Courtesy of Pitchfork

Eighteen years after the release of their debut album — released when lead singer Hayley Williams was just 16 years old — beloved pop rock band Paramore is back with the release of their sixth studio album, “This Is Why.” No longer the teens of Warped Tour, “This Is Why” still has all the embodiments of a Paramore classic, while also evolving to tackle more interesting subjects and more adult anxieties. Williams’ voice has also matured greatly throughout the years, and her vocal performance is perhaps her best of any album. Williams’ vocal prowess on “This Is Why” may have cast Paramore’s hat into the ring for next year’s Grammy Awards — don’t be surprised if the trio racks up a few nominations for the rock or alternative categories. 

Nearly six years after the release of 2017’s “After Laughter,” “This Is Why” feels like a return to the band’s more rock-based sound, which will be sure to please long-time fans and those fond of pop-punk classic “Riot!”. The band’s charm and classic snark still remain, and on track “Big Man, Little Dignity” Williams is sure to throw a few jabs at her target: “You keep your head high, smooth operator in a shit-stained suit.” The lead vocalist further jokes “My watch is just for decoration” on “Running Out Of Time,” a track about juggling the adult activities of life and dealing with the overwhelming anxiety that some task will be forgotten. On the track, Williams sings, “Look, I showed up early for once / Now, that’s a new sensation.”

However, the themes of the album’s tracks vary and feel more planned out, nuanced  and overall deeper than past projects. The album’s opening track and lead single “This Is Why” provides a possible explanation for the band’s leave of absence due to pressures of constantly being judged and analyzed. Follow up single “The News” shines a light on the damage that our seemingly never ending news cycle causes to our mental health and well-being. “I feel useless behind this computer / And that’s just barely scratched the surface of my mind”, Williams admits on the track. Accompanied by a bizarre and unsettling music video where Williams becomes possessed by the technology around her, “The News” provides a unique commentary and feels like a first venture into deeper discussions for the band. 

However, the highs of “This Is Why” truly shine when the band gets emotional, discussing previous toxic relationships and new romances — perhaps referring to the recent announcement that Williams and guitarist Taylor York are now dating. Perhaps the best song on the album, “Figure 8” is a track penned with brutal honesty and vivid description. In it, Williams describes how a past lover made her feel like she had to change and distort everything about herself. “All for your sake / Became the very thing that I hate / I lost my way / Spinnin’ in an endless figure eight.” Carried by the raging sound of Williams’ voice and York’s guitar while being supported by drummer Zac Farro’s performance, “Figure 8” perfectly captures the storm of emotions and relatable anger that put Paramore on the map and made them a household name. 

But “This Is Why” proves itself to be a versatile album with the inclusion of the song “Liar”, which is placed directly after the track “Figure 8” despite being its total opposite. On the track, Williams slows down the vivacious and punchy mood of the album to reflect upon her current relationship and the struggles that it took to get there. A bittersweet and beautifully raw track, “Liar” is a refreshing tone-down from the album’s more pop-rock side and a standout of the album. 

The album is overall a delight — it may not be Paramore’s strongest and it may disappoint some who are looking to relieve the glory days of 2007 — but it marks an important turning point in the band’s career and is definite proof that even 19 years after their foundation, Paramore is alive and well. 

Rating: 8.5/10