Paramore review: This Is Why feels like a failed experiment

Paramore share behind the scenes of new music video

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It’s been a while since Paramore have released new music. Their last album, After Laughter, arrived six years ago in 2017 – but this delay between records isn’t a massive surprise; the Nashville-based band usually take their time between albums music. However, This Is Why could have spent a little longer in the oven. While After Laughter reinvented the band as a funky, jazz-infused pop-punk experiment filled with sadness and authenticity, This Is Why is a step backwards into the territory of their self-titled album.

This Is Why’s first song – its title track – hit the airwaves back in September and delivered a ’70s-styled dance number with edge and power. The first chunk of the album continues this trend, with This Is Why and The News delivering echoes of the excellent attitude Paramore have become synonymous with. These first few songs are the major hits in the album, with C’est Comme Ca showing off some real stopping power utilising the musicality of Bloc Party and the lyrical cadence of something like Wet Leg or Movements.

Throughout the entire record, Hayley Williams delivers slam poetry-esque bouts of lyrical prowess that feel fresh for Paramore. However, they don’t always land for me. Running Out Of Time is a perfect example of this; it comes off more like a meandering art piece than a Paramore hit. And the album is worse for it.

Despite this, Running Out Of Time has a stunning chorus that will no doubt dig its claws in during live performances. And these enticing hooks are scattered intermittently throughout the record. Likewise in You First, where catchy twists are peppered throughout and will certainly keep you intrigued.

This Is Why is at its worst in the following track, however: Big Man Little Dignity. On top of it being a certified skip magnet, it feels like Williams, Taylor York and Zac Farro are trying to make a point with this sharp-tongued track while lacking any kind of originality. The musicianship is entirely forgettable and fades out when the lyrics run out of steam. Truly a misstep on the album.

And this isn’t a contained problem. This Is Why as a whole feels bare. Two-dimensional, in fact. There are notes of synths and a glockenspiel (no, really), but – when compared to its gold-certified predecessor – it doesn’t match up. Almost every song on After Laughter has become a cult hit since its release in 2017, and I truly don’t see that happening with This Is Why. Maybe it’s unfair to compare the two records, but considering After Laughter has become (arguably) their best-loved album, it’s hard not to. 

Still, in classic Paramore fashion, there are some incredible ballads buried in This Is Why.

Liar emphasises Williams’ gorgeous voice in a fine-tuned crooner that could easily be mistaken for a Stevie Nicks song. What’s more, York’s delicate guitar work builds a beautiful foundation that will only gain more adoration as the iconic band bring it to the stage.

Likewise, Thick Skull builds a truly serene soundtrack to cap off the record. This is, without a doubt, the best track on the record. It’s smart, interesting, deftly produced and filled with passion (maybe that’s just me?). This album’s All I Wanted, for sure. Unfortunately, 

Paramore were always going to struggle following up After Laughter, but This Is Why feels like part of an experiment gone wrong. As if half of the music has been written while the rest was built. It’s still fine music – and better than some other bands out there – but in Paramore’s exceptional songbook, these ten tracks are easily going to be lost in the shuffle, and may not find a place in their ever-changing live setlists as they tour the world. 

Paramore – This Is Why is out now.

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