We Are Paramore
During my teenage years, I always told people that I “wasn’t much of a music person”. Growing up in the 90s, I was surrounded by pop music; Spice Girls, Britney, Backstreet Boys. Like everyone else, I was obsessed with this music, as cheesy as is. But as the 90s turned into the 00s, music tastes started to change as RnB and rap music rose in popularity. This music was especially popular where I grew up in West London, as well as hip hop, garage and grime. I found myself not really clicking with this music in the same way, and didn’t really know any music outside from this.
This made life particularly difficult for me. Music was part of the culture and I found myself increasingly distant from this culture. There was this atmosphere of toxic masculinity, which became more apparent as I moved into high school. This music helped fuel the attitudes of men around me, calling themselves ‘gangstars’ or ‘rude bois’. This was a persona I couldn’t identify with and found myself as an outcast.
I did have some music that connected with me. Avril Lavigne was my favourite singer and I also loved P!nk. I found myself listening to ‘Complicated’ and ‘Sk8er Boi’ on repeat. But I struggled to find anything more than this, simply due to lack of exposure from anything outside what was popular at the time.
I discovered Paramore in what is probably the most bizarre way anyone has ever found music. The Sims 2 had just been released on PS2 and my cousin had purchased it. I went round to play with him and we discovered tracks on the stereo in-game. One of these tracks was ‘Pressure’ by Paramore. I was obsessed with this track and whenever we played The Sims 2, we made the stereo play ‘Pressure’. I had no reason to believe at the time that this was a legitimate song by a legitimate band, as the song was in Similish. I assumed EA had simply made up some tracks for the game and gave them names for fun, to add to the realism.
A couple of years later, my siblings were getting iPods and gave me their old MP3 player. I started loading music onto it from my CDs and went online to find ‘Pressure’ by Paramore. What I stumbled upon blew my mind, ‘Pressure’ was real and so was Paramore. I listened to the real version and freaked out. I listened to every other track I could find and found myself completely obsessed.
I filled my MP3 player with every track they had released. I had never found music that connected with me in such a way. I was in that phase in my life where I was full of angst. I was seen as “different” by everyone at school. I didn’t like sports or working out or anything typically masculine. I was an outcast and teased a lot by the “in” crowd. My home life wasn’t much better, constantly clashing with my brother and Dad, often on similar fronts. I was trying to live authentically, but constantly faced with societal pressures to change who I was. Paramore helped me channel my pain, hurt and frustration over this. I screamed through the music and let everything out. Paramore made me realise who I was and who I wanted to be. It helped me accept myself and made me stronger.
Through Paramore, I discovered a whole genre of music and fell right into the emo scene. Whilst I didn’t go full hardcore, the bands I listened to were probably considered tame by most, I found a lot of music that I still listen to to this day. Fall Out Boy, Panic! At The Disco, My Chemical Romance, Linkin Park and more. As I worked my way into this scene, I found myself connecting with more people. I made new friends and grew closer with old friends over this bond of music. This was all entirely new to me, as music was never an interest of mine.
My love for Paramore, and this music genre in general, grew. I started growing my hair out so I could match Josh Farro, and every other emo boy. I started buying band merch, like t-shirts. I recall buying Guitar Hero for Wii, just so I could play Misery Business.
But everything was not sunny for Paramore. During their Riot! Europe Tour , they announced that they were cancelling upcoming tour dates so that the band could work on “personal issues”. There was a lot of speculation at the time that the band would be splitting, which caused panic amongst the fan base. I was terrified. I was worried that I would lose them, despite just discovering them, and would be left with nothing again. I couldn’t go back to that.
Thankfully, they stayed together. They released a couple of tracks for Twilight (a movie that I watched solely because Paramore made music for it) and followed this up with their next album, ‘brand new eyes’, the year after. This is the first time I had ever followed the release date for an album and downloaded it the second it was available. At this point, I had my own iPod and it had tons of music from all the bands I discovered.
This era was the first time I heard the phrase “I want the old Paramore back”. Paramore had reinvented it’s sound yet again and it had become clear to me that they never stuck in one place for very long. I personally had a lot of respect for Paramore for this and their range and diversity in their tracks was something I admired. I had never expected a ballad from Paramore, but ‘Misguided Ghosts’ showed they were capable of producing such a sound and it became a favourite track of mine. I found I could relate to it as I was trying to find my own path in life. It is a song I have returned to a lot over the years. ‘The Only Exception’ was a poignant love song that spoke of the truths of love, the difficulties and hardship, rather than just sunshine and flowers. To this day I still say that, should I get married one day, my first dance at my wedding will be to ‘The Only Exception’.
The ‘brand new eyes’ tour was also the first time I had an opportunity to see Paramore live. My sister had a friend at University who was also a fan and had two spare tickets. Whilst we may have been on the top tier in Wembley Arena, rather than standing, I loved every second. This was the first time I had ever seen a band or artist play live and it was a life changing experience. To make it even better, one of the people in our group knew the opening act and got to go backstage. We weren’t allowed to join them, but managed to do so anyway. As we were about to leave, we noticed Zac across the way and we all ran over to ask if we could get a picture. Josh was with him and we got someone to take a photo of all of us, a photo I cherish to this day. Whilst taking the photo, I got to see Jeremy and Taylor too. Unfortunately, we had to leave and didn’t get a photo with them or get to see Hayley. But I love this moment all the same.
The relations within Paramore were still strained, which was evident in the lyrics in ‘brand new eyes’ and a year after I saw them live, Josh and Zac announced that they will be leaving. This split was not an amicable one, with accusations being hurled from Josh online. Many fans, myself included, were deeply upset by this event. Seeing your favourite band so divided and fractured is never easy, and many feared Paramore may be coming to an end.
However, they kept strong. They released an EP, called Singles Club, with a new logo that represented the remaining members of the band. Whilst internal relations may have plagued them, they showed that they were more united than ever. The EP delivered a range of different sounds, showing that Paramore was clearly experimenting and trying new things with their new line-up. A couple of years later, Paramore released their new album, dubbed ‘Paramore’, a self-titled album to mark a new start for the band.
This album was their longest to date, with a completely new sound as one would expect from Paramore at this point. The lyrics of this album had Paramore going through the motions of losing their friends and band mates, talking about their hardship and pain as well as processing and moving on to the future that lies ahead of them, the one they were writing for themselves. With ‘brand new eyes’ and this self-titled album, I realised how Paramore’s music is almost like a diary, a confession of the events in their lives, their true thoughts and feelings in that moment. I could see this in their older albums as well.
I respected Paramore a lot for this, and still do to this day. They way they bare their soul, raw and unashamed, was something I truly admired. I think music, like any form of art, is all about self-expression. Changing their style and sound and formulating their lyrics about their emotions over the events that were so publicised made them feel real and relatable, like you knew them personally and could truly connect with them.
This album also connected with me personally. Not long after the launch of this album, I had a falling out with two of my closest friends. I was in a very stressful period of my life as I was moving house whilst undertaking my final exams at University. Losing my friends just made the situation worse and I sunk into a very low state. Paramore’s self-titled album was a lifeline for me. Since the album was all about their experience of losing friends, I felt I could relate to it heavily on a personal level. I used this album to help keep me upbeat and move through the pain, eventually helping me reconcile with these friends.
This was clearly becoming a recurring theme. Whenever a major life change was occurring for me, Paramore delivered something to help me. Their life events constantly reflected my own, and their music helped me through that period. I found myself returning to their discography whenever I was going through a rough patch in my life, and it never failed to help me process my feelings. This proved especially true with their next album.
After their self-titled tour, it was announced that Jeremy would be leaving the band too. Parahoy! cruise was already scheduled for 2016, and went on without Jeremy. Paramore was down to two and everyone was almost certain that this spelt the end for Paramore.
However, Paramore showed that they weren’t packing up quite yet. They showed that they were recording new music, with a familiar face seen in the pictures. Eventually, they officially announced that Zac was back in the band. A few days before my birthday in 2017, Paramore started dropping cryptic messages on social media, changing their profile pictures each day. This was all a lead up to a big reveal, which dropped on my birthday.
This news came at the exact right time in my life. At the beginning of 2017, I had come out as bisexual. I found that I was in love with my best friend, who identified as straight, and could no longer deny this aspect of my identity. However, this is where my life started to come apart at the seams. I discovered from a mutual friend that my crush was talking behind my back, calling me “too much”. I had a falling out with him and was in deep pain over this. I was in the darkest place in my life and wasn’t sure if there was a light at the end of the tunnel.
On my birthday, Paramore showed off the new logo they had been teasing, along with the announcement of ‘After Laughter’ (their fifth album), a European tour and a music video for the first track of their album, ‘Hard Times’. This was the best birthday present I could have ever asked for. I spent the whole day dancing to this song, playing it on repeat. The beat was infectious and catchy, you couldn’t help but move your feet to it. But the lyrics spelt a more morbid picture, opening with the lyric:
“All that I want is to wake up fine. Tell me that I’m alright and I ain’t gonna die”
I recall shedding a few tears when listening to these lyrics. I was going through hard times, the hardest I had ever faced. Yet again, Paramore had swooped in to save me from my pain. The lyrics spoke to me, describing everything I was currently living with in a way I just couldn’t and somehow making me dance through it.
I recall when ‘After Laughter’ was announced, I went to Google the album, only to be met with a song by Wendy Rene. The song, called ‘After Laughter’, had the opening lyric “after laughter comes tears”. This felt like the inspiration behind the new album name, as it summed up the place the band was at in their lives. It was evident from interviews that all members of the band had been dealing with a lot, which was displayed throughout the album. The dark lyrics, with constant throwbacks to older tracks, showed the changes within the band. This was all backed by an upbeat vibe in the sound. Because of this, ‘After Laughter’ became known as the era of “cry hard, dance harder”
I recall the moment I first listened to the album whilst at work and ‘Caught In The Middle’ came on. The opening verse hit me so incredibly hard, I had to walk away from my desk before I burst into tears. I was at that crossroads myself, unable to look backwards and unable to see the road ahead. The whole album connected with me, as Paramore always seems to, and helped me to cry out my feelings of losing my best friend and crush, losing my friendship circles and trying to rebuild my whole life.
I read once that music in itself doesn’t make you cry, but your connection with the music allows you to cry those tears that you had been holding on to. I feel this holds true when it comes to my relationship with Paramore. Throughout my life they have been there to provide a wave of emotion, allowing me to cry over the pain I was experiencing, to let those tears out. They described events in their lives that I could connect to on a personal level and helped me process my thoughts. Tracks like ‘Tell Me How’, ‘Last Hope’ and many more proved vital during this period in my life.
As I turned 26 in 2018, the track ‘26’ became my mantra. I swore that I would hold onto hope — hope that was barely even there, and hoped that I had finally reached the bottom, hoped that the best wasn’t over and hoped that I could build a new life for myself, one that was even better than what I had before. And I wouldn’t let anyone come in the way of that. I find myself in a much better place now. My self-esteem is the highest it has ever been. I’m more independent and my future seems a lot clearer. I have new goals and ambitions all of my own, and thriving in a way I never had before. I find myself returning to older Paramore tracks, like ‘Looking Up’ and ‘Anklebiters’, gaining a more positive perspective on my life.
I have to thank Paramore a lot for getting me to this place. I don’t feel like words are enough to express the level of gratitude I have. They have managed to be there through the hard times and the good, without ever even knowing. They always seemed to pop up at the exact time in my life when I needed help, putting me onto a path that was otherwise unclear. I’m not sure where I would be if I lost them back in the Riot! era, or in fact never discovered them at all. I don’t think it’s dramatic to say that they saved me. And for that, just know I am grateful.