Formed in Franklin, Tennessee in 2004, Paramore entered my life during the summer of 2008. I’d just turned 14. I was pretty nerdy, definitely more insecure about myself than I was letting on, and sort of lacking an identity. I lived, and attended school, in Stockport, a town seven miles from Manchester, where nothing really happened. I was into my music, but I didn’t really know where to discover it outside of top 40 radio stations. Like all of us, I guess, I was just figuring things out.
I remember that it was a sunny Saturday. I’d recently made a new group of friends after struggling to do so in the first couple of years of high school, and I was chatting to one of them on Windows Live Messenger (ahh, beautiful, horrible memories). He stopped the conversation we were having, which was probably about Mock the Week compilations, to send me a song called ‘For a Pessimist, I’m Pretty Optimistic’ by a band named Paramore. What started on that summer morning has continued to the present day.
I bought their albums and T-shirts, I saw them live in concert in December 2009 (Manchester Arena, supported by You Me at Six), and, along with my friends, listened religiously to those first three albums. Like many Paramore fans, I had a bit of an identity crisis after the Farro brothers left in 2010, then another panic in the run-up to, and immediate aftermath of, the release of the band’s self-titled album in 2013. Everything was changing, gosh darn it, and not for the better!
Of course, I eventually got over myself and embraced the band’s growth. Things couldn’t stay the same forever. And in 2017, I was ready to embrace the latest left turn: After Laughter. The Paramore of today are not the Paramore of my youth, but that’s a good thing: when it comes to those of us who are approaching (or have hit) our 30s, Paramore have grown up and changed alongside us. We’ve experienced the chaos of adolescence, the gradual loss of youth and innocence, and the crushing mundanity of adult life, and we’ve experienced it together.
Across their 18 years, the trio – currently – have released five albums (with a sixth on the way very soon), five EPs, two live albums, and twenty-three singles. They’ve had a different line-up for every album released thus far, members have left and returned, and the group have endured at least two hiatuses (that we know of). The Paramore journey has had several decade’s worth of incident, drama, and pop punk glory packed into it, so I thought it was time to take a look back and really analyse where I stand.
The important thing to remember before you cast your eyes on this list (and potentially get angry with where certain songs are ranked) is that there is not one Paramore song I dislike. You might see ‘We Are Broken’ or ‘Anklebiters’ are pretty low down on the list, but that doesn’t mean I dislike either song. I love them both unconditionally, I just don’t like them as much as the others listed. Paramore mean a lot to me. Trying to rank their songs is like trying to choose which rescue kitty to take home: you want them all, but you know it’s not possible.
Albums – (standard versions of) All We Know is Falling, Riot!, Brand New Eyes, Paramore, After Laughter
EPs – The Summer Tic EP (original songs), The Singles Club EP
Soundtracks – The Official Twilight Soundtrack
73. ‘We Are Broken’ (track #9, Riot!)
Ranking songs from worst to best means that one of them must finish last. Riot! was my first encounter with Paramore in 2008. I was 14, so of course I immediately took to the ninth track, ‘We Are Broken’ – it was a melodramatic ballad with the word “broken” in its title, so I was like a moth to a flame. But sadly, as I’ve gotten older, its slightly self-important and somewhat unjustly maudlin tone have only been further exposed by my ageing ears. Throw an uncomfortable piano arrangement into the mix and, very unfortunately, ‘We Are Broken’ winds up here, at the foot of the list. I’m sorry – to all of you reading this, and to 14-year-old me.
72. ‘Interlude: I’m Not Angry Anymore’ (track #15, Paramore)
The ‘Interlude’ tracks are probably the weakest aspect of Paramore’s wonderful 2013 self-titled album, and this is the least substantial and memorable of them. It’s pleasant and, as I feel the need to keep expressing in this part of the list, I do enjoy it. But it’s just too short and sketchy for me to hold that much affection for it.
71. ‘No Friend’ (track #11, After Laughter)
A friend of mine once compared ‘No Friend’ to Husker Du’s ‘How to Skin a Cat’, from New Day Rising. The problem for ‘No Friend’ is that it’s almost double the length of that Hüsker Dü song. It begins as something of an extended outro to ‘Idle Worship’, and it works as such. But then it continues. And on and on it goes for over three minutes. I get a little impatient. The noodling cross-rhythms and experimentation work well for a while, and mewithoutYou’s Aaron Weiss shouting the contents of a harsh email ups the emotional ante, but I’m not sure it ever fully justifies its length.
70. ‘Anklebiters’ (track #10, Paramore)
The least tuneful song on Paramore’s self-titled album. On a record full of songs with carefully crafted and ambitious, extended arrangements, ‘Anklebiters’ is a short, snappy, repetitive blast of energy. It’s heaps of fun, sure, but it pales in comparison to its surroundings. Maybe it reminds me too much of the past on an album that constantly looks forward. Also, doesn’t the introduction sound like it should be played over images of irritatingly happy families in adverts for holiday resorts? That’s probably just my brain talking.
69. ‘Renegade’ (track #2, Singles Club)
The Singles Club EP was Paramore’s first collection of new material following the departure of the Farro brothers (until Zac returned in 2017). ‘Renegade’ finds them in a slightly uncomfortable transitional phase, moving away from pop punk and towards the cleaner alternative rock and power pop styles that would define their self-titled album. They weren’t quite there yet.
68. ‘My Heart’ (track #10, All We Know is Falling)
The death metal screaming in the final chorus of ‘My Heart’ probably felt like a good idea at the time. At the time. Nowadays, I find this song to be sweet – it’s a love song to God from some well-behaved Christian kids – but that scream really does just make me chuckle. It’s an affectionate chuckle, sure, but it’s still a chuckle all the same.
67. ‘Born for This’ (track #12, Riot!)
The final track on the Paramore album I’ve loved for the longest. I’ll always be grateful to ‘Born for This’ for the line “We want the airwaves back”, which I subsequently googled as a curious teenager and discovered visionary Swedish punk outfit Refused (I’d urge you to do the same, dear reader). But the song prioritises heaps of fan interaction and call-and-response over almost everything else. Riot! starts to run ever so slightly long by the time its closer comes around.
66. ‘Feeling Sorry’ (track #7, Brand New Eyes)
On an album that sees the band adapt to their newfound fame by advancing as musicians and songwriters and maturing wholesale, and sees Hayley growing up before our eyes, ‘Feeling Sorry’ contains a heavy dose of the judgemental Bible study-style lecturing that I thought they’d left behind on Riot!. And I’m not sure Hayley’s verse melodies ever feel entirely settled against the syncopated staccato 6/8 strumming in the back either.
65. ‘This Circle’ (track #4, The Summer Tic EP)
Acting like something of a collection of B-sides from the All We Know is Falling cutting room floor, The Summer Tic EP feels caught halfway between the band’s very earliest material and where they would go next. I also find myself distracted by how much Hayley’s choice of melody in the post-chorus appears to resemble her choices on ‘Here We Go Again’ (and also Avril Lavigne’s ‘Don’t Tell Me’).
64. ‘When It Rains’ (track #5, Riot!)
The fifth track is the first time that Riot! really slows down. ‘When It Rains’ is lovely, to be honest – Hayley crafts beautiful melodies around her intimate and personal lyrics about the loss of a dear friend. It’s the drums that are the issue here, though. They’re far too loud and intense for such a soft song. The band’s grasp of dynamics would only improve with age.
63. ‘Monster’ (track #1, The Singles Club EP)
Hampered by some of the same growing pains as ‘Renegade’, ‘Monster’ packs a punch but again finds Paramore awkwardly stuck between modes. This was written for the Transformers: Dark of the Moon official soundtrack, so maybe they were attempting to bust out of their comfort zone by taking on a new brief – but their soundtracking work proved much, much stronger for the Twilight saga (we’ll get to that soon).
62. ‘Caught in the Middle’ (track #9, After Laughter)
Sorry. To have ‘Caught in the Middle’ appearing so early in the list is probably a nasty, blasphemous surprise to most of you. I will happily bust a move to it and sing along, and I appreciate that it slots into After Laughter quite nicely simply because of the album’s refreshing, keen focus on the rhythm section, but it’s always sounded a bit cod-reggae to my ears. Again, I’m sorry. Let’s just move on and forget I said anything.
61. ‘Be Alone’ (track #16, Paramore)
As I said at the outset, I like every song I’ve listed so far to some degree. But ‘Be Alone’ might be the first song on the list that belongs in “really like” territory. Arriving just before the end of the self-titled, ‘Be Alone’ ups the tempo but retains the saccharine sweetness that runs through the rest of the record. It’s charming, if a touch weaker than the majority of that exemplary record.
60. ‘Interlude: Holiday’ (track #11, Paramore)
Another of the interludes from the self-titled album. The slower, slightly languid, more tropical pace of this one nudges it above ‘I’m Not Angry Anymore’, but not above anything else in the list.
59. ‘Franklin’ (track #9, All We Know is Falling)
There’s a real sadness to ‘Franklin’. Hearing the words “You remind me of a time when we were so alive / Do you remember that?” coming out of the mouths of two teenagers (sharing lovely harmonies) is heartbreaking. Otherwise, this a slightly sleepy but serviceable interpretation of the sound Sunny Day Real Estate entered the world with on their own debut, Diary, 11 years earlier. Paramore are proud of their Midwest emo influences.
58. ‘Looking Up’ (track #8, Brand New Eyes)
How beautiful is that bridge section towards the end? “God knows the world doesn’t need another band, but what a waste it would have been”. Paramore spend quite a lot of Brand New Eyes in a reflective mood and ‘Looking Up’ sees them take stock of their current position, as one of pop punk’s leading lights. There’s still time, though, for them to say that they’re “just getting started”. Thirteen years and two albums later, with a sixth overall album on its way very soon, it’s easy to forget how young they were in 2009.
57. ‘Miracle’ (track #7, Riot!)
A lot of the religious influences within the lyrics on Riot! went completely over my head when I was in high school. Listening back to tracks like ‘Miracle’, I can’t really understand how I could have possibly missed it. Anyway, I’ve always adored the coda section of this song, “It’s not faith if you use your eyes”, Hayley sings, while gorgeous backing vocals and harmonious choirs rise up in the back.
56. ‘Oh Star’ (track #2, The Summer Tic EP)
Also known as ‘O Star’ in some quarters of the Paramore fandom, this is one for the proper Paraheads among us. Hayley wishes for a star to fall so that she can make a wish upon it (that sounds awfully familiar, doesn’t it?) but, when the star does fall, she forgets what the wish was. A fleeting moment of beauty, lost to memory.
55. ‘Misguided Ghosts’ (track #10, Brand New Eyes)
I remember seeing Paramore perform this at Manchester Arena in December 2009. It was a moment to put our lighters up. Although, by then, phone torches were a thing. Smart phones weren’t ubiquitous back then, but our Sony Ericsson brick phones could still produce a lovely image. ‘Misguided Ghosts’ is delicate and careful – each of its two acoustic guitar parts weaves in and out of the gaps left by the other. It’s the designated soft song on Brand New Eyes, and it performs the role well, even if its function on the record is a little obvious.
54. ‘Interlude: Moving On’ (track #5, Paramore)
The first of the ukulele interludes to appear on the band’s self-titled album, and the last to appear in our list. There’s so much character in the way Hayley sings “Let ‘em spill their guts, cos one day they’re gonna slip on ‘em”. Otherwise, it’s just another one of those ukulele interludes.
53. ‘Emergency (Crab Mix)’ (track #1, The Summer Tic EP)
I prefer the version without the screaming. This one is pretty good, though!
52. ‘In the Mourning’ (track #4, The Singles Club EP)
I suppose it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that a group with origins in Tennessee would eventually do an Americana-influenced song. Those sliding guitars, the brushed percussion – it’s all there. One of Hayley’s more delicate vocal performances on a Paramore record.
51. ‘Grudges’ (track #8, After Laughter)
Probably the track from After Laughter that I think about the least. I think it’s the verse melody that’s the problem. I can never bring it to mind. The “Why did it take so long?” bridge section provides a gorgeous, sudden sonic shift, though. And I love the percussive stabs in the chorus, too, underneath Hayley’s “Laugh ‘til we cry”.
50. ‘Now’ (track #2, Paramore)
The song that began my long and ultimately happy journey with Paramore’s big self-titled comeback in 2013. Released as the first single, ‘Now’ really threw me. They weren’t “my Paramore” anymore. They were cleaner, perhaps too clean. At the time I thought things had gone sterile and I subsequently plugged my ears. I was in denial. Over time, this has grown on me considerably (aside from the repeated chants of “Nah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ow”). The truly marvellous thing about the self-titled album, and ‘Now’ specifically, is the balance it finds between the band’s increased focus on pretty, delicate melodies, and polished studio production, and the fuzzing, ginormous guitar tones that sound as though they’ve been lifted from a Smashing Pumpkins or Placebo record.
47. ‘I Caught Myself’ (single, Twilight soundtrack)
The lesser of the two songs Paramore were tasked with writing for the official Twilight soundtrack, ‘I Caught Myself’ still expertly condenses all the film’s themes of forbidden love and dangerous lust into just over three minutes. The sense of becoming entranced by something that’s as seductive as it is dangerous is strong. The Twilight books and movies still mean a great deal to those who were there in the moment, and that means ‘I Caught Myself’ will always be significant to somebody somewhere. (The movies were fine, guys! Breaking Dawn Part 1 is batshit insane in the best way! More on this later!)
46. ‘Fences’ (#track 11, Riot!)
Paramore mostly tended to stick their established formula in the early days, which is exactly why ‘Fences’ is such a nice surprise, arriving just before the end of Riot! The fidgety rhythm section, the syncopated blasts into each chorus, and teenage Hayley Williams adding as much spice and vigour as she possibly can to lyrics like “It’s obvious that you’re dying” and “You’re just a mess” as she analyses her relationship with her own fame.
45. ‘Whoa’ (track #7, All We Know is Falling)
Worth it for the way Hayley sings the line, “Yeah I’ll admit that I can be a little selfish, I can, I can / And I’ll admit I don’t want you to help me through this”.
44. ‘Forgiveness’ (track #4, After Laughter)
The closest Paramore ever got to being Prefab Sprout. A lovely song released at the perfect time for me, when I was 22 and trying to move on from the end of a long-term relationship, unsure about how to approach my ex-partner in the future. Admittedly, this song is about Hayley’s fracturing and faltering friendships with former Paramore members, but “You want forgiveness, but I just can’t do it yet” touched a nerve at the time. There’s some delicate, rhythmic guitar playing from Taylor York in the mix as well that sounds like a Pretenders B-side as much as it does a Graceland tribute.
43. ‘Conspiracy’ (track #8, All We Know is Falling)
I can see why people would accuse ‘Conspiracy’ of being one of Paramore’s whinier songs from their earlier days, but “Explain to me, this conspiracy against me” is one of the first big Paramore hooks I ever remember hearing and it has stuck firmly with me ever since. The way they channel Sunny Day Real Estate, and very early Jimmy Eat World, into their guitar tones on this song means I’ll always have a huge soft spot for it as well.
42. ‘Hello Cold World’ (track #3, The Singles Club EP)
The one song from the Singles Club EP that sounds like a comfortable transition point between 2000s Paramore and 2010s Paramore. The way Hayley’s voice bounces through the verses is a delight.
41. ‘Where the Lines Overlap’ (track #9, Brand New Eyes)
The most underrated track on Brand New Eyes? Usually, I’d say I’m not qualified to make such a judgement, but hey, I’m writing this list, so I get to decide once and for all. The answer is: Yes.
40. ‘Here We Go Again’ (track #5, All We Know is Falling)
The chorus on ‘Here We Go Again’ is one of Paramore’s greatest lyrical kiss-offs: “I’ll write you just to let you know that I’m alright / Can’t say I’m sad to see you go, because I’m not”. And don’t you just love the vocal layering that appears as the song progresses? Well, I do. It just sneaks into the top 40.
39. ‘Turn It Off’ (track #5, Brand New Eyes)
‘Turn It Off’ is one of those songs on Brand New Eyes that I return to from the vantage point of 2022 and realise that Hayley Williams had the tough task of growing up and changing while very much in the public eye. “Before it gets any better, we’re headed for a cliff / And in the freefall, I will realise I’m better off when I hit the bottom”. Yikes, Hayley. Everything from 2:46 onwards, from when Hayley screams “Again!” several times, is a dynamite passage in Paramore’s discography.
38. ‘Emergency’ (track #2, All We Know is Falling)
You already know we’re into classics territory now. It might be the second track on the band’s debut album, but the twinkling guitars underneath Hayley’s “It’s really not your fault that no one cares to talk about it” make it one of the band’s best bridge sections to date. Inspired by the divorce of Hayley’s parents, there’s a real sense of desperate panic to this one.
37. ‘Fast in My Car’ (track #1, Paramore)
The introduction to Nu-Paramore, who returned after their post-Farro hiatus with a fresh sound for the 2010s. The intro places bubbling and squirming synths over discordant, singular strikes of a gnarly guitar – confrontationally different and yet somehow incredibly familiar, and a neat summation of the sound Paramore mastered across the duration of their 64-minute power pop monolith.
36. ‘Careful’ (#1, Brand New Eyes)
Ahh, September 2009. What a time. Do you remember where you were when you finally got your hands on a copy of Brand New Eyes? ‘Careful’ crashes in – it’s loud and fast, Hayley is full of character and bitterness. And so begins one of Paramore’s biggest steps forward.
35. ‘Tell Me How’ (track #12, After Laughter)
From two album openers to an album closer. This ranking opened with a piano ballad that I described as “uncomfortable”. Well, a lot can change in 10 years. ‘Tell Me How’ is Paramore whipping out the piano once more, but where ‘We Are Broken’ was self-important and a little over-earnest, ‘Tell Me How’ is delicate and understated. The first two lines alone are worth the entry fee, with Williams exploiting homonyms to capture the confusion in the immediate aftermath of a break-up so perfectly, as a former partner and best friend becomes little more than a collection of memories: “I can’t call you a stranger, but I can’t call you”.
34. ‘Let the Flames Begin’ (track #6, Riot!)
The inspiration for a song that’s yet to appear in this list (but it will, don’t worry), ‘Let the Flames Begin’ was once its own song entirely, as opposed to part one of a tangential pair. This contains the same brand of up-tempo pop punk (with a little sprinkle of religious imagery for good measure) that lines the walls of Paramore’s second album, but it’s the sudden shift into that half-time bridge section that sees this song fly so high on the list: “Reaching as I sink down into light”, Hayley sings, as Josh Farro’s super guitar work decorates her background.
33. ‘26’ (track #6, After Laughter)
Ah, lovely. Well, you’d think so at first glance. But such a pretty acoustic arrangement only temporarily distracts from lyrics written by Hayley that are some of the hardest to read: “Survival will not be the hardest part / It’s keeping all your hopes alive when the rest of you has died”.
32. ‘Part II’ (track #7, Paramore)
I remember first listening to this and thinking, “Hang on, these lyrics are straight out of ‘Let the Flames Begin’, aren’t they?” and “Hang on, that guitar line sounds an awful lot like the ‘Oh glory’ hook from ‘Let the Flames Begin’, doesn’t it?” Well, it turns out my 18-year-old self was onto something. ‘Part II’s name is no ruse – it accompanies, and then significantly enhances, ‘Let the Flames Begin’. Towards the end, a cacophony of double and triple-tracked guitars collapses on top of rapid-fire drumming, all while swirling vocal samples weave in and out of the mix. Tremendous.
31. ‘Daydreaming’ (track #4, Paramore)
The purest and loudest power pop delight. Building to climaxes of stadium size and then somehow finding more room to explode into as it reaches its final act, this is one of the largest Paramore songs to date.
30. ‘All We Know’ (track #1, All We Know is Falling)
Where it all began. This blasts out of the blocks and never looks back. It’s hard to believe the guys were only teenagers when they put this album together; their sound already feels complete on the opening track to Paramore’s entire career. The group’s influences from Jimmy Eat World, Sunny Day Real Estate, and Foo Fighters combine to aid their first step into the big wide world.
29. ‘Pool’ (track #7, After Laughter)
Perhaps the track on After Laughter that took the longest to grow on me. But now that it has, I’m never letting it grow off me. It twinkles gorgeously in its opening strands and then strides forward from there with the kind of rhythmic propulsion that After Laughter has in spades. Once Hayley starts scat-singing in the final bridge section (“Dive right back into you”), the deal is sealed. What a gem.
28. ‘Brighter’ (track #4, All We Know is Falling)
Did he really just do that? Yes, I did just put ‘Brighter’ this high. Boy is this special. The ideas on display here present a maturity and a grasp of dynamics that wouldn’t be fully honed across an entire album until Brand New Eyes four years later. Hayley goes from softly cooing “I’d still wave goodbye, watching you shine bright” in the last bridge section to absolutely belting it in the coda. It’s the kind of move you’d expect from something much later in the band’s career, but here it is on the debut. A special song.
27. ‘Playing God’ (track #3, Brand New Eyes)
Large chunks of Brand New Eyes are dedicated to Hayley working out that parts of her religious upbringing might have made her more a judgemental person than she initially intended or realised. ‘Playing God’ is perhaps the best of the songs on the album to deal with this subject. Where ‘Careful’ and ‘Ignorant’ blast out of the blocks as tracks #1 and #2, ‘Playing God’ exercises restraint expertly as track #3.
26. ‘One of Those Crazy Girls’ (track #14, Paramore)
How about that dynamic shift once the first verse and chorus are over? And how about those strings that rise when Hayley sings “I’m standing at your doorstep with Los Angeles behind me / If you don’t answer, I’ll just use the key that I copied” and then mimic her melody? And how about when music cuts out for a second towards the end so that Hayley can shout “Hey baby, are we over now?” completely unaccompanied, as though she’s screaming it through the letterbox of the empty house that she’s caught the bus to? Remarkable.
25. ‘Hate to See Your Heart Break’ (track #13, Paramore)
I’m not crying. You are. Soft and careful, subtle yet powerful.
24. ‘Hallelujah’ (track #3, Riot!)
I’ll admit that my immediate fondness for ‘Hallelujah’ as a teenager has had a significant influence on its position in this ranking. The devil works hard but nostalgia works harder. When Hayley opts out of using falsetto in the final chorus, and instead chooses to belt out the song’s title in all her melismatic splendour, a shiver runs up my back that takes me right back to being 14 again. So, yeah, sorry if this is a little higher on the list than you anticipated. But if you have any complaints then, I dunno, take it up with Hayley.
23. ‘Proof’ (track #12, Paramore)
Whenever I’m walking along and listening to Paramore, ‘Proof’ always makes me walk that little bit faster. Paramore have spent their last couple of albums pulling a neat little trick of hiding melancholic lyrics under optimistic melodies, but ‘Proof’ is so hopeful and sweet that there’s nothing to hide. Sure, there’s a twinge of bittersweet to all the sugar, but it’s the sweet that comes out the victor. And boy does that chorus soar.
22. ‘For a Pessimist, I’m Pretty Optimistic’ (track #1, Riot!)
You already know this is the first Paramore song I ever heard. It was the spring/summer of 2008, I think it was a Saturday. I was chatting on Windows Live Messenger (remember that?) with a friend of mine when he sent this song over to me, excitedly informing me about this new band he’d found on MySpace. I wish I still had the Chat Log somewhere. And so began my journey with Paramore. This is fast and furious and really tightly performed, and it holds such a special place in my heart.
21. ‘Grow Up’ (track #3, Paramore)
“I told ‘em all to stick it!” is in the conversation for the title of Greatest Paramore Opening Line. Beyond that, ‘Grow Up’ is a pretty singular character in Paramore’s discography – the first half leaning on softer hip-hop breakbeats with Hayley appropriately rap-singing on top before the second half gives way to extended sequences of transcendent synth lines that fuzz and bubble until the fade-out. A delicate song full of vibrant personality. Hayley always manages to make it sound so fun to be pissed off. Speaking of which…
20. ‘Ignorance’ (track #2, Brand New Eyes)
Blimey, do you remember when this dropped in 2009? What a day that was. Paramore’s big comeback after Riot!, their first step into a new era. If you thought ‘For a Pessimist’ was furious and fast, then ‘Ignorance’ is beyond infuriated and ready for a lightspeed jump. I’ve always seen Brand New Eyes as Paramore’s own Rumours – an album borne out of, and littered with, internal conflict between the band members – and ‘Ignorance’ conjures up the strongest image of Hayley, Taylor & co. glaring at each other as they rehearse.
19. ‘Never Let This Go’ (track #6, All We Know is Falling)
Nostalgia has bumped this up by at least twenty places. Although, listening back from the vantage point of 28 years of age, it does break my heart to hear a teenage Hayley say, “Maybe if my heart stops beating it won’t hurt this much”. She was only 16. That’s far too young to be dealing with emotions that strong.
18. ‘Pressure’ (track #2, All We Know is Falling)
‘Pressure’ was my wake-up alarm between 2015 and 2017 and I still love it so much, so make of that what you will.
17. ‘Future’ (track #17, Paramore)
The final song on the band’s 2013 self-titled album. What begins as a rough recording of a small practise session – with the band sitting around in the studio and fiddling with drum loops while chatting amongst themselves – develops into the biggest behemoth in the band’s entire output. An early Joy Formidable-style soundscape of guitars grows to impossible size, fades out, then fades back in at even louder volumes. It drifts away, leaving the album on a pensive, uncertain cliff-hanger: “Just think of the future, think of a new life / And don’t get lost in the memories, keep your eyes on the new prize”.
16. ‘Idle Worship’ (track #10, After Laughter)
As I’ve said already, Hayley Williams did a lot of growing up in full view of the entire world. By the time she was an adult, with years in the spotlight to look back on, and with legions of fans hanging on her every word, she had a clear message for all of us who idolised her as teenagers and continue to look to her for guidance in our adult years: “If I was you, I'd run from me or rip me open / You'll see you're not the only one who's hopeless”. I think that’s a message for us all to take home. That and the fact that it’s catchy as hell.
14. ‘Told You So’ (track #3, After Laughter)
Taylor York has had many chances to shine during his time in Paramore but his best work (or at least my favourite example of his work) is the gorgeous guitar line that runs underneath the chorus of ‘Told You So’. This single, released just ahead of After Laughter, confirmed Paramore’s steadfast commitment to new wave on their (at the time) upcoming project. Watching the group perform it live breathes new life into it every time, especially when Hayley screams the final “Pull me out again!” in the bridge.
13. ‘The Only Exception’ (track #6, Brand New Eyes)
“When I was younger, I saw my daddy cry and curse at the wind”, Hayley’s soothing tones recall at the beginning of ‘The Only Exception’ – a beautiful, waltzing ballad about learning to open yourself and allow somebody to help heal you. Growing from small, acoustic beginnings, ‘The Only Exception’ grows and grows until Hayley is belting out “I know you’re leaving in the morning when you wake up / Leave me with some kind of proof it’s not a dream” by the end. A song about experiencing heartbreak vicariously through your parents and trying to unlearn the lessons handed down to you so that you can be happy after all. “I’m on my way to believing”, so the final line says, indicating that there’s still some way for her to go.
12. ‘Fake Happy’ (track #5, After Laughter)
In my mind, those upside-down smiley face emojis that you see around the place will forever be associated with this song (and its video, of course). A song that contains everything that’s “old Paramore” in its mannerisms and delivery but is entirely later-era Paramore when it comes to sonics and dynamics. Bright and peppy instrumentals and melodies mask dark and upsetting lyrics, which I guess is the After Laughter playbook summed up. Superb.
11. ‘Last Hope’ (track #8, Paramore)
It's not that Paramore hadn’t attempted, and been successful with, bittersweet balladry before their self-titled release in 2013, but ever since then they have absolutely mastered it. “I don’t even know myself at all, I thought I would be happy by now”, sings a 25-year-old Hayley Williams. A lot of Paramore’s later material is defined by a sense of finally reaching a place where you thought you’d accept yourself, only to realise there’s still something intangible missing from your soul. 'Last Hope’ captures that like lightning in a bottle. Gorgeous, melancholic harmonies and shimmering guitar lines lay on top of its emotive lyrical content to make this a power pop song for the ages.
10. ‘Hard Times’ (track #1, After Laughter)
Paramore kicked off the After Laughter era with this super-tight, super-fast, and addictive dance-pop number, and in the process pushed themselves even further away from their earlier material. Paramore have specialised in making difficult transitions look like very logical steps ever since returning from their hiatus, and this first step into their new wave sound was no different. It’s impossible not to move to this if someone puts it on.
9. ‘Brick by Boring Brick’ (track #4, Brand New Eyes)
“Ba-da ba ba-da ba ba-da!” is the single catchiest hook on any Paramore record. Don’t @ me. This was my favourite song on Brand New Eyes for many years until one song in particular (which is still to come) eventually usurped it. The enduring image I have of the tense and dramatic coda section at the end of ‘Brick by Boring Brick’ is watching all three support bands at the Manchester Arena show in 2009 rush the stage to dance around. This is as infectious as it is ambitious.
8. ‘Rose-Colored Boy’ (track #2, After Laughter)
“I’ve been through a lot and, really, all I’ve got is just to stay pissed off”. That’s alright by me, Hayley. What a loving '80s pastiche this is. Similar to ‘Fake Happy’ in the way it utilises so many mannerisms of the old Paramore to give itself a real sense of melodramatic scale, but is absolutely perfect for its placement on After Laughter because of how expertly it manages to contain itself with suitably restrained production choices.
7. ‘Crushcrushcrush’ (track #8, Riot!)
Before After Laughter, this was the undisputed “dance” number in Paramore’s discography. A rip-roaring, funked-up, grooving pop-punk titan that is absolutely the highlight of Riot!’s back half. Pluck that guitar line out of the verses and listen to it by itself – you could stick that guitar line anywhere on After Laughter and it would blend right in. This is energetic, brimming with fresh ideas in every single new section, and has deservedly endured as a fan favourite even after all this time.
6. ‘All I Wanted’ (track #11, Brand New Eyes)
We all know the bit that makes ‘All I Wanted’ what it is. I mean, it even became a big thing on TikTok for a while, over a decade after its original release. And deservedly so, because fucking hell. A seriously powerful ballad that captures the aimlessness of the immediate aftermath of a break-up: “I think I’ll pace my apartment a few times and fall asleep on the couch”. We’ve all been there. Hayley controls her vocals immaculately throughout, withholding her emotions for the first act, releasing the valve ever so slightly as the song grows in size, and then allows all hell to break loose before the final chorus. An absolute monster to close out Brand New Eyes.
5. ‘Misery Business’ (track #4, Riot!)
Like the majority of terrific Paramore songs, this immediately sprints away from the start line and maintains the same furious speed all the way to the finish. Its lead riff is iconic and fans of all kinds of music always seem to start headbanging when Hayley screams “God does it feel so good!” in the post-chorus. Even after all this time, ‘Misery Business’ is still the band’s most famous song, and with good reason. Questions have been raised about its lyrical content over the years but, to be honest…Hayley was 17 when she put those words to paper, and I think the teenage jealousy pouring out of her prose is something we all recognise. That’s what makes the song still feel so raw and relatable to millions of people to this day. The song wouldn’t be what it is without that second verse. As Lauren Wilford once said, “These are just some things that happens sometimes, worth observing.”
4. ‘Still Into You’ (track #9, Paramore)
The first time I heard this, I hated it. “Why the hell do Paramore sound like this now?”, was my first instinct. Well, more fool my stupid 18-year-old self. It took me about three months to fall in love with ‘Still Into You’ and I’ve not felt any differently towards it since. Now it’s 2022 and I want to make this my wedding song. How transcendent and adorable and magical this is; how beautifully it captures that feeling of falling so deeply in love that you lose control of your senses and cognitive functions; how joyously it cavorts and twinkles through its various sections and still manages to find the time to rephrase its repeated sections every single time it goes back to them. And when the cowbells enter the mix in the bridge section while Hayley sings “Some things just make sense and one of those is you and I”… well, just imagine I’m that meme of Vince McMahon leaning back in his chair in amazement at each new exciting development taking place in front of him.
3. ‘Ain’t it Fun’ (track #6, Paramore)
I’ve already mentioned a couple of times during this article that I wasn’t the biggest fan of Paramore’s self-titled when it was first released. In fact, I think I hated it at first. But I came to adore it so much that it’s now my favourite of all five albums. That transformation had to start somewhere, and it started with ‘Ain’t It Fun’. It taught me to drop my prejudices against the band’s new, cleaner, more studio-engineered sound and my appreciation and love for the rest of the album clicked into place very quickly. Paramore’s sound always prioritised volume and attack, but this might have been the first time they went for something truly stadium sized. And they really, really pulled it off – the ambitious arrangements, the double and triple-tracked vocals and guitars, the gospel choir (!), Hayley’s most soulful vocal performance across all five albums. It’s a bottomless fountain of ideas that stretches almost to 5 minutes, making it one of the band’s longest songs, and it somehow manages to grow in size until the fade-out. Marvellous!
2. ‘Decode’ (track 2, Twilight soundtrack; track #12 Brand New Eyes – International Version)
We’re all old and mature enough now to admit that the Twilight movies were actually good (well, maybe not the last one), but none of us ever needed convincing that the saga’s soundtracks were straight fire. ‘Decode’ started all that off. Released in October 2008, ‘Decode’ finds Paramore in a kind of mood that they hadn’t displayed beforehand and haven’t displayed since. It perhaps marks the moment when they switched from being an exclusively pop punk group to a band concerned more with alternative rock styles and song structures, but it is still entirely singular in their discography. I’ve seen it compared to Alice in Chains’ ‘Would?’ and I’ve always understood why. The guitars are grungier than ever, Hayley’s vocals are the rawest they’ve ever been, and the sheer size of it is difficult to comprehend. By the time it reaches its very final blasts, the volume has maxed out, clipping to the point where any melody is severely obscured and suffocated. Hayley’s lyrics explore everything that makes Twilight such an enrapturing story for teenagers: temptation, danger, lust. It’s all there in her sinister vocal line during the gigantic, crunching coda section: “There is something I see in you / It might kill me; I want it to be true”. To this day, the love for ‘Decode’ is deservedly shared between Paramore fans and Twilight fans alike (although, that Venn diagram is probably just a circle).
1. ‘That’s What You Get’ (track #2, Riot!)
And so we reach the end of our story… which is ironic, because ‘That’s What You Get’ came to me at the beginning of my personal Paramore story. ‘For a Pessimist’ was the first Paramore song I ever heard and it got me curious; ‘That’s What You Get’ turned that curiosity into affection, love, adoration – call it what you want. The triple-stab guitar riff syncing up with the syncopated drum blasts in the introduction; the playful hints of polyrhythm in the verses and the constant switches of time signature and meter; a super-catchy chorus that stuck to me in 2008 and hasn’t let go since. Truthfully, any of the top three could have claimed the title of Best Paramore Song, but nostalgia bumps ‘That’s What You Get’ above ‘Ain’t It Fun’, and the fact that its home is the first Paramore album I ever fell in love with means it nudges above ‘Decode’. I can listen to it now and still be taken back to that Christmas of 2008 when I was 14 years old, listening to Riot! on repeat – at home, in my parents’ car, at school, on walks around my neighbourhood. I took that album, and this song, everywhere with me. Usually, I’m not very good at closing my eyes and imagining myself in a particular place or time, but with assistance from ‘That’s What You Get’, I don’t even have to try. Everything I felt for it then is contained within it somewhere to this day. All things have done since then is change, but ‘That’s What You Get’ just freezes me in the past for a moment.
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