Perhaps there is no bigger modern name in female-fronted rock today than with Tennessee-born band Paramore, the trio releasing their long awaited sixth studio album This Is Why on February 10, 2023, under Atlantic Records. Haley Williams (vocals, keyboard) and Zac Farro (drums, keyboard, backing vocals) started the band in 2004, Taylor York (guitar, backing vocals) joining them a few years later. Since the release of their debut All We Know Is Falling in 2005, Paramore has reached heights unmatched and became a staple name in the pop-punk, alternative rock genre. With Williams’ strong voice, and Farro’s and York’s empowering beats, the band has topped charts worldwide, toured all around the globe, and won a Grammy. In This Is Why, Paramore utilizes their ten tracks to reaffirm their lasting legacy, using more chilled out notes and lyrics of self blame to give listeners a taste of the future.
With electric beats and rapid drum notes, This Is Why opens with an album-titled track, one that wastes no time representing Paramore’s new musical abilities and their familiar relatable lyrics. “This Is Why” covers the hate Williams received while being the lead of one of America’s biggest rock bands, the lyrics delving into how these negative words affected her own perception. The second song “The News” channels more of their iconic 2000s punk-rock styles, the piece a loud hit at the dismal state of the world. The intense electric guitar and synth soundscapes slow down during the bridge to highlight Williams’ scream-o words about the manipulation of the press. “Exploitative, performative/ Informative and we don’t know the half of it.”
After more than two decades worth of a career, Paramore has not only realized their strengths, but they have had time to reflect on their fallbacks. In the third track “Running Out of Time,” Williams openly admits to her poor time management skills on a song more geared in indie rock with its guitar riffs and summer-y feel. “Intentions only get you so far/ What if I’m just a selfish prick? No regard, ah!”
In “Big Man, Little Dignity,” the fifth song on This Is Why, Williams strips back her voice to a softer, but still strong level to speak on how men tend not to take responsibility for their actions. “Bet it feels good to leave the past behind/ Your subscription to redemption has been renewed/ You keep your head high/ Smooth operator in a sh*t-stained suit.” Paramore’s usual ensemble of electric guitara and drums are placed on the backburner throughout the song, allowing the instruments to support the lyrics.
The sixth track “You First” further explores the band’s new means of metaphorical lyricism. As Williams sings about choosing good over evil, she instills an image of a pack of wild animals fighting over scraps, enforcing a narrative that humanity continues to argue over things that will only do us harm. “Which wolf wins?/ I guess it really depends/ Just gotta wait and see/ Which one’s appetite’s the biggest?/ Turns out I’m livin’ in a horror film/ Where I’m both the killer and the final girl/ So, who, who are you?” While most of the song remains in a consistent, slower pace, the tempo picks up towards the end, reviving Paramore’s punk energy.
In the slowest song on the album, “Liar” covers Williams’ feelings for fellow band member York. Even though she tried to fight her feelings, and attempted to make herself believe they were wrong, she fell for him either way. In a more dreamy, intimate setting, “Liar” is Williams at her most vulnerable. She raises her voice high for the chorus, and keeps her energy melancholy for the verses, effectively creating an air of regret and longing.
The album closes with “Thick Skull,” a misleading track that begins slow but transforms into a beautiful chaos of intense drums and Williams’ screaming voice. This Is Why is the result of a five year long hiatus, a period of time where Paramore reflected not only on their band as a whole, but on each individual member. Consequently, the ten track collection is more than a long-awaited comeback — it’s confirmation that Paramore will continue to make their iconic music, no matter how long it takes.