The New Era of Paramore: “After Laughter” and What it Means

Paramore comes back from a long four years of silence with their latest album After Laughter. Long time fans rejoiced and have eagerly been waiting for the album’s release since the first single, “Hard Times,” was presented to the public back in April.

The band has changed a lot since they were established back in 2004. Zac (drums) and Josh Farro (lead guitar) left the band in 2011, leaving Hayley Williams (lead vocals), Jeremy Davis (bass), and Taylor York (guitar, drums) to make Paramore’s self-titled album without them in 2013. Back in 2015, Jeremy Davis left the band. But back in February, only a few months before After Laughter was released, Zac made returned.

This album solidifies the band within the pop rock spectrum. After Laughter has an 80’s pop, upbeat sound, which is nothing like the aggressive, heavy sound of their earlier albums like All We Know is Falling (2005) and Riot! (2007). While their self-titled record from 2013 started their transition to a new sound and genre, their latest album let the world know that Paramore is not the same band it used to be and it isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Williams pours her heart out into every note and lyric, showing a side of herself that her fans have never seen before. While she’s always been a passionate and emotional performer, Williams has never expressed herself so clearly in any previously recorded music.

She’s used to portray such an upbeat and positive attitude on stage but “Rose-Colored Boy” gave listeners an idea of how pessimistic she can be. The fast, steady beat from the guitar and drums drowns the despair in the lyrics in a feet-moving pop hit. She sings about a boy wanting her to be as happy as he is, but she isn’t buying it. The song is heavily implying that people with mental illnesses, especially depression, cannot just “get over” it and change their world view that easily. Williams’ nails the point in the bridge, “You say ‘We gotta look on the bright side’/ I say ‘Well, maybe if you wanna go blind’ /You say my eyes are getting too dark now/But boy, you ain’t ever seen my mind.”

“Hard Times” couldn’t have been a better song to release as a single to promote the album because it’s kind of like an overview of the entire record in a three minute pop rock, hip-shaking, bass pumping jam. The beat is very 80s pop sounding, with a unique guitar and bass rhythm that make it sound like the music is being made entirely electronically. The use of a cow bell and xylophone bring a nice percussion addition alongside the heavy impact of the drums, making the sound even more different from what Paramore’s older music was like. It’s hard not to move your body and sing along with Williams at the chorus, “Hard times, gonna make you wonder why you even try/Hard times, gonna take you down and laugh when you cry.”

“Idle Worship” has one of the most interesting messages on the album. Williams is warning Paramore fans to be careful about putting their faith in musicians and idolizing them to the point where they see them as someone that saved them (“I never said I’d save you, honey”). She sings about musicians and celebrities being put on such high pedestals and being put under the spotlight when they make the slightest mistake. The point of this song is so fans to put their faith in something more important than a band because, as Williams says, “your savior doesn’t look a thing like me.”

Connecting with the message from “Rose-Colored Boy”, “Fake Happy” is Williams’ way of telling her fans she’s hasn’t been okay for a long time and that she’s been putting on a mask of positivity for the audience. The song starts out with a soft acoustic guitar strumming along with William’s low vocals saying, “I feel so fake happy,” and transitions into another pop hit, with a bouncing keyboard beat surrounding the sadness and reality of the lyrics.

A lot of the lyrics in the album are real and heart shattering, almost contradicting the dance worthy music that makes up the songs. This is almost a metaphor for the band itself and is kind of a more literal depiction of the lyric from “Fake Happy”, “ Hey, if I smile with my teeth/Bet you believe me.”

While some fans may be upset Paramore doesn’t sound the way they used to, it’s only fitting that a band that has gone through so many ups and downs would make such a transition in genre. This album was so emotionally powerful and it’s not hard to imagine how hard this will impact their fans. Williams spoke her mind and let her fans into a deep, personal part of her life and made some beautiful music to accompany her stories. After Laughter is the beginning of a new era for Paramore and everyone is waiting with baited breath to see what they do next.