Listening through Paramore’s brand new release After Laughter evokes an image of sitting in a circle on the ground with Hayley Williams leading a quiet, ballad-esque musical exploration of human emotions. The aesthetic and feeling portrayed in both the music of and the video for the single ‘Told You So’ most definitely extends to the rest of the album, with only slight alterations.
Paramore as an entity has been through a rough period since their last album, with personnel changes putting the very future of the band in question. The return of Zac Farro to the band helped secure that Paramore wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon, but the anguish on Hayley Williams’s part of having what she’d spent so much of her life working on suddenly threatened to disappear remains evident in After Laughter. Even the very title of the album suggests this in that the time for laughter has, apparently, passed.
The standout track ‘Idle Worship’ addresses some of Hayley’s concerns with the implications of her life as a wildly popular music artist. She got to work on Paramore for much of her life, but what now? In the opening of ‘Idle Worship,’ Hayley sings: “Standing here like I’m supposed to say something; Don’t hold your breath, I never said I’d save you, honey; And I don’t want your money; If I was you, I’d run from me or rip me open.”
Other tracks on the album touch on this same topic, including ‘Rose-Colored Boy,’ on which Hayley pleads for those around her to just slow down and let her deal with things her own way. Balancing personal ambition with being in the spotlight and the need to do something financially successful has long been an issue for music artists like Paramore.
On ‘No Friend,’ mewithoutYou vocalist Aaron Weiss stands in for Hayley to continue on with the theme of the turmoil associated with the position that the members of Paramore, as wildly popular music artists, have found themselves in. Weiss speaks/sings: “You see a flood-lit form I see a shirt design; I’m no savior of yours and you’re no friend of mine.”
There is an answer to all of this turmoil to be found within the various compositions of After Laughter. The band has gotten older; that much is clear and obvious. The days of pop punk ballads about riotous teenage relationships are gone. In their place is the crushing weight of the world on the band’s shoulders, even if that world is nothing more than the responsibilities associated with getting older.
Sure, Hayley Williams and Paramore might come up short. They might let some fans down with the musical compositions of After Laughter, seeing as they’re a departure from the pop punk that made the band famous. After Laughter is, rather, driven by simpler music than the band has utilized in the past.
Hayley, however, doesn’t mind coming up short. Sure, she’s struggling and wants to be left alone — don’t we all? — but she’s accepting of the fact that she has responsibilities and hasn’t been and likely won’t be left alone any time soon.
Of all of this, on the track ‘26,’ Hayley sings, in what could be said to be the moral of the album’s story: “Reality will break your heart; Survival will not be the hardest part; It’s keeping all your hopes alive; When all the rest of you has died; So let it break your heart.”