This Is Why: Paramore’s New Album

Our music critic reviews Paramore’s six-years-in-the-making absence alternative rock and post-punk influenced reflection on the pandemic.

Taken from Wikipedia, though can be found in various sources.

Taken from Wikipedia, though can be found in various sources.

Brian Mignogna, Contributor

Introduction: Rock, emo, and pop-punk band Paramore was formed in 2004 in Franklin, Tennessee, with their original lineup consisting of frontwoman Hayley Williams, brothers Zack and Josh Farro, Jeremy Davis, and Jason Bynum. However, over time, the lineup of the group would change constantly as members left and others joined the band. From 2017 until the time of writing, the lineup consists of Hayley Williams, guitarist Taylor York, and Zac Farro on drums.  Through their career, the group would spawn hit songs “Misery Business,” “Crushcrushcrush,” “Into You,” “Ain’t It Fun,” and many others. The group would also, though sticking to a pop punk and rock lane, play with different styles every now and then, such as pop, the main inspiration of their fifth album “After Laughter,” and alternative rock and post-punk (an offshoot of punk music with more ambitious and experimental leanings), which would be the main focus of their new record, “This Is Why,” released on February 11, 2023 – their first album in six years.

Taken from “Paramore are back in the studio for their first album in five years” by Rolling Stone UK

Production: The album’s production, in somewhat of a sonic shift for the band, moves in a more alternative and post-punk direction, while still showing the energy that has remained prevalent throughout their career. “This Is Why” is very cleanly produced thanks to Carlos de la Garza, the Grammy-award winning mixer and engineer who acted as main producer for the project. Farro’s drums, for example, sound clear through the project, allowing his talent for complex and catchy rhythms to shine through. Williams is also given moments where her high and expressive vocal range is demonstrated, and it never becomes too overwhelming at any point. York’s guitar playing, through the clearness of the production, is also on display, and he often links up with Farro’s drums for some of the album’s catchiest moments. Furthermore, though the drums, guitars, and vocals remain the most prevalent, other instruments are used occasionally, such as the flute, piano, and synthesizers almost hidden on “Big Man, Little Dignity” and the watery notes that start off “Figure 8.” Funnily enough, though the songwriting on the album often has a somber and sarcastic tone, the instrumentation behind the project most often appears catchy and energetic, with some notable exceptions in the second half, such as the soft ballad “Liar.” Overall, the clean production lends strength to the band and shows the abilities of its members clearly.

Taken from “Paramore Photos: 2023 Billboard Cover Shoot” from Billboard

Songwriting: As one may expect from a punk band with multiple lineup changes and ensuing drama through their pre-pandemic career already, there is little doubt that Paramore was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Though not always explicitly stated, one could interpret most of the songs, particularly those depicting mental difficulty, to come from this period. The first two singles for the album, the opening title track and “The News,” most explicitly describe feelings from the pandemic world, the former depicting being stuck inside one’s house to avoid constant overload and opinions from others, and the latter demonstrating the detrimental effects of constant news input.  “C’est Comme Ça,” the third single, depicts an emotional and mental instability that may likely allude to quarantine. “Figure 8” and “Thick Skull,” both dark songs lyrically, don’t depict the pandemic as blatantly, but can also be perceived to describe its effects. In my opinion, much of the songwriting is done well, as it communicates the emotions and storytelling it needs to. Much of what it describes can be relatable to many who suffered through the pandemic as well, which only bolsters the intensity of the lyrics.  The songwriting often becomes personal as well, with ballads “Liar” and “Thick Skull” being notable examples. However, my issues with the songwriting would be that I don’t think it communicates as complex or as original a take on the pandemic as it could, though I find what it does show to be well done. As a whole, I still feel that Paramore comes through with well-written, relevant, and personal songwriting on “This Is Why.”

Image taken from “Paramore Takes Stage For Performance On ‘The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon’ (First Look)” by Headline Planet

Artist Performance: Williams, as mentioned before, has a broad and expressive vocal range and ability, and the more aggressive cuts on the album show this well. Songs such as “The News” and “Figure 8” showcase her more intense delivery, but the softer songs on the album, which include “Liar” and the verses of many cuts, notably the title track and “Thick Skull,” showcase a more calm and mellow, but still expressive, delivery. Likewise, York’s guitar playing can take the form of intense and smashing chords, but they can also take the form of softer acoustic melodies, which demonstrates his range as well. Many of the catchier songs on the album, such as “Running out of Time,” the title track, and “C’est Comme Ça” feature York linking with Farro on the drums so that the instruments match up. A specific example is the way that York’s chords are played right on Farro’s drum beats during moments on “Crave.” Farro himself shows his ability to manage complex and rhythmic performances with ease, which helps to give many of the songs more of a punch than they would have otherwise had. In summary, each band member shows impressive technical ability and range through the album.

Taken from “Paramore to Stop in Cincinnati on Limited 12-Date Tour” by CityBeat

Personal Enjoyment: To be honest, this is the first Paramore record I have listened to, and I think that this was a good introduction to the band. Though not their original lineup, I was able to see many of the band’s skills after time for them to advance, and I am convinced to listen to their earlier material. However, I still cannot say that the album blew me away. Many of the songs, though I enjoyed all of them and would consider them good, never fully reach great for me, and the songwriting has its aforementioned limits. I also feel that many of the songs aren’t differentiated enough from one another to stand out individually, though some could grow on me overtime. I can still give credit to the album’s production and performances, which demonstrate themselves beautifully, but I still feel that the performances could have gone further or even been more aggressive. This could be due to personal taste, as I understand a relatively subdued, catchy atmosphere was its main intent. Now, to begin listing my favorite songs, I have always enjoyed the title track since it was released in 2022, and the guitar and drum interplay and catchy melody stood out to me. “Running Out of Time” may be the catchiest song on the album and is the one that I will likely replay the most in the future, as the chorus and shredding guitars keep the song stuck in my head. The songwriting is, though fairly simple, relatable as well, and I think that it works for this song. On the other hand, “Thick Skull” is the most complex and one of the most personal songs on the album, and the balladry and emotional songwriting make it one of my favorites. My least favorite song on the album would be “Figure 8,” as though another admittedly personal song, it doesn’t stand out among much of the tracklist and I feel that it communicates the mental instability it shows better on other songs. Altogether, though not perfect, “This Is Why” is still an enjoyable and personal post-pandemic rock record.

Influence: N/A (Too recent)

Rating: 7/10

Favorite Songs: This Is Why, Running Out of Time, Thick Skull

Least Favorite Song: Figure 8

This Is Why (Paramore’s Youtube channel):

Running Out of Time (Paramore’s Youtube channel):

Thick Skull (Paramore’s Youtube channel):