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Review: “This Is Why” by Paramore

The rock trio returns with a stellar and danceable record.
Image by Mary Ellen Ritter

Paramore, one of the most successful and versatile rock groups of the 21st century, has returned with “This is Why,” their first album in six years.

The band’s sixth studio album comes after the release of frontperson Hayley Williams’ two debut solo albums during the pandemic: “Petals for Armor” and “Flowers For Vases/Descansos.”

Throughout the band’s career, Paramore has refused confining to any one style. Paramore’s early hits, “Misery Business” and “That’s What You Get,” introduced the band as a pop punk powerhouse.

The band continued to have mainstream hits into the 2010s with tracks like “Ain’t it Fun” and “Still Into You,” both of which received a considerable amount of airplay on pop radio. “After Laughter,” their 2017 studio LP, found them drifting further into the realm of polished rock music, trading in the accessibility of their 2013 self-titled LP.

“This Is Why” shows the band is continuing to stay true to their evolution as a group without pandering to trending pop conventions. The band continues to have the melodic appeal they had on their last two records, while simultaneously experimenting with new sounds.

“This Is Why,” the album’s titular song and lead single, kickstarts the album with a funky, danceable anthem and a chorus that calls back to the Talking Heads’ iconic punchy chants. The dynamics on this track are stellar, the verses are calm and the pre-choruses build tension before the band explodes into the extremely catchy chorus.

Instrumentally and melodically, this album is top-notch and arguably one of their best works as a band. However, the album is not without its awkward moments.

On “The News,” Paramore establishes a sense of urgency underscored by the song’s message about 24-hour news cycles, smartphones, social media and the overwhelming side effects of life in the digital age.
However, the song’s lyrics feel tone-deaf at times. Williams sings, “Far, I’m far, so far from the front line / Quite the opposite, I’m safe inside / But I worry and I give money and I feel useless behind this computer / And that’s just barely scratched the surface of my mind.”

Williams expresses her concern for devastating conflicts on the other side of the world but feels useless when those conflicts aren’t immediately alleviated after she donates money. It’s giving celebrities singing “Imagine” during the COVID-19 pandemic’s lockdown-era. The lyrics do, in fact, accurately represent how modern-day news coverage can be harmful to one’s mental health, but lines like these detract from the song’s cultural criticism.

With her recent solo material, as well as with this new Paramore album, Williams and her bandmates have recently taken a lot of inspiration from Radiohead. The verses on the title track and track three, “Running Out of Time,” are decorated with atmospheric guitars, soft basslines and dreamy vocal melodies. These characteristics are not too far off from Radiohead’s 2007 masterpiece “In Rainbows.” The influence is also apparent on “Liar,” a slowburner near the end of the album that recalls the stunning soundscapes of Radiohead’s “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi.”

“Running Out of Time” could have easily been released as a single. It has an appealing structure and catchy chorus similar to the title track.

“Figure 8” is another stand-out track. Williams delivers a powerful vocal performance, backed with a hypnotic arpeggiated melody that repeats throughout the song.
While not necessarily reinventing the wheel, Paramore takes musical leaps with “This is Why.” Williams’ vocal prowess, combined with guitarist Taylor York and drummer Zac Farro, creates an extremely catchy and energetic 36-minute rock record.

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