Paramore
This Is Why


3.6
great

Review

by Sowing STAFF
February 11th, 2023 | 370 replies


Release Date: 02/10/2023 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A worthy if mildly disappointing addition to Paramore's canon.

If there's one thing I've found fascinating about the critical reaction to just about every Paramore record for the past decade (or more), it's the zeroed in focus on how the band has "matured". It's almost always billed as a stylistic leap, a sonic reinvention, or the band's new frontier in which they finally ditch their pop-punk roots and all of their high school drama, as if that hadn't already been done by 2013's Paramore. Thus, it came as little surprise when identical sentiments gushed from nearly every single This Is Why review. The truth is that this album's introspection and sociopolitical commentary shouldn't have shocked anyone who was actually paying attention. Have you heard 'Future' or 'No Friend'? Paramore hasn't been fucking around lately, and the idea that they're still some group of bratty pop-punkers who are at long last growing into their "adult millennial" shoes is insulting to the quality of their recent output. A case could be made for 2017's After Laughter being the best thing they've ever released, and even their celebrated early pop-punk discography from 2005's All We Know Is Falling through 2009's Brand New Eyes was never actually immature compared to most of their contemporaries. It's a strange aspect of Paramore's career that always seems to be scrutinized, and it makes no sense.

That's why I wouldn’t peg This Is Why as Paramore’s maturity statement, because they’ve been adults making music that's relatable for other adults for quite a while now. Is it their most pent-up, frustrated piece yet? I could easily debate that, but I see the merit. Their most political offering? Sure, absolutely – but more than anything, This Is Why feels like a totally organic evolution from the lush indie-pop melodies and 80s-tinged production of After Laughter, an album that was gleefully unaware of the hellscape that 2020 would bring with it. This Is Why successfully captures the uneasiness of living in this decade, from things as massive as war or the COVID-19 pandemic to snowballing daily frustrations. From every corner of the band's sixth full-length outing, you can feel the walls closing in on Hayley Williams & co.; an idea driven home by the LP's fascinating artwork.

At their most laid back, Paramore handle this pressure in stride and with a sense of humor. Observe ‘C'est Comme Ça’, which translates in French to “it is what it is”, where Hayley Williams documents life under lockdown: “In a single year, I've aged one hundred / My social life, a chiropractic appointment.” The chirpy chorus stands in stark contrast to the spoken verses, where Williams’ performance sounds both detached and utterly convincing. They also find room for romance, with the lyrical vulnerability and breathtaking self-harmonization of ‘Liar’ and 'Crave'. Most of the time though, This Is Why can’t take its eyes off of society’s in-progress decay, which is best illustrated by ‘The News’ and its chronicling of addiction to twenty-four hour media ("every second, our collective heart breaks...shut your eyes, but it won't go away") and the associated guilt of observing tragedy from afar ("but I worry and I give money and I feel useless behind this computer"). Paired with the title track’s harrowing depiction of modern discourse: “You're either with us or you can keep it to yourself”, This Is Why immediately paints a bleak but familiar picture. Paramore has always had a knack for harnessing the negative energy of all their external stressors and allowing it to explode through Hayley’s mic, and here they just happen to be absorbing from an environment that is a lot more toxic and dire.

This Is Why's primary flaw is that it feels thematically disjointed. As a listener, it's tough to reconcile moving on from a song about the war in Ukraine to the narrator’s penchant for perpetual tardiness, but that's literally what happens here. This sort of tonal inconsistency can and should prove irksome to those who fell hook, line, and sinker for the pre-release singles and their real-world focus. The good news is that in spite of the album's scattered thoughts and at times nondescript lyrics, the songwriting itself is nearly just as solid as it was on After Laughter. ‘Running Out Of Time’ is enough of an earworm to bring you back for repeated listens, even earning a nugget of emotional endearment when you realize that it's less a song about procrastination and more about what it's like to be so overwhelmed that you can't deliver on the positive changes you so desperately want to make: “intentions only get you so far, a harsh reality to discover.” 'You First', Figure 8', and 'Crave' are melodic diamonds absolutely brimming with hooks, and the closer 'Thick Skull' has a winding, groovy build-up to a well-placed guitar solo. Again, a lot of these songs would mean a bit more if they weren't too vague for their own good – lines like "I lost my way spinnin' in an endless figure eight" fall entirely flat when pitted up against This Is Why's most biting and sardonic moments. They're still fun to bop your head along to, but that's about where the enjoyment ends.

No matter how accurately certain songs here capture the anxiety of living in 2023, This Is Why will always feel like at least a partial missed opportunity. When Paramore hit the nail on the head ('The News'), they're unstoppable – but there's this unavoidable sense that they simply ran out of gas in the lyrical department. Even the instrumentally fantastic closer, 'Thick Skull' – which is allegedly a middle finger to Williams' worst critics – rarely elevates itself to any sort of palpable anger or valuable realization. There's talk of fingers bleeding, being caught red-handed, and being hit over the head repeatedly, but it's not poetic or moving enough to ignite any real emotional response from the listener. Why should we care? That dichotomy between the visceral and the lackadaisical defines This Is Why instead of its value as a snapshot of this decade's global chaos, and in that sense, this LP is neither their best nor their "most mature." Regardless, there's nothing to stop you from reveling in this album's own chaotic dynamics, seriousness and passiveness juxtaposed. It's a worthy if mildly disappointing addition to Paramore's canon.



s
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3.4
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Comments:Add a Comment 
NekoNeferPitou
February 11th 2023


29 Comments


Haven't listened yet but this review has me interested. Hard agree about the "grown up" label. Very strange and I'm assuming just a result of Hayley being so young when the band started.

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
February 11th 2023


60163 Comments

Album Rating: 2.2

excellent rev

even their celebrated early pop-punk discography from 2005's All We Know Is Falling through 2009's Brand New Eyes was never actually immature compared to most of their contemporaries

this is bang-on and is exactly why i find it so frustrating that they've taken so many steps back in that department here. feels really out of keeping with where this record seems to think they are in their career

deathschool
February 11th 2023


28584 Comments


I am in the business of suicidal ideations,

YoYoMancuso
Staff Reviewer
February 11th 2023


18843 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

good content

TalonsOfFire
Emeritus
February 11th 2023


20969 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Good review Sow! This is one of their weaker efforts but only due to the first four tracks. It pretty much gets better and better from there.

Crxmateo
Contributing Reviewer
February 11th 2023


164 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

While I’ll admit, I did kinda use the maturity angle in my review- it was a little more on the side of trying to explain that it feels like a natural evolution from AL than being a smack in the face to their post BNE work (which is also great). I 100% agree with the maturity angle and it is really weird to see every review of their albums since 2012 harp on it. I agree the album definitely feels disjointed, especially between the first and second half

DrGonzo1937
Staff Reviewer
February 11th 2023


18240 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

Smashing review as always sow, but this is the best thing Paramore have done next to brand new eyes for me

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
February 11th 2023


47568 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

i love that this review correctly identifies s/t as their watershed moment in terms of ditching the cheesiest parts of their early sound. nice to see that album getting its dues after a bunch of places including here dunked on it in bad faith

GreyShadow
February 11th 2023


7022 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

loved the singles but i was fairly disappointed after the first leg.



Figure 8 and Thick Skull were pretty good and I liked the flute outro in Big Man. rest of this just felt kinda mehh. not bad, just not interesting.

mkmusic1995
Contributing Reviewer
February 11th 2023


1697 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Definitely some great tracks but some duds in the track list in the my opinion. Wonderful review Sowing!

MCJACKDAHL
February 11th 2023


343 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Zoomers are writing less corny political lyrics, kinda reminds me how Underoath's lyrics fell off a cliff. The songs sound mostly good and Williams sounds good.

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
February 11th 2023


2406 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

The first 4 songs are so awful

YoYoMancuso
Staff Reviewer
February 11th 2023


18843 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

yeah they really did open this up in disastrous fashion

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
February 12th 2023


47568 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

why are we pretending t/t isn't great

Sowing
Moderator
February 12th 2023


43933 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Aside from Liar and Crave, I actually think the opening four tracks are the strongest here. They're the only ones with a real message before the lyrics fall off a cliff.

Ryus
February 12th 2023


36537 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

the virgin "turn off the news" vs. the chad https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PS7vu0IQhqE

kodama
February 12th 2023


185 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0 | Sound Off

The first 4 songs are so awful[2]



the first couple have a little bit going on but this album just has nothing going for it at all.

Storm In A Teacup
February 12th 2023


45675 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I'm so happy to finally be listening to this. Halfway through the second song. I'm confident my 5 will live up to expectations

GreyShadow
February 12th 2023


7022 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I actually think the opening four tracks are the strongest here [2]





veninblazer
February 12th 2023


16835 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

T/T just sounds so twee and indie



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