A full circle moment occurs when you think about the first and last songs on Paramore’s first album in six years: This Is Why. It speaks to the outward projection of the collection of pandemic feelings we all have (or continue) to experience and the band’s own inward battles throughout their almost 20 years of existence. The title enters with guitar strokes and bass lines that play off one another and a rhythmic drum pattern from Zac Farro while lead singer Hayley Williams playfully sings about what she thinks about opinions. Paramore has seen their fair share over the years – from claims that the unit is a singular vision for Williams to breakup rumors, etc. Here, the song speaks to that and the onslaught of online chatter that has only grown since we were all glued to our homes in early 2020.
When the chorus hits, Taylor York’s danceable switch-up almost feels like a jailbreak – a purging of the collection of three years of stress, anxiety, division, and angst. On the other side, you have the softer “Thick Skull’” (the first song written for the album), where Williams is almost surveying all the damage as an epilogue to 2017’s After Laughter. If that album was getting in the thick of depression and self-examination, This Is Why is an examination of all the things that led to it and trying to figure a way out. Throughout this album, Williams utilizes her voice uniquely – whereas, in the later tracks, her singing grows louder. ‘Thick Skull’ is reminiscent of 2009’s “All I Wanted,” where Williams allows her power to rise and naturally take hold of the song gradually.
This Is Why finds the band at the intersection of sonic cohesion and experimentation in genres like shoegaze, disco, math, and indie rock. ‘The News’ is an up-tempo critical eye on the never-ending source of media divisiveness and feeling like you never can do enough to get off the rollercoaster. Except for a dreamy bridge, the song never lets up from the singing and the spoken word (much like its subject). “Running Out of Time” and “C’est Comme Ça” feel like a two-parter but are structurally different. Williams sings with a worn-downness speaking to how there’s little time to do anything. With “C’est Comme Ça,” she welcomes the chaos that brings. With “Running Out of Time” in particular, the band shows a propensity for York and Farro to instrumentally let things play out before they get to the main chords/rhythm sections. This becomes a theme as you get deeper into the album.
The second half of the album is where Paramore hits their stride and shows off the proverbial fruits of their musical labor. “You First” is the most energetic song on the album, where keyboards, guitars, and drums collide. Williams sings, “Turns out I’m living in a horror film / Where I’m both the killer and the final girl,” speaking in the many ways the views of good and evil get twisted. “Figure 8” is probably This Is Why at its most ambitious, creating an audible atmosphere that indicates the title itself.
“Liar” might be one of the honest and beautifully constructed love songs in the band’s discography – speaking about not feeling guilty about experiencing a good relationship after a bad one (“Love is not a weakening if you feel it rushin’ in/Don’t be ashamed of it”). If you ever felt apprehensive about staying in a great moment because of past trauma, “Crave” will speak volumes. It’s interesting that with these two intense emotions, they are both softer songs from an arrangement standpoint and Williams's more classic vocal tones.
As we still emerge from the pandemic barrier, we collectively are still reckoning with truths in a world where that’s a moving target. This Is Why is a confessional that Paramore is still figuring out these things, too – now as the elder statespeople of fandom and industry that has hopefully grown as much as they have.