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Review: ‘This is Why’ announces a new era for Paramore

Photo courtesy Atlantic Records

By Emelia Gauch     2/21/23 11:02pm

Rating: ★★★½

Top Track: “Liar”

Almost six years after their last album, Paramore has returned with “This is Why,” which moves away from anything the band has ever done before. The album lands in a post-punk space while not limiting itself by the genre. “This is Why” mixes present-day anxiety and post-2020 malaise, making a new sound to define Paramore’s new era.

“This is Why” opens with the title track, featuring a poppy drum beat that immediately announces that the album will be very different from anything Paramore has ever released before. The lyrics are simplistic and a bit uninspired, but the melody of the song is incredibly fun and catchy. Lead singer Hayley Williams’ vocals are bouncy and strong.

“The News” follows with lyrics that feel like an empty attempt at political awareness at first, with the opening lines, “War / A war / A war / On the far side / On the other side of the planet.” Still, the percussion and guitar create an intense buildup throughout the song that makes it a worthwhile listen. The lyrics improve as the song honestly summarizes 2020, “And I feel useless behind this computer / And that's just barely scratched the surface of my mind.”

Throughout “This is Why,” Paramore refuses to commit to a specific sound. “C’est Comme Ca,” which translates to “It is what it is,” is the first obvious example of this, with the “Na na na”’s and spoken-word vocals reflecting French influences mixed with the music of bands like Bloc Party. Non-traditional instruments are incorporated in “Running Out of Time” through flutes, clarinet and vibraphone. “Big Man, Little Dignity” plays with sound as well, featuring much softer vocals from Williams than listeners may be used to hearing. Williams proves she can sing all types of music in these two songs as she expertly experiments with the power of her voice. 

“Liar” follows in the footsteps of “Big Man, Little Dignity,” giving Williams a platform to display her voice in a soft and intimate love song. “Liar” reflects on the walls we put up to stop ourselves from falling for someone and is hopeful in a way other tracks on this album are not. “Love is not an easy thing to admit / But I’m not ashamed of it,” Williams admits by the end of the track. “Liar” feels unique compared to anything else Paramore has done before, exposing vulnerability rather than the rage, sadness or anger present in previous albums. 

The album ends with a bang. “Thick Skull” involves a thundering guitar and Williams screaming into the void. The screaming is not rage but catharsis. She is ridding herself of anxieties from the past, entering an era of looking outward, experimentation and exploration. Throughout the album, Paramore moves away from the emo pop punk anger that defined their previous work. Now, they position themselves to look forward and create a more mature sound in their comeback album.

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