After Five Years of Introspection, Paramore Returns With ‘This Is Why’

Paramore returns after five years with an album blending their recent pop era with their classic alternative rock foundation.

Paramore’s “This Is Why” is both an evolution and a sonic return to form for one of the most iconic rock bands of the past two decades. 

After a five year hiatus, “This Is Why” is the band’s sixth album. Their first three, released between 2005 and 2013, are a journey of adrenaline with almost non-stop alternative rock instrumentation. “Paramore” — their self-titled fourth album — was the band’s first foray into mainstream pop with singles “Ain’t It Fun” and “Still Into You.”

The band’s 2017 “After Laughter” was a radical departure for the band. With a neon, ‘80s-inspired album cover and sound, the band leaned into upbeat musicality while maintaining their trademarked heavy lyricism.

“This Is Why” seamlessly blends both genres.

The lead single and titular track opens with a funky bassline and a steady drumbeat that builds as the song progresses. Quickly entering are the soft vocals of lead singer Hayley Williams. With multiple lineup changes since the band’s incarnation, Williams and her instantly identifiable voice has been the band’s lone constant.

“If you have an opinion / Maybe you should shove it / Or maybe you could scream it / Might be best to keep it,” Williams sings to open the album.

Second track “The News” is a reflection on the “collective heart breaks” the world faces on a regular basis, with Williams often opting to tune it all out. The song’s speed is reminiscent of their earliest work, but they quickly slow the album’s pace down for the intro and verses of “Running Out of Time.”

Throughout the track, Williams is constantly trying to complete simple tasks — walking her dog, giving her neighbor flowers — but fails, because she doesn’t have the time.

“C’est Comme Ça” — French for “it is what it is” — continues the tone of the last track and is rife with little quips, recounting the irony of life through the pandemic, during which Williams released two solo albums.

“In a single year, I’ve aged one hundred / My social life: a chiropractic appointment,” she sings.

“Big Man, Little Dignity” features Williams’ voice at her best. She goes from talk-singing to screaming and everything in between. Opening with lines reminiscent of a romantic ballad, she quickly turns the song on its head by blankly criticizing toxic masculinity.

“I memorized all your lines / I can’t look away, you’re like a movie that I love to hate / I fantasize your demise / I should look away because I know you’re never gonna change,” Williams croons.

The song’s only pitfall is that the flute solo teased from the first note gets less than 27 seconds of breathing room to round out the track.

From the tranquil silence, a striking guitar riff opens “You First,” signaling the first of the album’s two most intense songs. Williams resolves that everyone, including herself, is a “bad guy” — but still hopes karma comes for the song’s subject before her.

“Figure 8” maintains the energy of the previous track while harkening back to the echoed vocals established in “The News.” Alternating between a bubbly voice and a growl-like scream, Paramore reminds listeners they’re the blueprint for music’s recent pop-rock revival.

The band slows it down with “Liar,” which is the record’s most emotional and, ironically, honest. It features a slow, heartbeat-paced bass drum and dreamy synths.

“Oh, my love, I lied to you / But you always knew the truth,” she sings sweetly.

Wistful songs like “Liar” have become a staple of Paramore records and always seem to serve as the emotional thesis for the album. Here, she tries to not be ashamed of her love, leading perfectly into the penultimate track “Crave.”

Chronicling Williams’ struggles with intimacy and depression, she aims to live in the present. The final bridge feels like a reminder for future-Williams and Paramore — “Any second, feel the present / Future and the past connecting.”

“Thick Skull” is the perfect closing track. It starts calm and earnest, but as each instrument slowly enters, Williams’ voice crescendos until she’s shouting over her own whisper.

Throughout the song, Williams seems to be reflecting on the criticism she has faced in the music industry. Whether she has had to prove herself as a female lead singer of a generational band or deal with the revolving door of bandmates, Williams sings she has learned the “same lessons” again and again.

Contradicting the opening track in this complex self-reflection, instead of ignoring what the industry says about her and the band, she takes the blame — for better or worse.

“I pick ‘em up and now my fingers are bleedin’ / And it looks like I’m caught red-handed,” Williams sings to close the album.

“This Is Why” is available to stream on all major platforms.

Featured image courtesy of Atlantic Recording Group

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