Paramore’s impassioned return: ‘This is Why’
Caitlin Brannigan | Friday, February 24, 2023
It has almost been 20 years since the formation of the rock band Paramore. Since then, the band has produced hits spanning across a variety of genres, from pop-punk to new wave. Popular new artists like Olivia Rodrigo and Willow Smith have been influenced by Paramore’s cutting yet dreamlike sound.
The band is currently made up of lead vocalist Hayley Williams, drummer Zac Farro and guitarist Taylor York, although other members have left and rejoined over the years. After a wildly successful tour in fall 2022, they’ve released their newest album “This is Why,” which debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 this week.
The album is an emotional rollercoaster in its lyrics and its wide range of sound, reflecting the anxieties of living in a post-COVID world. The title track, “This is Why,” grieves the public failure to set aside differences and solve society’s socioeconomic problems even after communally enduring a global struggle. It begins with soft, taunting strums of the guitar, ironically telling listeners that “If you have an opinion, maybe you should shove it.” The chorus swells in volume, a jagged guitar instrumental accompanying lyrics half-despairing, half-raging over the current state of society.
As a whole, the album captures a wide range of the paranoia and unsettling anxiety of adulthood and living in a post-pandemic world. “The News” encapsulates the distressing experience of acknowledging all the terrible things happening in the world, even those that don’t directly affect the listeners. The very first word of the song is “war,” communicating strongly and effectively the song’s hopeless tone. The instrumental of the chorus sounds somewhat dreamy, but the lyrics declare that one can “shut your eyes, but it won’t go away.”
My favorite track of the album, “Big Man, Little Dignity,” has a dreamlike, slow pace relative to other songs on the album. It’s the kind of song I would put on a playlist for walking around one of the campus lakes. The steady guitar melody and softness of the vocals are relaxing and offer a break from the torrent of emotions in the rest of the album. It gives the listener space to reflect, whether that be on the difficult issues the other songs confront or anything else they may have on their mind. Despite this, it has its own powerful message to share. Though the lyrics leave room for interpretation, they describe people in power who are perceived as morally sound but really are incredibly corrupt, again echoing disappointment in modern societal structures.
Paramore’s return to music making with “This is Why” is incredibly exciting. The album both shares a strong and important message and offers a mix of well executed pop-punk and rock sounds. Even after two decades, Paramore’s still got magic.
Album: “This is Why”
Label: Atlantic Records
Favorite tracks: “Big Man, Little Dignity,” “Running out of Time,” “This is Why”
Shamrocks: 4.5 out of 5