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“This is Why” Paramore Still Matters: A New Album Reconciled

by Zach Terrillion

Staff Writer


How do you review your favorite band’s new album? It’s like when your artist best friend shows you their latest piece and asks for feedback. Are you supposed to tell them it sucks? You don’t want to hurt their feelings and harm the bond you guys have built for years. For me, Paramore and I have something deeper than friendship. It’s been imbued since my babysitter first played the Twilight soundtrack when I was six. This month, the beloved pop-punk trio dropped their sixth studio album, This is Why, their first since After Laughter in 2017. Between the last and current Paramore albums, we’ve had an authoritarian president, growing discontent within new social media platforms, and societal isolation induced by a global pandemic. The band envisioned this piece as a response to all the lessons learned over those years. It is reconciliation in many ways. This review is a reconciliation of that reconciliation.

The opening, titular track, “This is Why,” is a thesis of sorts for the 40-minute work. It’s funky as fuck, with discordant guitar strums creating an immersive soundscape. Hayley’s signature earthbound vocals reflect on a refusal to confront the times. It explores why we “don’t leave the house.” The beat drops create the impeccable impulse to start banging your head. It marries the punk atmosphere of Paramore’s classic albums with the experimental rhythms of After Laughter. “The News” marks a rare moment of Paramore explicitly engaging with modern politics, where “every second our collective heart breaks.” The exploration of the times feels more surface-level. We know the current moment is “deplorable and historical!” Still, Paramore centers the emotion of the moment rather than the moment itself. Emotion. The lessons we all learn are explored in a way only a 20-year-old group can. The reconciliations we are making.

Illustration by Molly Chapin, Production Assistant

The following two tracks, “Running out of Time” and “C’est Comme Ca,” embrace the band’s punkish roots. The former piece is a bit reflective, specifically about whether the narrator has been a selfish prick all of their life. Hayley moves a bit away from her signature belts. She mumbles, overlaying her voice to create a near-ghostly internal monologue. As she “runs out of time,” her voice becomes discordant and fading. Perhaps this reflects on Paramore’s existence as a whole, a band always trying to catch up and reinvent itself over the decades. The song cuts off at the end as if it failed to beat the clock. The latter track, French for “it is what it is,” is deliciously bratty. The childish “na-na-nas” in the background reflect the old-fashioned teen rebellion that the band has long embodied and inspired. It’s their Riot! era in miniature. When they were “running on spite and sheer revenge,” needing “a certain degree of disorder.”

Disorder definitely kicks in as the peppy first half of This is Why falls into a more forlorn second. “Big Man, Little Dignity” kicks off with the eerie sadness of brass instrumentals. It’s earnest and bluntly romantic, as Hayley sings about someone they can’t stand but somehow can’t let go. “Crave” is simply gorgeous, leaving a tug in the stomach that fills it up with emotions. Some light acoustics take you back to when things were happier and sadder at the same time. When “just for a second, it all felt simple.” The chords of these tunes reflect the melancholy of After Laughter’s “26” and Brand New Eyes’ “Misguided Ghosts,” which are my two favorite Paramore songs. They inhabit the angst that makes you nostalgic for the worst time of your life. I could think back to 8th grade me — a “big man” in all their “little dignity.” Like Williams hums, “I’m already missing it.”

“You First” stands out for its sheer intensity. Hayley imagines herself as living in a horror film. Something waits and stalks her, a “devil on my shoulder” reflected in the recurring rhythms. This may be the most Emo song on the album. A character grapples with their demons and battles an addiction, “giving energy” to some stray animal: “Karma’s gonna come for all of us, and I hope she comes for you first.” #Edgy. Still, the song’s “emo-ness” is not quite as rebellious. It’s energetic but not exactly youthful. It’s a song made for 30-something emos like the trio performing this whole thing, the ones who thought they’d simmer down as they got older. To be punk and emo is not a phase put away once you graduate high school. It’s a state of mind, a stalker throughout one’s life. It’s a pretty universal state of mind. “Everyone is a bad guy,” Williams croons. The genre’s called “Pop-Punk” for a reason.

For the remaining songs, “Figure 8” and “Liar” didn’t stand out quite as much, but we get a compelling conclusion. The album gets capped off with “Thick Skull.” The lyrics are chilling. “I am attracted to broken people. I pick ’em up and my fingers are bleeding.” Damn. Hayley overlays her voice again to reflect her getting “hit over the head” and reaching “epiphany.” Her character is harming herself to reach a new realization.

While the title track opens This is Why, this final piece was ironically the first one Paramore developed for the album. This context coats the whole album in this intense sadness and chaos. However, “sadness” and “chaos” could be the two defining words of this era. Broken people get hurt trying to put each other back together. The very last line of the song and the whole album says that the band has been “caught red-handed.” Why? The band has done something. Something wrong, or oh so right? Why did they do this thing? Why have they mattered to us for all this time? Perhaps this album can tell us why.

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