Review Zone: Paramore goes ethereal with new album ‘This is Why’

A drawing of the album cover of Paramore’s “This Is Why.” The three band members, Hayley Williams, Taylor York, and Zac Farro, have their faces smooshed up against the glass where the fourth wall might be.
(Cassidy Jones • The Student Life)

“We finished the first day in the studio and listened back to the music and … it simultaneously sounds like everything we’ve ever loved and nothing we’ve ever done before ourselves,” Paramore’s lead singer, Hayley Williams, said of their new album “This is Why.”

In case you’re one of the five people at the Claremont Colleges who haven’t heard of Paramore, here’s your primer. Paramore is an American rock band founded in 2005. Since then, they have released six studio albums to massive commercial success, fluctuating in genres, styles and band members. Their latest project has three of Paramore’s eight total historical members. As you can imagine, there is no end to the drama the band has gone through, and it isn’t hard to find people who you can talk about that sort of stuff with for hours on end.

But that’s not what I’m here to do. I’m here to talk about why Paramore’s new aesthetic blend may be their best yet and how it cements them in rock canon as one of the best and most resilient groups, who inexorably moves further toward musical surprises.

And where else to start that conversation but the title track? “This is Why” opens with a very Radio Head-esque sound, with cool baselines and casual drums paired with toned down guitar and some light maracas. Williams opens with “if you have an opinion / maybe you should shove it,” perhaps one of the more badass starts to an album I’ve heard in a while. The sound is robust, bright and tightly controlled –– echoing back to much of Paramore’s discography. It’s classic and beautiful, a reminder of why we were looking forward to this album so much.

“Big Man Little Dignity” opens in ethereal fashion — a soothing bass clarinet and soaring wooden flute complement the traditional Paramore sounds of tight drums and catchy guitar riffs. This is the first song on the album that starts the aesthetic shift that “This is Why” represents more broadly — a turn to the ethereal and vague. Williams’ lyrics provide a mocking and yet despairing critique of men in power: “you’re so smooth, it’s pitiful / know you can get away with anything / so that’s exactly what you do.” The ever-changing tone of the song enables Williams to be so dynamic with her theming, altering the way her words can be interpreted with each new chord.

“You First” starts with a rolling uncomfortable guitar line and a punky feeling that pushes you forward into the song. The pre-chorus transitions back to their ethereal aesthetic with smooth guitar arpeggios fluttering over the traveling bass. Paramore lyrically embraces a sort of punk skepticism, “everyone is a bad guy / and there’s no way to know who’s the worst.”

Any fans of The Police will note how familiar this song sounds — Paramore members are experts at drawing influence from so many parts of rock. This track shows off Paramore’s ability to match lyrics with the vibe of a song — the punk environment they foster on “You First” primes the listener to be ready to question everything around them and be fiercely angry at the same time. “Karma’s gonna come for all of us … and I hope she comes for you first.”

“Crave” is possibly the most ethereal track on the album, opening with loose drumming and gorgeous sliding guitar chords. Williams flows through her lyrics, a sharp shift from the harsh hits she delivered in tracks like “This is Why” and “The News.” Williams lyrically reflects on a perfect moment and a simple time, “just for a second it all felt simple / I’m already missing it.” Her voice is effortlessly expressive — you can hear the pained emotion in every chorus.

Thanks to tracks like these, “This is Why” is a great album. Each tune is controlled, specific and independent — starting and finishing a journey and giving the listener something new to pay attention to. The project moves Paramore in a new and exciting aesthetic direction towards a more vague, open and ethereal sound. This new sound enables them to question more complex themes, ones they don’t necessarily have easy answers to, and to add more and more layers to their already deep musical composition.

The album addresses a variety of themes from love to confidence to hatred to nostalgia, reflecting Paramore’s lyrical brilliance and flexibility. At every point, each song has at least three or four interesting layers going on, ensuring the album is easy to listen to over and over again – you’ll always find something new. 

The album is both quintessentially Paramore and simultaneously brand new. It’s the perfect representation of how beautifully flexible the group can be and of the fantastic product that so often results from that power.

Rowan Gray CM ’26 is from Sharon, Massachusetts. He wants you to know that all Oxford commas in this piece were violently deleted by his copy editors.

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