Roundtable Discussion: A Review of Paramore’s ‘This Is Why’

This Is Why - Paramore album art
This Is Why - Paramore
Atwood Magazine’s writers discuss Paramore’s timely sixth studio album ‘This Is Why,’ a feverish, finessed record whose social commentary and musical rambunctiousness capture the 2020s zeitgeist while defining a new phase of the legendary band’s career.
featured here are Atwood writers Josh Weiner, Lauren Turner, Minna Abdel-Gawad, Isabella Le, and Michael Greco.

This Is Why - Paramore album art

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To start, what is your relationship with Paramore’s music?

Michael Greco: Admittedly, I have probably not given Paramore as much attention as they deserved in their early years, but I have gained a real appreciation for them in the last several years. Hayley Williams joined Billie Eilish on stage at Coachella 2022 and pretty much blew me away, so I was very excited for this new album.

Josh Weiner: I wasn’t super aware of Paramore and Hayley Williams at the very beginning, although I do remember when songs like “That’s What You Get” and “Airplanes” were popular when I was in high school. I got more into the band when I was in college in the early 2010’s and they added impressively to their hit singles collection with “Ain’t It Fun,” “Still Into You” and more. It’s too bad they have only put out one album in the 10 years since then, but I guess that’s given me time to catch up with the rest of their catalog as a whole. At this point, I’m a certified fan.

Isabella Le: I feel like most girls who grew up even remotely into alternative music or were a part of the subcultures idolized Hayley Williams in one way or another. I definitely wasn’t an exception to this– I’d even go as far as to say Riot! was the album that made me fall in love with guitar music and changed the trajectory of my life. Paramore was a huge part of my childhood and teen years, and they’re one of the bands that shaped my music taste and, in some aspects, my aesthetic inclination to this day.

Minna Abdel-Gawad: Funnily enough, I do not have an incredibly deep history with Paramore, rather I was introduced to the band during high school because one of my friends would play “Ain’t It Fun” every time we went driving. I never had a very deep attachment to the band however I feel a wave of nostalgia wash over me every time the opening instrumental of “Ain’t It Fun” plays.

Lauren Turner: My history with Paramore has been growing since my middle school years. But it truly blossomed going into high school. It almost felt like screaming “Misery Business” or “Still into You” on the top of your lungs at a sleepover with your friends was a right of passage for my generation. If you weren’t blasting “Ain’t It Fun” in the car with the windows down, you were missing out. Our high school dances even included “The Only Exception” as a slow song. When I think of Paramore, I think of really fun and pivotal moments as a teenager, figuring out the world and having a great time with friends.

What are your immediate reactions to This Is Why?

Michael Greco: I rather enjoyed the album as a whole. The songs are not overly complex or eclectic, which is a trap some bands fall into after not having a new album release in six years.  The urge to reinvent oneself can be overwhelming, but Paramore does a good job of adhering to the less-is-more adage.

Josh Weiner: I liked it! Like many of their other albums, being roughly 40 minutes long is just about the perfect length. They come in, let the energy rage, and wrap the record up before any sort of fatigue can set in. I am happy to see them make a return after six long years away – with a record this good, consider the comeback complete.

Isabella Le: I thought it was solid! I usually need to listen to an album on repeat a few times to actually “get it,” but This Is Why was very straightforward and easy to listen to; it’s the Paramore we all know and love, but more grown up, which makes sense for a band nearing their twentieth year. I didn’t have to force myself to enjoy it in the way I’d typically have to for legacy bands that try to expand their sound.

Minna Abdel-Gawad: I was excited to hear the band was returning after their hiatus, on their own terms and the album as a whole was incredibly solid. They resurrected a lot of the light punk pop sounds they used to lean into and introduced modern musical elements that have risen to popularity over their hiatus. The album feels playful, exciting and dynamic, it’s an album to dance to. I desperately wish I could experience the album played in a dingy basement venue because Haley Williams belting, scratchy vocals accompanied by dark guitar riffs deserve to be played in that setting.

Lauren Turner: I liked This Is Why. I thought it had a great variety of what we know and love Paramore for. They gave the fans fun and upbeat songs to dance along to, but they also gave them some slower songs with harder and more complex meanings. I thought the band also did a great job with bringing forth issues happening in the world today. It was a perfect blend of a little taste of everything.

Paramore © Zachary Gray
Paramore © Zachary Gray

This Is Why arrives six years following After Laughter, which was hailed upon its release as the beginning of a new era for the band. How does This Is Why continue that era, and how do you feel Paramore have grown since their last LP?

Isabella Le: After Laughter was a step away from the pop-punk sound that’s so synonymous with Paramore, and This Is Why did the same, just in a different way. It was angstier and grittier than After Laughter sonically, but thematically, both albums have this sense of despondency and exhaustion. The feelings on After Laughter were more introspective and spoke to what was going on within the band in 2017, but on This Is Why, they’re painted as a result of the current state of the world.

Josh Weiner: It’s hard for me to assess how much of a “new era” this is for Paramore aesthetically, but if this is to be considered their “veteran phase” on a fundamental level, then I suppose they’re still going strong.

Minna Abdel-Gawad: Their last LP After Laughter was incredibly experimental for the band, moving away from their pop punk roots and leaned into a more electronic pop sound that was incredibly popular at the time. I feel This Is Why featured the grit that was missing from After Laughter, the music feels far more natural and in the band’s wheelhouse. This Is Why is almost an elevated version of their sophomore album, Riot!

Lauren Turner: After Laughter came out at a time where I feel like every band was experimenting with more electric and pop music. For example, “Hard Times” was very different to me than what I had known Paramore for. Yet, I still absolutely loved the track. I think Paramore did a great job by keeping some of those genres that they experimented with in After Laughter but also brought back some of that punk and grit from Riot! and Paramore. But they even added in some elements that reminded me of Brand New Eyes. I think this album was a perfect blend of everything they’ve ever released. If anything, I feel like this is a better return album because of that. It is as if Paramore is giving their fans nostalgia while still introducing them to new explorations.

Paramore © Zachary Gray
Paramore © Zachary Gray

Which songs stand out for you on the album, and why?

Michael Greco: I am pretty drawn to the standout single “This Is Why” initially because the title and the sentiment of that saying really resonate with me after the events of the last few years.  Having gone through a historic pandemic where we literally “didn’t leave the house” the timing of it was just very on point.  I also can’t help thinking it will play very well to live crowds.

Isabella Le: “Crave” is undoubtedly my favourite track on the album, not just because of its replay value, but because it’s the most relatable for me lyrically. I’ve always been very nostalgic and reflective, and staying present is difficult when you’re preoccupied with what happened in the past and worried about what’s to come in the future; this song is a reminder that good memories, like all things in life, don’t last forever, and perhaps it’s better to live and enjoy the now than mourn what’s already passed (or what’s to pass).

Josh Weiner: Gotta give it a few listens to be sure, but off the bat I definitely enjoyed “This Is Why” and “C’est Comme Ça” in particular, just for their sheer rambunctiousness.

Minna Abdel-Gawad: I’ve been on a garage rock kick at the moment so “Figure 8” was an awesome track to listen to! I think the looping guitar picking with the chaotic drums and Williams’ drawling vocals was stellar

Lauren Turner: I am a huge fan of “Crave.” Immediately, the first verse drew me in and I was captivated the entire time by its relatable lyrics. I think we all have those moments where we realize we are alive and life is so precious. Moments and times where you want the world to freeze, you don’t want time to pass and you want to bask in the emotions and feelings the present is creating. It’s hard to put that into words and Paramore did it effortlessly with this song. I absolutely love the message of passing time, living in the moment and craving to constantly feel those simple, easy and “I’m alive” moments. Going off that theme, I also enjoyed “Running Out Of Time.” I also enjoyed “Big Man, Little Dignity” and “Liar.”

Do you have any favorite lyrics so far?

Michael Greco: On the track “Liar” the reference “pin back in the grenade” strikes a chord with me.  It kind of reminds us all that initial reactions to circumstances are often very emotionally-charged and the grenade metaphor is poignant because I know I personally have lobbed my fair share of grenades into my own life without counting to ten. 

Isabella Le: I love incorporating clever rhymes and wordplay into my own writing, so hearing “There was a fire (metaphorically) / Be there in five (hyperbolically)” on “Running Out Of Time” immediately had me obsessed. It’s a fun little line that would resonate with anyone trying to justify their procrastination, like Hayley Williams in the song.

Josh: As a big Francophile, the French-language chorus in “C’est Comme Ça,” combined with some infectious nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-na’s definitely made its mark on me. I also happen to be in the Francophone Canadian province of Quebec as I type this, so that Francophilic sentiment is all the more pertinent.

Minna Abdel-Gawad: I loved the opening verse of “Crave” which goes, “I can’t wait to memorize this day, oh, a picture could not contain the way it feels. You say, ‘Live in the present,’ I’m already dreamin’ of how it begins, and tryin’ to savor the moment, but I know the feelin’ will come to an end.” I think time and trying to capture it is a massive theme of the album with both “Crave” and “Running Out Of Time” dissecting this feeling of impending doom or always worried what is to come which I think is a universal experience.

Lauren Turner: The lyrics in “Crave” stick out to me the most. The opening lines of the song, “I can’t wait to memorize this day/ Oh a picture could not contain/ The way it feels,” gave me chills. It gave me flashbacks of some of my favorite days in my life that I wish I could live over and over again, where I was aware that those days would be some of my most precious memories. It reminded me of certain pictures I look back upon and smile at because I wish I could feel the happiness, joy and peace I felt in those moments always. I also loved the lines later in the song, “I romanticize even the worst of times/ When all it took to make me cry/ Was being alive/ Look up and see a reflection of someone who never gave way to the pain/ What if I told em now that I’m older there isn’t a moment that I’d wanna change.” It’s just so real and raw. It touches upon terrible moments that you wouldn’t change because those moments shaped you into who you are today. Bouncing back and forth between happy and sad memories and loving them all is a beautiful ode to what life is about.

How do you feel This Is Why stands in the pantheon of Paramore releases?

Josh Weiner: I guess they are in their “elder statesmen” career phase at this point. In that case, this record is highly valuable in proving that they are still a talented and coherent bunch after nearly twenty years and seemingly as many lineup switches. How does it stack up against the rest of their albums? Well, 2013’s Paramore is my favorite of them all, so it might take some passage of time to see whether This Is Why ultimately knocks that one off of its proverbial throne. It’s definitely off to a good start, though – according to Metacritic, that is, where This Is Why already proudly sits as the best-reviewed of all of Paramore’s albums.

Michael Greco: I think it stands up very well with the likes of Still Into You and Misery Business, but I was thinking that the reactions it gets in a live setting will be the real test of its mettle.

Isabella Le: Considering the hugely positive reception so far, it looks like This Is Why has already consolidated its place as one of Paramore’s best bodies of work in the public eye. I read a lot of reviews made by die-hard fans that ranked it above their long-time favourites that I would consider staples in the band’s discography. Nothing is dethroning Brand New Eyes as my personal #1, but I don’t think there’s a more perfect album than This Is Why to represent the time we currently live in.

Minna Abdel-Gawad: I think This Is Why is merely an extension of the stories that the band has been telling. Whilst each album can stand alone as a timepiece but is also a lovely anthology of their feelings over the last two decades and sonically they feel like an expansion of the last albums.

Lauren Turner: This album is a collection of everything they have ever released before, which is why I think This Is Why is a very strong album. I truly think it will be one of Paramore’s most successful albums.

Throughout the album, Hayley Williams expresses her frustration with the current social climate and how individuals internalize things happening in the world. If you had to choose a song that best represents the general theme of This Is Why, both lyrically and musically, which one would it be?

Michael Greco: I’m probably just stating the obvious, but the single This Is Why just feels like it was written solely for that reason.

Isabella Le: I’d say “The News” represents the album the best. It’s heavier than other tracks both instrumentally and in subject matter, but I feel like it condenses everything that the album comments on and cranks up the intensity. The song touches on actual things going on around the world as well as how those things can make normal people feel helpless and disempowered, which can be the case with any situation we feel is out of our control.

Josh Weiner: I agree with Michael. Even with the worst of COVID over, a song in which the lead singer can be heard justifying “why I don’t leave the house” is all too relatable. It’s hard for me to say whether such lyrics encapsulate “the general theme” of the entire album, but they definitely made an impression on me as a listener.

Minna Abdel-Gawad: I definitely agree with Isabela, “The News” is an integral part of their discussion of the current social climate. On a far smaller scale another track that came to mind for me was “Big Man, Little Dignity” which felt like the track that encapsulates that eerie feeling that accompanies a lot of misogyny that women tend to face, especially in the music industry.

Lauren Turner: I’m taking the side of “The News” as well. The lyrics, “Every second our collective heart breaks/ All together every single head shakes/ Shut your eyes but it won’t go away/ Turn on/ Turn off/ The news,” not only emphasizes the current social climate but really emphasizes how we internalize what is happening within our society and world. Anytime horrible news breaks, those are the exact motions people make (hearts breaking, heads shaking, trying to shut it out, etc.). The fact that she ends the song with the line, “Nothing new,” really emphasizes that repeating cycle the world is in, the lack of control we feel and how everyone is coping with it.

For those of us planning to see Paramore in concert as they embark on tour this summer, where will it be, and which songs from the new album are you looking forward to seeing performed live?

Josh Weiner: I’m soooo pumped to see them at Boston Calling in May! I feel like “This Is Why,” “C’est Comme Ça,” and other of the record’s most high-octane guitar tracks will be memorable in live-concert format. Even for some of the more subdued tracks like “Thick Skull,” it’ll be nice to hear Hayley Williams let her vocal delicacy shine.

Michael Greco: The closest festival they will be at is Adjacent Festival in Atlantic City, but I’ll be away, so I may try to make a quick jaunt to Bonnaroo or possibly the show in D.C.

Isabella Le: I’m still in the process of trying to find decent seats at a reasonable price for their LA show at The Forum, but I feel like “C’est Comme Ça” would be the most enjoyable live! Fingers crossed I’ll snag tickets before July 20th.

Lauren Turner: I don’t have tickets to Paramore yet, but I would absolutely love to see them live! Hopefully, I’ll attend one of their LA shows at the Kia Forum. I can already imagine their lyrics sprawled along the outside pillars of the venue as the place fills and lightens up. With the intro and build ups in “Figure 8,” that song would be so fun to see live. “Thick Skull” would also be so cool to see live. That song would really bring forth Hayley Williams’ unique and beautiful vocals.

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:: read more about Paramore here ::
:: purchase/stream This Is Why here ::
Stream: “Crave” – Paramore

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This Is Why

an album by Paramore

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