“Why we gotta be in a rush? My watch is just for decoration,” Paramore frontwoman Hayley Williams sings on the third track of the group’s new album, This Is Why. The group premiered the track at an album release kickoff show in their home base of Nashville on Monday, February 6th, telling the audience, “It’s really not that deep.” According to the songwriter and vocalist, it’s really just about how Williams always feels like she’s running out of time, wishing she could send thoughtful notes, have flowers handy for a neighbor, or pick out the perfect gift for a milestone.
We have no reason to doubt Williams’ assertion about the depth of the song, but the idea of running out of time, the focal point of the song of the same name, is certainly interesting within the context of Paramore’s story. Culture is cyclical, yet this current moment of nostalgia-fueled art feels like it’s on overload in particular. Everything has a sequel. Everything has a reboot. Shudder with me — peplum tops are creeping back into style. Soon enough, influencers are going to try and convince us to wear business-casual attire at the club again, rebranding it to something like “transitional maximalist-core.”
In music, the same kinds of phenomenons are visible, too — emo is hip, pop-punk is cool. Olivia Rodrigo and other rising Gen Z acts are making nods to acts that shaped them in their work, and few have defined a genre or an era the way Paramore did.
With their sixth LP, Paramore seem admirably content with the present moment, though. We aren’t in Riot! mode anymore — and why would we want to be? That work is still available for loyal listeners or new, younger fans to explore or revisit, and It would be far too easy for Hayley Williams, Taylor York, and Zac Farro to capitalize on this resurgence and take the path of least resistance. But Paramore are not that kind of band; Hayley Williams is not that kind of artist.
A focus on the never-ending passage of time is the most consistent thread running through This Is Why. “I romanticize even the worst of times/ When all it took to make me cry was being alive,” Williams sings on “Crave.” “Every second feel the present, future, and the past connected.” Paramore have, to that point, been active in this field for a very long time; Williams feels particularly consistent in the way that we think of her as an artist, still an almost spritely figure, her bright shock of hair and fascinating juxtaposition of enormous voice and tiny frame as hypnotic as ever.
While Paramore consider Nashville home, the record was cut in Los Angeles with Carlos de la Garza, the acclaimed producer who first worked with the group on their self-titled album a decade ago. “Once I get going, I don’t know how to stop… Spinning in an endless figure eight,” Williams confesses on “Figure 8,” once again highlighting the cycles in which we all inevitably find ourselves stuck at times. With “C’est Comme Ca,” she’s worried about the future. “In a single year, I’ve aged one hundred/ My social life, a chiropractic appointment,” she sings over Farro’s frenetic, anxiety-inducing percussion.
The three tracks released prior to the album, “This Is Why,” “C’est Comme Ca,” and “The News,” set the stage for the full record, calibrating expectations for a collection of music that feels pleasantly centered between the raw energy of Paramore’s earlier work, the brighter, more pop-leaning 2017 journey of After Laughter, and Williams’ solo endeavors. There are bigger, edgier moments on the album, balanced by lyrical vulnerability and stripped-down sections. “I don’t mean to stare at you from across the room/ It’s like I’m glued to the sheer sight of you,” Williams admits on “Big Man Little Dignity.” As usual, though, she doesn’t let the listener get too comfortable, pulling back the seemingly romantic curtain for sharper, more critical observations when the chorus rolls around.
Then, there’s “Liar,” a deceptively gentle track towards the end of the album that will call some of Williams’ solo work to mind for the most dedicated of listeners. The pair of albums released by Williams in 2020 and 2021, Petals for Armor and FLOWERS for VASES/descansos, are both personal and poetic pieces of work. The latter album in particular is dreamy almost to a fault, where each track ebbs into the next in near-indistinguishable cohesion.
While that’s not the case here with This Is Why, there’s a sense that Williams hasn’t disconnected from her core skill set as a writer in the past few years without new Paramore music. While the band’s lyrics have often been confessional, pointed, and tinged with a certain amount of relatability, there’s an ease to the stories here in This Is Why. Paramore don’t have anything to prove, and it feels freeing. And, speaking of Williams’ core skills, those trademark vocals remain bright, strong, and unbelievably impressive.
This Is Why might not feel particularly life-changing by the time its 10th and final track fades. That said, there’s something satisfying about seeing the band creating in their own lane here in 2023 rather than fall into the all too easy trap of trying to recreate who they may have been in the past. It’s a lesson we can all take with us in however great or small of doses we might need — time marches on, and we can try to outrun it, or we can walk by its side. Paramore have taken the latter route, and, somehow, it’s the coolest thing they could have done.
Catch Paramore on tour; tickets are available here.
Essential Tracks: “Running Out of Time,” “Crave,” “This Is Why”
This Is Why Album Artwork: