by Lindsey Castille
While listening to Paramore’s After Laugher, the band’s fifth studio album, I can’t help but feel nostalgic. I first discovered Paramore and their lead singer almost exactly ten years ago, when I was just thirteen. Paramore’s music and Hayley Williams’ powerful voice quite literally changed my life. I have seen Paramore live more times than I can count on one hand. Hell, I dyed my hair cherry red for four years because of her. Hayley Williams is a role model not only to me, but to thousands, maybe millions, of other girls and women. Her image as a fiery and fearless individual remains iconic.
What started in Franklin, Tennessee as a teenage afterschool funk cover group successfully emerged as a mainstream pop rock band. Paramore has toured with musical heavyweights including No Doubt, Green Day, Tegan and Sara, Reliant K, New Found Glory, and Fall Out Boy, and has had six major headlining tours. Paramore has also been nominated for multiple major awards, including an American Music Award, Billboard Music Award, MTV Video Music Award, People’s Choice Award, Teen Choice Award, and four Grammy Awards. In 2014, they won “Best Rock Song” at the Grammy Awards for “Ain’t it Fun,” a single from their self-titled album. Paramore has sold millions of records and is considered a huge commercial success.
Williams is surprisingly a very private person and likes for her personal life to remain as such. In her professional life, Williams has collaborated with several bands and solo artists including New Found Glory, B.o.B., Zedd, Chvrches, and Taylor Swift. She has also been featured on several movie soundtracks, including Twilight, Transformers: Dark Side of The Moon, and Jennifer’s Body. Apart from her music, Williams is a successful entrepreneur, businesswoman, and philanthropist. She is passionate about beauty, creating and collaborating on both makeup and hair product lines. In 2013, she collaborated with MAC Cosmetics to create a small makeup line in her name. In 2015, she introduced “Kiss-Off,” an online series on Popular TV showcasing beauty and music. In 2016, she released her eagerly anticipated hair dye brand, Good Dye Young. Williams has also participated in campaigns to raise awareness and funds for breast cancer research.
Unfortunately, typical of all leading women, Williams has experienced misogyny from the press and even fellow band members. In 2010 Williams was the victim of cybersexism, taken in the form of a topless photo leak. Williams mistakenly posted an intimate photo of herself to Twitter. By the time she realized her mistake and removed the photo, it had already been saved and reposted countless times. Regardless of the circumstances of the photo leak, Williams did not purposefully post the photo; therefore, she did not consent to it being shared repeatedly on the internet for personal gain and click bait.
In 2011, it was announced via Paramore’s website that The Farro brothers, founding members of Paramore, were leaving the band. Paramore’s official statement was then countered by a lengthy statement on the Farro brothers’ Blogspot, claiming Paramore to be simply "a manufactured product of a major label. They further stated that Williams was a victim of controlling and manipulative behavior by her parents and management and said that she treated Paramore as her solo project because Williams was the only member of the band also signed to Atlantic Records. Fans and critics alike began to judge Hayley, calling Paramore “The Hayley Williams Show.”
As a fan of Paramore I was crushed by the news that my favorite band may be breaking up, and further hurt by the statement released by the Farro brothers about Hayley, who was, and still is, someone I admire. In a statement I posted on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr about the situation, I stated that Hayley is, after all
the front-woman of the band, and it is normal for a lead singer to receive a lot of attention, plenty of times the attention focused on them is more than that of the rest of the band receives… It is hurtful and unfair to continue calling her a diva and claiming it to be "The Hayley Williams Show." Brendon Urie of the band Panic! At The Disco, who I am sure almost all listeners of Paramore know of as they are in the same genre and are signed to the same label, is the only member of Panic! left, and he hardly got this many negative comments when announcing their gradual decline in members. It would have been completely fair and true to call Panic! the Brendon Urie show because now it literally is.
Complications resurfaced once again when Jeremy Davis announced he was leaving the band in 2015. Regardless of the problems of their past, Zac Farro has returned to Paramore to play drums on their most recent studio album.
Although Williams now identifies as a “proud feminist,” she has been accused of writing and performing sexist lyrics. Arguably Paramore’s most popular song, “Misery Business,” features the lyric: “once a whore / you’re nothing more / sorry, that’ll never change.” In a personal blog post released in 2015, Williams stated that those lyrics were representative of the internalized misogyny of a 17-year-old girl:
Misery Business is not a set of lyrics that I relate to as a 26-year-old woman. I haven’t related to it in a very long time. Those words were written when I was 17… admittedly, from a very narrow-minded perspective … But I’m not ashamed. One thing I’m more thankful for than just about anything is all that my experiences - including my mistakes - have shaped me and made me someone I’m happier to be … In conclusion. I’m a 26 years old person. and yes, a proud feminist. Just maybe not a perfect one?
Paramore’s new album, After Laugher, poignantly addresses mental health. With songs like “Hard Times” and “Fake Happy,” you can feel the sadness and nerves bubbling just below the surface. In an interview with The FADER, Williams publicly addressed her own mental health issues: “For the first time in my life, there wasn’t a pinhole of light at the end of the tunnel. I thought, I just wish everything would stop. It wasn’t in the sense of, I’m going to take my life. It was just hopelessness. Like, What’s the point? I don’t think I understood how dangerous hopelessness is. Everything hurts.”
Williams began seeing a therapist to treat her depression and anxiety. Along with seeking professional help, music is also therapeutic for her. When speaking to The FADER about After Laughter, Williams admits, “There’s nothing that I really want to say about the album that I didn’t get to say … That’s why I’m really thankful for music. Because I get to express parts of myself I don’t really know how to express.” I know that I, as a fan, mirror those sentiments, especially about Paramore’s music. Williams may be thankful for music itself, but I am thankful for theirs. I am a dedicated fan of Paramore and Williams, and I will be for life.
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