Paramore is a breakup album. But not the kind you might think.
The breakup in question here isn’t the romantic kind. Instead, song after song references the acrimonious departure of two of the band’s founding members in 2010, brothers Josh and Zac Farro—a split that involved them accusing lead singer Hayley Williams of compromising her Christian faith in some of the lyrics on the band’s 2009 album brand new eyes (a subject I wrote about in detail in Plugged In’s track review for lead single ” Now“).
Paramore, then, represents a phoenix-like resuscitation for the band. But it didn’t come without some serious soul-searching, if the raw, anguished, cathartic (and sometimes sarcastic) lyrics here are to be taken at face value.
On “(One of Those) Crazy Girls,” a clingy young woman implies she’d sleep with a boyfriend who’s leaving her to save the relationship: “Why are you tellin’ me good-bye?/Aren’t you gonna stay the night?” As the song progresses, it becomes obvious she isn’t just desperate, but that she’s actually closer to being a “crazy” stalker. “I’m gonna call a hundred times,” she threatens. “And now I’m standing at your doorstep/ … If you don’t answer, I’ll just use the key/That I copied ’cause I really need to see you.” Clearly, she’s unbalanced, but even that context doesn’t mitigate the couple’s physical relationship. Ambiguous lyrics on “Be Alone” say, “You should be alone/Yeah, you should be alone with me/We could be alone/ … But never get too lonely.”
“Grow Up” bristles with attitude as Williams vents, “I told ’em all to stick it.” “Interlude: Moving On” finds Williams delivering this vindictive-sounding zinger: “Let ’em have their fun/Let ’em spill their guts/’Cause one day they’re gonna slip on ’em.” “Fast in My Car” includes a reference to, obviously, “driving fast in my car,” along with Williams’ admission that going through the emotional wringer left her “callous and cruel.”
Listening to the 17 songs on Paramore’s massive, 64-minute self-titled fourth effort, several things are clear:
First, the departure of the Farro brothers devastated Hayley Williams (along with remaining band members Jeremy Davis and Taylor York). The first eight songs address that event. So it’s half way through the album before you get any sort of sense that Paramore has dealt with the subject sufficiently to begin venturing into other territory, like, say, a love song.
Second, despite some bitter sarcasm here and there, Paramore is moving on. Williams repeatedly tells us she’s not angry. Pain lingers, but there’s renewed hope as the band gets back on its collective feet.
Third, the group’s rebirth comes with a renewed sense of musical adventure. Williams and her bandmates indulge their pop side here, pairing Paramore’s established arena-punk anthems will all manner of surprisingly synthy flourishes.
Finally, “Part II” sends a message that the band’s faith—which Williams has talked a lot about in the past—does indeed still matter.
Even with all the angst and the processed bitterness and the “Crazy Girls” factored in, then, that makes Paramore Paramore’s most mature and engaging effort yet.
After serving as an associate editor at NavPress’ Discipleship Journal and consulting editor for Current Thoughts and Trends, Adam now oversees the editing and publishing of Plugged In’s reviews as the site’s director. He and his wife, Jennifer, have three children. In their free time, the Holzes enjoy playing games, a variety of musical instruments, swimming and … watching movies.