The Paramore we associated with high-fashion Hot Topic T-shirts and the critically acclaimed movie, “Twilight,” has since reinvented their sound into a mature, whizzing pop punch on their fifth studio album, After Laughter. A visual that represents the entirety of After Laughter would be the meme of Ben Affleck holding a cigarette in one hand, masking his sadness with a smile. Hiding behind the saccharine melodies, Paramore’s established emo roots are intrinsically projected through the dynamic lyrics on the album.
“Hard Times,” the first single off After Laughter, was met with utter confusion from avid Paramore listeners, as it seemed like the band was consumed by an alternate universe where they then listened to Carly Rae Jepsen’s Emotion on loop for 24 hours. This single highlighted frontwoman Hayley Williams’s versatile vocals and enriched instrumentation with the addition of founding drummer Zac Farro. After a couple listens to the track, one can look past the brightly lit euphoria and unwind the dark subject matter of Williams’s metaphorical representations of depression, comparing it to “a hole in the ground.”
The second track, “Rose-Colored Boy,” is undeniably the most pop-influenced track, but Williams brings about a somber and intimate narrative, comparing her emotional emptiness to that seemingly optimistic attitude of a guy who typifies her as a “lost cause.”
The catchiness of the album only exceeds expectations after the two first songs, ending in nostalgia as the final two tracks of the album, “No Friend” and “Tell Me How,” act as odes to the sound of the Brand New Eyes Paramore era. Within the heart of the album lies a three-minute acoustic- and synth-heavy track titled “Fake Happy,” which exceptionally documents the insincerity of human emotions. This track within itself acts as a deceptive emotion, pulling listeners in within the first couple of chords on an acoustic guitar and Williams’s light vocals reminiscent of the iconic “The Only Exception,” but once the 38 second mark hits, the track converts into a synth and electric guitar powerhouse.
Recently, Paramore joined Zane Lowe of Beats 1 Radio for a sit-down interview in which Williams explained that she was experiencing a rather dark time after the release of their self-titled album and had pondered ending the band as a whole. Guitarist Taylor York seemed to be the person who pulled the band out of the short-term hiatus they were in, as he explored and drew from new-wave sounds, stating that he “was only listening to Tame Impala, so [he] was just trying to rip everything off.”
Hiatuses are often a necessary means for a band to delve deeper into their mental spaces and explore the context of lyrics and the instrumental elements for a future project. After Laughter paints Paramore as a magnetic band that creates charismatic pop anthems while still preserving and maturing their emo-inclined expression.