Toto, I have a feeling we’re not punk anymore
American singer-songwriter Hayley Williams rose to fame as the lead singer of the beloved pop-rock band, Paramore. Williams started following her musical passions as a young teen in Tennessee when she met people who would soon be members of the band with her. While originally being signed in 2003 as a solo artist, Williams resisted the label’s efforts to market her as a typical “pop princess” and instead fought to be the frontwoman for a rock-centric band.
Eventually, Williams won that battle and thus Paramore was officially born in 2004. Paramore hit mega popularity in the pop-punk scene with their second album Riot! in 2007 which ended up going platinum in the United States and the band was even awarded “Best Band of 2007” by Alternative Press magazine. Paramore earned their first Grammy nomination for “Best New Artist” in 2008, however, they didn’t win their first Grammy until 2013 with their hits “Still Into You” and “Ain’t It Fun” off their fourth self-titled album. After their fifth album, Paramore has gone on hiatus, giving Williams time to work solo. Her first-ever solo album was released this month and is titled Petals for Armor.
As Williams explains it, Petal for Armor represents vulnerability and intense emotions, and we get a taste for that right away with the opening track, “Simmer.” The song’s beat leans a bit electro-pop and the lyrics themselves display intensity like, “rage is a quiet thing/ you think you’ve tamed it/ but it’s just lying in wait,” and, “oh how to draw the line between wrath and mercy?” and matched with Williams’ beautiful yet cutting vocals, we experience the very essence of vulnerability she was striving for. We hear even more of that honesty and pure emotion on a somber track like “Dead Horse” that delves into the feelings and emotions of going through a depressive episode.
The album as a whole is a very different sound to Paramore’s rock and punk vibes and instead, Williams taps into a variety of styles and sound within the pop realm, like in the song “Sugar on the Rim” that has a unique sort of ’80s element fused with modern indie eccentricity. A song like “Sudden Desire” carries that peculiar tone as well, but also manages to hold onto some of Williams rock roots too, which is a bit rare to hear within the 15 tracks.
Many of the songs on the album are quite low and gentle, but one of the softest tracks is “Why We Ever” that is reminiscent of an old-school pop ballad with a quiet, melancholy melody. Williams signature emotive vocals and heartbroken lyrics like, “how do you sound?/ what do you look like now?/ I try to replicate our movements in my mind,” and, “now I can’t remember why/ we ever felt we had to say goodbye.” The album closes on a semi-happy note with the song “Crystal Clear” and its hopeful lyrics like, “this don’t feel like sinking/ in fact, no matter how deep I go/ into you, it looks like the water is crystal clear,” and, “here we go again/ gonna risk it again/ let’s hope it’s the last time/ we don’t know how this could end/ let’s hope it won’t have to.” The songs’ beat is still a bit delicate, especially in comparison to her former rocky tones.
While Petal for Armor’s sound is a far cry from Paramore’s trademark tunes and is not technically a Paramore piece, the band’s closeness and successful teamwork have flowed into the album’s art, as fellow bandmate Taylor York produced the project and some of the videos were directed by her other bandmate Zac Farro. Fans of Williams’ powerhouse vocals, her openness and vehemence, pop enthusiasts, or even just curious Paramore rock fans will find something to love about Petals for Armor.