Given their impact on alternative culture, it’s hard to believe that Paramore have only released five albums since their debut landed in 2005. Since then, the Franklin, Tennessee group have had quite the journey, becoming one of the landmark emo bands of the 2000s, indulging in a brief flirtation with synth-pop, losing bands members, and going on hiatus, before returning recently to make the most highly anticipated comeback of the year with their new single This Is Why.
Each album has built on the Paramore legacy in a different way. So, as they gear up to release their sixth record, also titled This Is Why, in February 2023, let's look back on how Hayley Williams' band revolutionised the modern rock scene, paved the way for women in pop-punk, and soundtracked the noughties en route.
5. All We Know Is Falling (2005)
Paramore’s debut album was hardly a misfire. It launched the Tennessee quintet into the burgeoning pop-punk/emo scene of the mid-2000s, and secured them stints on the road with the likes of Fall Out Boy, Gym Class Heroes and The Academy Is… But in comparison to their later releases, All We Know Is Falling sounds like the work of a band finding their feet. Which to be fair they were, with Hayley Williams only 16-years-old when it emerged.
The 10-track set received mixed reviews upon its release and didn’t really take off commercially until its follow-up, 2007's Riot!, sparked a renewed interest in the band, and their debut. Still, it left its mark on pop culture – who remembers Hayley Williams belting out lead-off single Pressure in Simlish for The Sims 2 on console?
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4. After Laughter (2017)
After Laughter stands as the most obvious departure from Paramore’s signature guitar-driven sound, as the band, now a three-piece with returning drummer Zac Farro joining Hayley Willliams and guitarist Taylor York, built on the varied influences of their self-titled album to make an all-out synth-pop record.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of their fifth album is how they switched up their sound so dramatically without alienating their fanbase; although synth-pop is a far cry from the group's sound circa Riot!, its lyrics explore anxiety and depression, and this added a layer of complexity to After Laughter, cleverly contrasting with the album's bubblegum sound.
But while fans adored the album, and it's a great standalone pop album, in comparison with the three records which preceded it, After Laughter just doesn’t pack the same punch.
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3. Riot! (2007)
Riot! is the Paramore album with the most complicated legacy. This was the album that truly launched their career, and inadvertently doomed a generation of female-fronted rock bands to be lazily compared to Hayley Williams by music critics for years to come.
For most long-time fans, Riot! is the pointy at which they fall in love with Paramore. Between Hayley Williams’ belting vocals and the fiery attitude that permeated every song, Riot! is... well, a riot from start to finish, with That’s What You Get and crushcrushcrush still ranked among the band's greatest hits.
The album’s most famous song, Misery Business, however, didn’t age particularly well, due to the problematic lyric, 'Once a whore, you're nothing more'. It isn’t exactly the band’s favourite track either, with Hayley Williams writing about her own feelings on the track on Instagram in 2020: “I know it’s one of the band’s biggest songs but it shouldn’t be used to promote anything having to do with female empowerment or solidarity. I’m so proud of Paramore’s career, it’s not about shame. it’s about growth and progression… and though it’ll always be a fan favorite, we don’t need to include it on playlists in 2020.”
Misery Business has reappeared on Paramore setlists this year, which hasn't pleased everyone, but ultimately, a few lyrical missteps hardly overshadow the triumph of Riot! or the space it created for women in the pop-punk scene.
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2. Paramore (2013)
Looking back upon Paramore’s self-titled album, it's important to remember that the odds were stacked against it. Pop-punk’s moment in the spotlight had long since faded by 2013 and the band had just emerged as a three-piece minus brothers Josh and Zac Farro, previously viewed as integral to Paramore's success. But where less committed acts wouldn’t have survived such commotion, Hayley Williams' new-look unit thrived, reintroducing themselves to the world as a more adventurous band.
On their self-titled album, Paramore leaned into experimental pop-rock without losing the spark that made their punkier albums so irresistible, and you can hear traces of trailblazers Blondie and Siouxsie and the Banshees throughout. The joyous Still Into You and Ain’t It Fun remain two of the most popular tracks in their catalogue, and with new single This Is Why displaying that same experimental indie edge, fans are understandably excited to enter the band's next era.
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1. Brand New Eyes (2009)
Brand New Eyes stands out as the album which secured Paramore's greatness. Taking the blistering confidence that propelled them to fame on Riot! and applying it to a more polished sound, the group's third album got rave reviews from fans and critics alike. And with the contrasting sounds of Ignorance and The Only Exception, Paramore expanded and perfected their balance of pop-punk rage and striking vulnerability.
Like many great albums, Brand New Eyes was written following an in-band break-up. Hayley Williams and Josh Farro had recently split up - a period of time Williams described to Rolling Stone as “a dark season” for the band - and the ensuing tensions would ultimately result in significant line-up upheavals after this record. Here though, with their future uncertain, Paramore gave it their all, and the album's success gave the re-imagined group the confidence to know they could negotiate almost any obstacle in their path in the years to come.
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