If I had to pick just one word to summarize both the music and the stories swirling around the pop-punk outfit Paramore, it would be drama—with regard to where the band's been in recent years and where they stand today.
Back in 2009, the Nashville band fronted by the flame-haired Haley Williams, was working through some intense intra-band conflict—conflict severe enough that, for a time, it threatened to torpedo the group's future.
Plenty of references to said turmoil turned up on Paramore's third album, 2009's brand new eyes, so much so that I said in my review that it "unpacks raw emotions in the wake of conflict and misunderstanding." I also noted "a brow-furrowing misuse of a well-known scriptural teaching" for a band whose members had often talked openly about their Christian faith. Namely an inverted reference to Jesus' words in John 8:32 on the song "Playing God": "The truth never set me free," Williams sings, "so I did it myself."
Then, in December 2010, the band's official site posted a message saying that founding members, brothers Josh and Zac Farro, would be departing the group, and wished them well. Three days later, the brothers posted a lengthy, bitter response on Josh's blog blasting Williams and others in the band with a long list of accumulated grievances … including the lyric noted above.
"Hayley presented lyrics to us that were really negative and we didn't agree with," the Farros wrote. "For example, 'the truth never set me free', which contradicts what the Bible says in John 8:32 ('and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall sat [sic] you free'). We fought her about how her lyrics misrepresented our band and what we stood for, but in the end she got her way. Instead of fighting her any longer, we decided to just roll over and let it go."
So now there are three who remain, and they're ready to release a new song and a new album. Lead single "Now" acknowledges the toll all that internecine warfare took on the band … as it looks forward to better days ahead.
Even that optimistic outlook, however, still feels drenched in drama.
"Don't try to take this from me/Now," Williams wails at the outset, a preemptive warning to anyone who might underestimate her tenacity. After that fierce beginning, though, she shifts into a more reflective stance, diving into some of the turbulent water that's flowed under the band's collective bridge.
"Feels like I'm waking from the dead," she admits. "And everyone's been waiting on me." She says she was caught off guard by the conflict: "But weren't we indestructible? I thought that we could brave it all/Never thought that what would take me out was hiding down below/Lost the battle/Win the war/Bringing my sinking ship back to the shore." And continues, "Wish I could find a crystal ball/For the days I feel completely worthless/You know I'd use it all for good/I would not take it for granted/Instead, I have some memories/For the days I don't feel anything/At least they will remind me not to make the same mistake again."
If those lyrics, along with the song's video—which features scenes of people crashing into each other and beating one another up with clubs in the midst of a pitched battle—seem a bit melancholy, the song's massive, arena-blasting chorus is determined to look ahead, not back. "Starting over/Head back in," Williams sings. "There's a time and a place to die, but this ain't it/If there's a future, we want it now/Don't try to take this from me/Don't try to take this from me/Now."
In a Dec. 6, 2012, post on the band's blog, Williams (along with remaining bandmates Jeremy Davis and Taylor York) said of the song, "The first single off the album is called 'Now'. Not really sure what else to say except for we love this song. It just feels like the perfect way to start this new journey we are embarking on not only as a band but as a movement. To show people that you can lose battles but come back and win full on wars. You can rise from ashes. You can make something out of even less than nothing. The only thing you have to do is keep moving forward!"
And so Paramore's journey continues its wildly—dramatically—zigzagging course.