By: Abbey Adams
Most of us know her as the flaming red little spitfire, screaming angsty punk lyrics into a microphone much bigger than her hand. She charges the lead for the rock turned alt-pop band Paramore. However, now sports muted blonde hair and a stronger sense of self in her adult years as a 28-year-old paving the way for women in music.
Paramore recently released their fifth studio album, titled After Laughter. The band wanted to represent what really happens after the smiles and happiness fades away. After a semi-public exit from the group, bassist Jeremy Davis quit on what seemed like bad terms. This left Paramore with only two members: Hayley Williams and guitarist Taylor York. Williams recently opened up to radio host Zane Lowe about her battle with depression and anxiety while deciding whether to salvage what is left of Paramore or quit everything and continue on with her normal life.
Lowe asked Williams if she’s struggled with depression. “Now, yes, three years ago, no,” the singer says, “I think it gave me empathy for friends who struggle with it. I know both Taylor (guitarist), and I have had such difficult times verbalizing how we feel about life.”
On the track, “Forgiveness,” front woman Hayley Williams croons, “And you, you want forgiveness, but I, I can’t give you that.” A song about not being able to let go of something that hurt you. The Mississippi native says, “We’ve had what I feel is the most real and very truthful forgiveness and redemption amongst this group of people.” Pop beats and groovy guitar chords make this song understandable and fresh to anyone who hears it.
The slowest song on the album, “26” is actually the happiest. Showcasing positive lyrics about looking forward. It feels as though she’s writing a love note to her younger self-saying, “It’s okay. Keep your chin up.” Williams describes the writing process as a sort of therapy, saying, “It’s hard to talk to yourself sometimes in a loving way. I sat on my stairs in my house for three hours and just didn’t leave until I finished it. And when I got up, I was like, ‘I think I did it.’”
According to the World Health Organization, over 300 million people live with depression. It is the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide. Building an album around the concept of unhappiness is a heavy weight to lift, but Paramore accomplished it well.
After being in the music scene/spotlight for so many years (Paramore started when the members were all teenagers). Williams has somewhat never adapted to the “fame and fortune” that soon came from the success of the group. She sheds a light on being a role model for others on the song “Idle Worship.” “I would go out and run into someone with a Paramore shirt on, and I knew I wasn’t the same person that I was on that T-shirt and maybe I had never been. It made me sad and angry.” She continues to explain the thought process behind putting these feelings on paper and how it grounded her, “It forced me to think about the one thing that’s bulletproof for me, which is faith. It stopped me from seeing myself in this painted version of myself. I knew at that point that I wasn’t gonna mourn that person anymore.”
Several studies have been done on the mental effects of music and all the results are extremely positive. The American Psychological Association says, “Music improves the body’s immune system function and reduces stress. Listening to music was also found to be more effective than prescription drugs in reducing anxiety before surgery.” In other words, there’s literally no harm in music.
Almost every song on After Laughter has an underlying sense of confusion, loneliness, and sadness. On the closing track, “Tell Me How,” Williams says, “I had a lot of feelings about just losing people…Everything did feel life or death while we were writing this record. Everything mattered and was significant, every feeling.” The importance of this record is something Paramore fans have been praising the band for. One song could save someone’s life or maybe just bring them peace. Williams says, “I can stand in front of anyone and say that there’s so much peace now.”
If you or anyone you know is struggling with anxiety or depression, please visit: https://www.adaa.org/finding-help for more information.