After Laughter Gives Honest Look on Mental Health

With an album beginning with “All I want is to wake up fine/ To tell me I’m alright, that I ain’t gonna die,” it’s pretty clear that Paramore is not holding back this time around. After Laughter, Paramore’s fifth studio album, is complete with 12 tracks, taking listeners on a journey of their unapologetic range of emotion and the very real battle of mental health. The album’s cover is a perfect accompaniment to the airy 80s feel of the album; if neon had a sound, it would be After Laughter.

Hard Times, the lead single and first song off the album, sets the tone perfectly. The first couple of bars start with a simple marimba beat, then we are introduced to a nice upbeat guitar and drum combo, with a couple of bells scattered throughout the song. The seemingly upbeat tune, presents the familiar feeling of being overwhelmed by life’s challenges and how never ending they seem. When we get to the bridge, Hayley softly sings “Tell my friends I’m coming down/ We’ll kick it when I hit the ground,” which immediately lead me to think of disassociating. Even in the music video, Hayley is shown floating above her bandmates while she sings those words.

Next up is my current fave from the album, Rose-Colored Boy. A true anthem for the pessimist. At times I get so upset that there is a comfort in being in that state because there are seemingly no other viable options available at that moment. The worst thing that can happen when I’m in that mood, is for somebody, surely well-intentioned, to come up and tell me to cheer up. Next time that happens I will gladly direct them to the nearest internet device and tell them to pull this song up. Since listening to Rose-Colored Boy for the first time, “Really all I’ve got is just to stay pissed off” has been stuck in my head. It’s impossible for ANYone to be positive 24/7. Freedom really is allowing yourself to feel all of your emotions without shame.

The second single from After Laughter is Told You So. While being wrong sometimes is just apart of human nature, in this song Paramore highlights the people who get off on proving others wrong. There are few things that piss me off more than a know-it-all who can’t wait to tell you ‘I told you so.’ Leading into the next track, Forgiveness, which gives listeners an honest story of how someone is not ready to forgive. In a society where people give out fake forgiveness left and right, it’s refreshing to hear somebody admit to not being ready to grant it. Forgiveness must being given freely, not pressured, in order for it to be valid.

Another standout track for me is Fake Happy. It begins with a slow, acoustic intro, then later the lyrics adopt a sarcastic tone for the pre-chorus “If I smile with my teeth/ Bet you believe me.” The whole song is a reminder to me, that it’s not realistic to be happy all the time, so I don’t have to fake it for others just so they feel more comfortable. Because at the end of the day, everybody else is faking happy too.

Next up is 26. Would it be a Paramore project without an acoustic song? More than anything, 26 seemed like Hayley reminding herself to hold on to hope, no matter how little it is. Much like the entire theme of this album, this song seems deeply personal, but if other people (like me) can relate to it, then that’s just an added bonus.

It’s always interesting to see how artists choose to approach love songs. With Pool this frank take on love is very Paramore. The closest thing to a love song on this album, is unsurprisingly not void of doubts and second guessing. But isn’t that what love is?

Though I am terrible at holding onto them, Grudges still struck a chord for me. Again, Grudges is one of those songs that are obviously deeply personal for the band, but can still apply to many people. Despite the title, this song touches on some of the more lighter topics on the album, such as having a fresh start with an old friend.

The juxtaposition of Williams singing “I can’t think of getting old/ It only makes me want to die” over an upbeat guitar riff really hit home for me. The lyrics throughout the whole song, paints a picture of somebody just trying to make it through life, day by day. Making sure not to look too far in the future, but also not dwelling in the past. Often times poor mental health makes you feel like you can’t even make it to tomorrow, so sometimes we just need to celebrate making it to the next moment.

My first time listening though After Laughter, I was no doubt enjoying the direction Paramore chose to take, but I was still craving something more aggressive and I got exactly what I wanted with Idle Worship. Here Hayley sets the record straight, making sure everybody knows she didn’t sign up for the pedestal she is constantly placed on. She lays everything on the table so people can’t come back and say otherwise. Idolizing people isn’t healthy for anybody involved. The person put on the pedestal is not able to be graced with the traits that go along with being human, while the person doing the lifting is setting themselves up for eternal disappointment. The beat from Idle Worship seems to blend into the next track. Honestly, I don’t have much to say about No Friend. It is a standout track, in that it’s unlike anything they’ve ever done before, with vocals given by Aaron Weiss.

Finally, After Laughter closes with Tell Me How, a soundtrack for the woes of losing relationships. There’s a lot of questioning going on for self reflection, because it’s never easy to let go of people, no matter how much we try and lie to ourselves. However sometimes, the right answer is to let go of these people in your life and attempt to see a life without them. It’s okay to be sad about it for some time, but eventually you’ll be able to move on. The album even ends in “I can still believe.”

After Laughter is currently the most relatable Paramore album for me. This time around they chose to embrace the bad, unsexy feelings we go through, instead of overriding them. At some point I had to take a step back and realize that even though they’ve been doing this for so long, they’re still young (all of them are still under 30). There’s still a lot of learning and introspection of self going on. After Laughter is what happens after the laughter is over, when everyone is gone and you let out your real feelings you’ve kept down for the comfort of others. The journey of this album doesn’t necessarily end in a happy ending, but it is realistic.