Album: After Laughter
Number of Releases: 5th Studio Album
Release Date: May 12, 2017
Label: Fueled By Ramen
Paramore has gone retro. And someone has definitely hurt Hayley Williams. Gone are the days of the Paramore punk-pop that we’ve grown accustomed to. From the band that got discovered on MySpace to Hayley Williams taking the reigns as one of the most iconic female singers in the rock/pop genre, this band has had huge successes, with hits like “Misery Business” still playing on the airwaves and songs like “Decode” appearing on the Twilight soundtrack. Their anthem “Ain’t It Fun” was the single that was heavily played off their last self-titled album, while “Now” was my favorite of the bunch.
The first thing you notice when you play the new album, titled “After Laughter,” you realize it was aptly titled, with many of the songs being about the hurt of growing up and the disappointments that end up along the way. Tracks like “Hard Times,” “Fake Happy,” “Forgiveness,” and “Tell Me How,” all paint a picture of a young woman who as a) had enough and b) was not ready to have to deal with all these grown-up issues. You wonder who these songs were written towards and as you read about Hayley’s life, you realize that many of them are probably directed at her band-mate that is suing her.
Like any band where a female lead is the star of the show, the accompanying band seems to always end up with resentment either at not getting what they think is due to them or that they’re simply not making anywhere near as much as the leading lady, thus a fallout. Paramore’s line-up seems to shake up almost every album, although guitarist and writer Taylor York has been on the last two, while drummer Zac Farro was actually the original drummer for the first studio album as well as some along the way. Bassist Jeremy Davis was the one suing Hayley, “claiming to be eligible to enjoy the benefits of a business partnership with Hayley Williams as a co-owner of the band” and as of this month, it appears they have reached a settlement.
“Caught In The Middle” is my personal favorite track on the album, with such an interesting and unique melody, it feels almost wrong but gets stuck in your head. The melody itself sounds upbeat, as is the case with about half the tracks, but when you listen to the lyrics, it paints a much different picture. Lines like “I can’t think of getting old, it only makes me want to die,” and “No, I don’t need no help… I can sabotage me by myself.”
The first single to hit the airwaves was “Hard Times,” again an upbeat melody with a downtrodden Hayley singing lyrics like “all that I want is a hole in the ground, you can tell me when it’s alright to come out” and the main chorus of “hard times, gonna make you wonder why you even try, hard times, gonna take you down and laugh when you cry.” But the retro theme plays on and you can tell the band chooses this deliberately with its music video feeling like it was out of the ’80s.
The sadness continues with tracks like “Rose-Colored Boy” where Hayley is telling some optimist to “stop insisting I’m not a lost cause” and to “let me cry a little bit longer,” while tracks like “Fake Happy” become almost an anthem for those who are not okay but pretend to be, “I feel so fake happy, I bet everyone here, is just as insincere, we’re all so fake happy, and I know fake happy.” Your heart goes out to her as she basically fesses up to dealing with some sort of depression, with lyrics like “hey if I smile with my teeth, bet you believe me” and “see I’m gonna draw up my lipstick wider than my mouth, and if the lights are low they’ll never see me frown,” and even entire verses like:
“I been doing a good job of makin’ ’em think
I’m quite alright
Better hope I don’t blink
You see, it’s easy when I’m stomping on a beat
But no one sees me when I crawl back underneath”
The pain doesn’t stop there unfortunately, as she sings about “why we had to waste so much time” in her song aptly titled “Grudges” and wanting people to let them go, about wanting to forgive and not being able to, and “forgiving is not forgetting” in the also aptly titled “Forgiveness,” and about people being so quick to tell her they told her so, even though she hates doing that herself, in, yes, the aptly titled “Told You So.”
Another of my favorite tracks is “Pool,” a slower ballad whose tone matches its subject matter. It is a love song at its heart, but a take on a love song that deals with the darker side of love. I’m not sure what her relationship is like with guitarist Chad Gilbert of New Found Glory, as they’ve been together since 2008 and have since gotten married, but it sounds like it can be harsh. The chorus paints a certain picture:
No air in my lungs
My eyes are open
And I’m giving up
You are the wave
I could never tame
If I survive
I’ll dive back in”
And “Idle Worship,” another one of my favorite tracks, is sent at Paramore fans, who have put Hayley on a pedestal since rising to fame. I guess I’m partially in that group of people, as Hayley as been a celebrity crush of mine for as long as I can remember. But I’ve also loved her ability to express herself through her music. That in particular was always what attracted me to her. The ability to put herself out there and have such control over her emotions that she could put them into song. And even with this one, she tries to argue that she’s just a normal person at heart, and that honestly make me like her even more. I’d love to get to know the real Hayley.
The album is cut in half and ended both by a ballad. The middle track is “26,” about not losing hope and continuing to always be a dreamer: “and they say that dreaming is free, but I wouldn’t care what it cost me.” And the end ballad, “Tell Me How,” deals with death both metaphorically and literally and pretty much brings the whole bandmate debacle full circle, asking “tell me how to feel about you now… do I suffocate or let go?” It at least ends the album on a somewhat optimistic point:
“I can’t call you a stranger
But I can’t call you
I know you think that I erased you
You may hate me, but I can’t hate you
And I won’t replace you”
Where Paramore will go from here, who knows. I remember one of my other favorite bands, Motion City Soundtrack, releasing their “depression” album called “Go” where they completely abandoned what made them who they were and where every song on the album was quite depressing and that band ended up making one more album and calling it quits. Despite having much more success than that band, I fear that Hayley is getting discouraged about this life. But the thing about musicians is that I am sure they wouldn’t want to be doing anything else. Hayley has been in this band for almost 15 years and at the age of twenty-eight, she’s probably just getting to the point in life where you start dealing with some major issues and you start planning the rest of your life. Do you want kids? Are you with the right person? Is it time to change career trajectories? Being such a huge fan of Hayley’s and all her talents, I can’t imagine not having her out in the world singing, but really I just want her to be happy, whatever that entails.
|3||“Told You So”||3:08|
|9||“Caught In The Middle”||3:34|
|12||“Tell Me How”||4:20|
|“Hard Times”||April 19, 2017|
|“Told You So”||May 3, 2017|