By Camila De La Cruz
The 10th of February 2023 was a day that I was looking forward to for a long time. Not only was it a Friday, but it was also the day that two of my favourite bands would release an album for the first time in over 5 years. One of those bands is Paramore, a rock band from Nashville, Tennessee which first debuted in 2005 with members featuring Hayley Williams, Taylor York, and Zac Farro.
‘This is Why’ became an instant favourite of mine once it was released. I was pleasantly surprised to hear the unique direction Paramore was taking - exploring new genres and sound but also regarding their message, commenting on a variety of social justice issues and the impact on our mental health. Below are three of the main title tracks from the album and their message.
Running Out of Time
The title track of the album, “Running Out of Time” could be interpreted in different ways. The song is about lead singer Hayley’s struggle with punctuality, a struggle that a lot of us relate to. This could be exacerbated by two years of growing hopelessness and anxiety growing during lockdown. In an interview with Genius, Hayley talked about this worsening anxiety being caused by many external factors, the general worries about the pandemic and social injustices that gained attention from the media.
“I asked myself a lot of questions that made me feel really uncomfortable while making this record and I feel like that was kicked-started by so many social injustices that got a spotlight during the pandemic.”
This relates to so many of Paramore’s listeners, including myself. We all hear about devastating injustices from all over the world. A natural disaster here, a war going on there, human rights being abused over there. It’s easy to feel hopeless. We are all human with general compassion to want to help, but large issues like these make us feel like we can’t change it.
Listen to “Running out of Time” here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=toKJP3luQbI
The 2nd track on This is Why titled “The News” dives deeper into this idea. This song was the way the band could respond to the overwhelming number of social injustices that gained attention since their hiatus in 2018 such as the Black Lives Matter movement, the war in Ukraine, civil wars in Yemen, the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine and more (although never address any by name). This song goes deeper into the hopelessness one can feel after being exposed to so much depressing media from nations far away. The band has been heavily involved in social activism by raising awareness on their social media for a while now and sometime by giving a portion of concert sales towards causes such as the Kansas Abortion Funds in the wake of the overturn of Roe vs Wade which the band opposed. But no matter how much you post on social media or donate your time or money towards an issue you deem important, in the long run, will you ever feel like you’ve done something impactful to fix the issue?
“But I worry and I give money and I feel useless behind this computer and that just barely scratched the surface of my mind” – Lyrics of “The News”
As a member of Year 11 working hard to raise as much money for the Landing Pad organization, it's easy for me to think “Will this really fix the issue of period poverty”. As heartbreaking as it is to know that no, one singular fundraising event will not solve period poverty entirely, it’s important to know that even if I won’t not be fixing the big issue at hand, at least I can help one girl’s life. And for me, that’s enough.
But back on Paramore, “The News” focuses on the negative impacts this kind of media has on people’s mental health. Paramore has always been very open about their struggles with mental health since the beginning of their careers whether it be in their music or on social media. But the aforementioned, constant feeling of hopelessness and uselessness that came with the overwhelming number of injustices raised does take a toll on one’s mental health. The war behind someone’s eyes.
“And I’ve got war, a war, a war right behind my eyes”
But what happens when the news is not 100% truthful? What if I focus so much on the horrible things on the news that might not even be true? In the bridge of the chorus, the band brings up the immense amount of clickbait news online that made it so hard to find who to trust in an era where reliable information about Covid was crucial.
“Exploitative, performative. Informative and we don’t know half of it…. All along, we called it normal”
Although not the title track, this song remains my favourite from the album. Not only due to the rock sounds from the energetic guitars in the chorus that reflects Paramore’s early signature sound that I love but in my opinion, this was a great way to go about the importance and misuse of media during the pandemic. I liked how it took a different approach towards social justice, being open about the negative impacts the media had on them and warning listeners about the harms of reading too much news, which is extremely important for anyone who wants has an interest in justice.
Listen to “The News” here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YSFa_wOZPXg
This is Why
The first song to be released on the album “This is Why” focuses more on the impact of negative media that can impact people’s mental health. The line “this is why I don’t leave the house” that repeats in the chorus not only relates to the need to socially isolate during the pandemic but also relates to social anxiety. This is why I don’t leave the house because I feel like I will be judged or someone will laugh at me. It could also be interpreted as an unwillingness to open up on social media or being worried about others' opinions of you on social media.
“This is why I don’t leave the house. You said the coast is clear but you won’t catch me out” - Lyrics of “This is Why”
This issue is very relevant to Paramore especially to lead vocalist, Hayley Williams. Hayley has been in the industry for around 20 years now since she was only 16 years old. As the band grew in popularity, particularly after the release of their album Riot in 2007, Hayley began to face misogyny online in the male-dominated genre. It was during this time that the band faced many difficulties including members leaving and rejoining the band and the controversy surrounding the lyrics behind the title track “Misery Business”. Many magazines and tabloids would turn to Hayley blaming her for these issues the band faced, which of cause took a toll on her mental health for years. She has opened up in interviews that at the time, she didn’t understand that much of the backlash she received was the double standard that women face in the media. In my opinion, it’s heartbreaking to think that she thought she deserved so much backlash at such as young age for things that were out of her control.
“The scene was not always a safe place to be if you were different. If you were a young woman, if you were a person of colour, if you were queer.” – Hayley at the ‘When we were young’ music festival
Listen to “This is Why” here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xIYJ7VaSxYY
After the whole album, I think I’ll give the album a 9/10. Like many other people, I appreciate it when a song makes you feel like you aren’t going through a hard time alone, and this album was like that. I was like Hayley, Taylor and Zac when the pandemic started: worried about everything happening around the world, being petrified to leave the house and being vulnerable to talk about all this when it was all happening. During the pandemic, it felt wrong for me to go “I’m just going to ignore the news today, I’m not going to do anything about current events” when there were millions on the other side of the world who had it worse than me. I haven’t heard many artists talk about the harms of too much negative media in this way before. That is why I enjoyed this album so much.