Ah, After Laughter. The album that started it all. I fell in love with this album the second it came out and this week, I finally got a chance to see some of the songs I have admired all summer long live when I saw Paramore at the Fox Theater in Atlanta.
Paramore’s fifth studio album debuted in May 2017 to resounding acclaim for both its lyrical content and surprising new direction for this band who has been around for over a decade now. For me, this is the album that pushed me to start writing about music. It’s so important because it touches on dark subject matter in a light way that lets you feel and see these songs in many different ways.
If you’ve been reading my stuff for the past few months, you’ll know that I reviewed this album earlier this year but now that I have seen Paramore for the second time, I have to talk about it again. This time, with more insight.
The album debuts with its lead single, Hard Times, a fan favorite that cements Paramore as a genre-neutral band. I remember waking up the morning that this song came out to a text from one of my friends that read “SO DIFFERENT. SO GREAT” and a link to the music video. This song opened the concert I went to and got the crowd on their feet immediately. On this track, we hear gloomy lyrics with the sounds of a 1990s sitcom theme song. It ends with guitarist Taylor York giving major Duran Duran vibes that lead me to believe that this song would make a great mashup with “Hungry Like the Wolf.”
The next song is my personal favorite and it pushes Paramore deep into the realm of pop music. Rose-Colored Boy portrays a person who sees the world for what it really is. No more rose-colored glasses or being able to fake being okay. With this song, the band opens a door for people to learn that sometimes it’s okay to not be okay. It is so much fun to see live and served as a great closer.
Told You So delivers a repetitive bridge that resonates with anyone who feels like people who try to give sympathy always have ulterior motives. It’s also been said that lead singer Hayley Williams’ scream in the live version can restart a failing heart because the crowd went nuts when she belted this one out. Forgiveness shows the side of us that has been so hurt that you can’t lay down arms and offer redemption to someone even if you wanted to. It’s also very hard to sing, so kudos to Hayley again for slaying this vocal as well.
Fake Happy is the essence of the band’s new unofficial slogan: cry hard, dance harder. We’ve all had those times. The times when we’re sad but have to function like nothing is wrong. When we saw it live it was SO GOOD. It felt really therapeutic to scream this chorus with a few thousand other fans.
The show got more intimate with 26. The little flickers of silence between notes fit so perfectly with just Hayley and Taylor onstage. I didn’t get to hear Pool at the live show, but I’ve been listening to it for months and I will swear to this day that it was inspired by There She Goes by The La’s. It brings back memories of riding around on dirt roads with my dad blaring 96.9 when I was a kid.
Grudges paints a portrait opposite of the person in Forgiveness. It’s about that awkward moment when you’ve reconnected with a friend that hurt you, you’ve forgiven them, and let them back into your life. When Caught in the Middle began at the concert, I knew that my initial favorite song of this album was going to have a special performance. With lyrics like “Nostalgia’s cool but it won’t help me now / A dream is good if you don’t wear it out”, this song shows that you can’t dwell on your past if you expect to move forward.
The beats from Idle Worship and No Friend are the same, but they could not be more different. In Idle Worship, Hayley warns us to be careful who place on a pedestal. Those celebrity idols we place above everyone else are just human too and we can’t worship their every move as law. No Friend is a spoken word song with vocals from mewithoutYou’s Aaron Weiss that tells a story with old Paramore references hidden under a strong beat.
The album closes with Tell Me How, a gut punch ballad with memorable piano phrases and powerful lyrics. This song wasn’t on the setlist for my show, but if it was, there’s a one hundred percent chance that everyone would have cried.
Hands down, this is the best album of the year. Paramore comes back from a four year break with a dynamic album that tells you that it’s okay to not be okay. This concert was easily one of the happiest moments of my entire life. I cannot wait until this band, one of my favorite bands ever, comes back around. I hope you won’t miss them next time so we can all go to the show and cry hard, but dance harder.