Why are Paramore riding the 80s nostalgia wave?
Paramore, a mainstream pop punk trio from Nashville, may not be a band you would expect to feature on a website primarily dedicated to disco, soul, and everything in between, but their fifth studio album After Laughter may beg to differ. With a huge departure from their pop punk routes, we examine the journey the band went on to find this brand new sound.
From their inception in 2004, Hayley Williams and her ever changing band of merry men have put out many critically acclaimed rock albums, with hits like ‘Misery business’ and ‘Ignorance’ blaring heavy guitar and fast drum beats through the airwaves for over a decade. Headlining some of the world’s biggest festivals, and going platinum, it’s safe to say they’ve enjoyed huge success while waving the mainstream rock flag.
However, after a huge transition in 2010, which saw them lose two of their key founding members in Zack and Josh Farro, it seemed Paramore had an identity crisis on their hands. After a little soul searching they put out their 2013 self-titled album again to much critical acclaim. Paramore was their way of making a statement, this is us, and this is our sound – along with the first genre shift for the band. While still retaining many rock elements that lived in the bands foundations, Paramore took a much quirkier indie approach. With three ukulele interludes, and electronic instruments creeping their way in, this was certainly something different.
Cut to 2017, with the release of their fifth studio album, it’s clear now that 2013’s Paramore was a transition. After Laughter is a vibrant, poppy, eccentric album that is hard to define. There are certain call backs to the disco of the 80s with bouncing guitar riffs and synth sound effects. Both videos for their two singles, ‘Hard Times’ and ‘Told You So’, feature vibrant colours and cartoony sets; a long way off from the dark and brooding video for 2011’s ‘Monster’.
So how has this come about? Have they forgotten who they are? We feel that we have a personal connection to our favourite artists, we indulge in them, creating a sense of ownership over their sound because their lyrics and sounds speak to us so clearly. So when a band changes their sound we feel it personally, especially if we don’t like it. Yet, like music and bands, people evolve. It’s unsurprising that Paramore have had a change in personality, having had a different group line up for all five of their albums.
Why the change? From a young age, Hayley Williams was touted as a future popstar, but despite this she stuck to her roots and her pop punk sound. However, this has always been a factor the band have publicly struggled with. They were adamant that they came as a package and not as Hayley William’s back up. Hayley becoming a feature on mainstream songs like B.O.B’s ‘Aeroplanes’ didn’t help.
Josh Farro and Hayley Williams were the two main songwriters for the band, they both had equal influence over the tone, style, and lyrical content. So when Faro called it quits, Hayley was left as the primary creative outlet. Without the responsibility of a second creative lead, Williams was able to take the band in the direction that she wanted to go. It’s clear with the Paramore album that she wanted to experiment with some new ideas. Whilst some may say that After Laughter is simply and attempt to keep up with the times, Paramore have a history of sticking to what they believe in. Hayley still features on pop punk albums, notably on the latest New Found Glory record. Synth pop music, and nostalgia for the 80s, is exercised through pop culture by the likes of Taylor Swift, Bruno Mars and The 1975. After Laughter shares a lot of the same sounds, it seems to be fashionable to call back to a simpler, groovier time.
Nevertheless, After Laughter seems like the natural progression of a band wanting to try something new, becoming unrestrained by the ties of their genre. While the album may sometimes feel like it is trying to be two different things at once, it certainly doesn’t shine a bad light on Paramore. It’s easy for a band to become stale and lack creative progression, which is why a lot of pop punk doesn't work anymore. Dare I say it, the tragedy of losing band members constantly over the years has led to each album feeling unique, instead of covering the same ground repeatedly. So keep an ear out for the considerably bouncier music from Paramore’s After Laughter popping up around the country this summer, because you may well find yourself tapping along too.