. It’s the opening track Fast in My Car that packs the punch, it’s punky, loud and experimental. It’s angry as hell and flows fantastically into the even heavier and angrier sounds of NOW. From there, we go to the No Doubt-inspired beats of Grow Up which utilise a Caribbean backbeat, mid-tempo guitar and synthesizers. Lyrically it takes about outgrowing the things or people you used to associate with and how that is ok, even if it’s sad. This flows nicely into Daydreaming.
Interlude: Moving On is up next, a jaunty little number accompanied by a ukelele. It encompasses the first part of the album while giving you a small refresh before moving on to the second part of the album which feels a little more experimental in style. Moving On is an important moment for the band, making it very clear that this isn’t the Paramore you’ve listened to before. They are growing and evolving.
Ain’t It Fun flows into Part II which is a new take on Let The Flames Begin, from their softmore album RIOT. Part II is dark and loud and the place you can hear the influence of Sousix and the Banshees the most during this album. That punk, goth, new romantic vibe of the song is a slight departure for the band but something that feels very at home with Williams’ powerful vocals. Lyrically it is more complex than Let The Flames Begin, here she talks about a spark that is a theme that flows through into the next track Last Hope.
Williams here talks about thinking she would be happy by now but that there is always something that will keep her going. Last Hope flows effortlessly into Still Into You, a pure love song. It’s very interesting hearing her talk about being unhappy and then her relationship in the next song. In hindsight, it really works and was an intentional but odd choice at the time. But after sadness comes happiness, am I right? Anklebiters is just a pure pop-punk anthem that always makes me happy. Williams’ voice is rough here, but in a good way, it’s raspy and powerful and really leans into her punk rock roots.
Some people wanna pull you down and say you’re wrong,
But you keep fighting and say, ‘No, this is who I am.Hayley Williams, Kerrang! Magazine
Interlude: Holiday is the next ukulele-driven track which feels more chilled out than the previous songs. It is laid back with an island vibe that really puts you in a good mood and longing for a holiday. Now we enter the third section of the album with the song Proof, another rip-roaring punk rock anthem that also has hints of stadium rock. It makes you want to belt out every line as the chorus ascends into a beautiful crescendo of passion as Williams talks about missing the person she loves.
Hate to See Your Heart Break slows things down and is an absolutely stunning song not just lyrically but also musically. This is another standout on the record from the Willams/York songwriting team being melancholy in tone while also really showcasing Williams’ vocal range. this song was written by Hayley about Paramore guitarist Taylor York, who during the process of writing and creating the album was going through some very emotional low points in his life.
(One of Those) Crazy Girls is Miss Williams “If your nasty” at her most unhinged while also being one of the few songs she has written that doesn’t directly pull from her own life experiences. It’s tongue and cheek in all the best ways while highlighting how a painful breakup can make a person crazy. Lyrically it follows the protagonist of the song going through a confusing breakup, we’ve all been there, and then going on a complete rampage of ‘crazy’ behaviour as she wrestles with her feelings of being blindsided. It’s heartbreaking but also a song that is perfect for any broken-hearted person. Put it on and turn it up loud people.
‘(One of Those) Crazy Girls’ is a very sarcastic song. … Writing ‘(One of Those) Crazy Girls’ was really exciting for me because I felt like I got to express how I view, No. 1 I wanted to write a break-up song without it being a real break-up song. But No. 2 it was kind of cool because I live around guys all the time so I constantly hear like, ‘Aw man, that girl is crazy.’ And I know that everyone has the capacity for crazy. Everyone is crazy. So I wanted to go there in my head and kind of make fun of the fact that girls get portrayed as this crazy thing when they go through a break up. … It comes more naturally for me to write sort of sarcastic, or sort of a little dark and put a twist on it.”an interview with Paramorefans.cz
Interlude: I’m Not Angry Anymore is the last ukulele-driven song on the album and speaks to my soul on a whole level. I think we all have those moments where we are working on ourselves and trying not to be angry, but we are still. Holding onto those things is just human nature, which Williams admits in this song. Healing is a work in progress and is a real insight into the mind of Hayley Williams and her depression that would be discussed more in-depth in later musical outings.
This is illustrated again in the second to last song on PARAMORE, Be Alone which is a big rock anthem in its sound and delivery. The song is about Hayley spending much of 2012 as a loner, getting to know herself better while navigating LA. it is critical of the people around her while also being quite self-deprecating in parts. It feels like Williams is trying to find herself and love herself. We should all love ourselves for the good and bad.
Future is the last track on the album and is the first step in the band’s choice to have the last track on their following albums be the most experimental. This song was a happy accident with Willimas having started writing it around the time Josh and Zac left the band.
She kept coming back to it but never intended for it to make the album. After showing it to Taylor York, she saved it in her voice notes, later the band would record it, with the fragmented lyrics from Hayley and spend the rest of the song, at around the three-minute mark, jamming and just having a good time. What it resulted in is one of the band’s most experimental and underrated tracks, with its quiet and raspy vocals complemented by the heavy guitar work that feels frantic. Definitely a deep cut from the band but one of their best.
It was important to the whole the record to be an ode to the future. I guess that song, long before we got ready to really write the record, shaped my thought process, where we were headed and where we needed to go. I was so tired of rehashing the past. We were doing so many interviews at the time about what was going on in the band and all of this black, negative stuff. I was just over it. So, it was a little song that got us through a lot.”
Paramore: Deluxe Edition
The re-recording of Hate to See Your Heart Break features Hayley Williams’ long-time friend and member of The Civil Wars, at the time, Joy Williams. This is the first time the band have collaborated with another artist on their album. Both women’s vocals bled so well togther and bring a whole new meaning to the song. While the orginal is about Taylor York this version has been discribed by Hayley as an ode to “close friendship between women who share their stories with each other, and who lift each other up and understand one another.”
I love that I got to sing this with someone who I have shared my pains and my stories with for quite some time.
Escape Route was originally released as a Japanese exclusive track before making its way to the deluxe edition of this album, lyricley it deals with Hayley moving on from the Farro brothers’ departure from the band. Hayley wrote on Paramore.net that it was the first song the band started, but the last they actually finished.
The song was ultimately left off the album because the band felt it too closely resembled their old sound. It’s a fantastic song that harkens back to the first three albums but doesn’t quite fit their Self Titled Era. In saying that it is one of my favourite tracks from the band and despite it feeling very RIOT! it has a maturity about it that Paramore didn’t have at the time.
Native Tongue is the third bonus track and is a lot heavier and punkier, feeling more like the band they have morphed into during the making of this album. It was written by Williams and York and feels very much like a song about them and their friendship, the pair have been friends and collaborators for years at this point and having their own language as songwriting partners is a key factor in the evelution of Paramore. Here, lyrically, Hayley addresses the messy and convoluted story of the band, and how regardless of all the struggles they’ve faced, they have found the music that binds them together.
Tell Me It’s Okay is the final bonus track and is in fact a demo of a song the band wrote but never got the chance to record for the album. Instead, we get this punk rock masterclass from the band that feels raw and real. I think had they re-recorded this for the album it might not have packed the same punch as the demo version does.
This is another song that Hayley talks about her struggles with happiness and depression feeling like a real precursor to what we will hear in their 2017 release After Laughter. She talks about doubting herself, faking smiles but how she always tries to be ok, to be happy.
The rest of the tracks on this album are all live recordings from the band’s show at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, Colorado which took place on 12th August 2014. Of all eight tracks, I would recommend Part II which is better live than on record, if that is even possible, The Only Exception which shows off Williams’ softer vocals. Ain’t It Fun is also a great one from this live collection of tunes, with Williams’ and the band having fun, you can hear it.