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Album Reviews

Paremore Are Emo Adults On ‘This Is Why’

Their latest proves that grown up life is in 2023 is just as brutal as teen angst.

Paramore have mastered the art of maturing gracefully. Beginning with the band’s self-titled 2013 album, it has slowly peeled itself away from the mainstream emo/pop-punk world it once dominated (all while dealing with constant lineup shake-ups). In the process, Paramore have found themselves attached to a different kind of musical nostalgia, zeroing in on the slick sounds of Eighties rock and New Wave without so much as a hint of corny pastiche. As omnivorous fans and champions of younger artists, they always remain steeped in pop’s ever-evolving present.

Now, nearly two decades since the band released its debut album, All We Know Is Falling, the Tennessee-born group is exerting more of an indelible influence on current pop music than ever before (see the high-polished angst of Olivia Rodrigo and Billie Eilish), even as it continues moving further and further from the emo-pop sound it helped reinvent. This Is Why is Paramore’s excellent foray into post-punk, riddled with a new set of anxieties — from witnessing global events to dealing with entering your thirties.

Lead single “This Is Why” sets a menacing, urgent tone. Not only does it connect back to the dance-y funk of 2017’s After Laughter, but it also provides a thread to lead singer Hayley Williams’ excellent 2020 solo foray, Petals for Armor, specifically that LP’s dark pop of single “Simmer.” It sets a sharp tone for the album and its subject matter: paranoia and frustration about the lack of human empathy even after the unbearably awful shared traumas the world has faced in recent years. “The News” is a ruthless companion, about our fickle but often all-consuming relationship with the trauma porn on our TVs and newsfeeds: “I’m far, so far from a 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.” Taylor York’s guitar is as quick and pointed as a knife as Williams sings about our normal.


Thoughts on aging pervade the songs. Williams, York, and drummer Zac Farro are just entering their mid-thirties but have lived multiple lifetimes in the band’s long career. In rock-star years, they’re veterans and they feel it in their bones: References to chiropractor appointments and a lack of time make their way into their songs now. Elsewhere they offer sparks of sage advice, like the karmic revelations on “You First”: “Living well is not my kind of revenge/You should take it from me/Living well is just a privilege.”

The glimmer of light within the darkness comes through in the hidden gem “Liar,” a moody and tender ballad that serves as a discreet love song, wrapped in a bit of self-loathing. “Love is not an easy thing to admit/But I am not ashamed of it/Love is not a weakening/If you feel it rushing in,” Williams sings softy. It’s proof that the teen angst that fuels pop punk and emo never really dies; it merely mutates.

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