As I like an Instagram picture where Paramore, an American rock band, wraps up their tour for their newest album After Laughter, I sit both sad and content. The sadness comes from the fact that I was not able to see them perform live, and the contentment stems from the realization that this marks almost 14 years since the band was formed.
How does a band from the early 2000s stay relevant for so long? My answer to that is twofold: Paramore’s core, the unchanging message, speaks to the lonely human condition, but they adapt well to changing expectations of how popular bands should sound.
Paramore’s first album, All We Know is Falling, was released in 2005 and is a perfect example of how timeless their work is. The tracks are laden with guitar riffs and occasional screaming, which points to the popularity of pop-punk at the time. However, even with the outdated sound, the lyrics continue to be relatable.
They are brimming with teenaged angst and openly address feelings of hurt and confusion. These are real, raw feelings that everyone, everywhere experiences and the confirmation of this in popular culture are comforting to a fourteen-year-old in 2006, as well as a 19 year old in 2018. The problems they sing about are vague, which also helps audiences to project their own similar situations onto what seems like a blank canvas. For example, in their song “Pressure,” Williams asks if we can “feel the pressure/ It’s getting closer now.”
The exact pressures are never revealed, but the feeling of looming responsibilities or impossible expectations could be attributed to these lyrics, among other things. Similarly, the song “Hard Times” from After Laughter sings about how difficult situations often lead to burn out and discouragement, alluding to the many difficulties the band has had during the past few years.
Still, the situation they are referring to is never explicitly stated, leaving the lyrics open to personal interpretations and therefore relatable to most listeners. The band writes about common experiences that, ironically, often make us feel isolated and alone. Their open approach to discussing self-destructive behaviour and personal failures makes listeners feel as if they are being understood.
In contrast to their lyrics, their sound and style have slowly changed over the years, but their fans hold onto them dearly. Their most radical change has been in After Laughter, in which they almost entirely shed their trademark pop-punk style and the more contemporary vibe they had in their previous self-titled album, Paramore. They instead adopt a retro, seventies and eighties-themed soundtrack. The major shift accomplished two things: it attracted newer audiences to the band and prevented current fans from getting bored.
Paramore’s new, less intense sound is better suited to compete with current gloomy, laid-back pop favourites and artists, yet the album still feels like a breath of fresh air with its unique lyrics and concept.
Paramore is not the only band to rebrand themselves. Other pop-punk/punk legends like Fall Out Boy and Panic! At the Disco have also released new music within the last two years that sound almost nothing like their most popular albums. As the era of bands seems to fade away, these artists want people to keep listening to their music and draw attention to themselves by making big changes.
Paramore definitely seems to understand this and has mastered the ability to stay current without alienating a large portion of their fans. Of course, one thing that their constant changes also likely did was push away hardcore fans. I will admit that when I first listened to the album I was taken aback and disappointed. I expect that I am not the only person who felt this way. The old Paramore still has a special place in my heart and for some fans, their new sound may just be too different. In the end, I think it is obvious that the band will break up eventually, but I doubt that this will happen in the near future. Paramore will (almost) live forever. When I first started listening to their music when I was 13, and 5 years later I am a totally different person and I imagine that the band members have changed too, but I still love them all the same.
Featured Image Via Flickr