With the release of her solo album ‘Petals For Armor’, Hayley Williams is going it alone after – or rather, in the middle of – an impressive career as the lead singer of Paramore. Forming as teenagers, Paramore was initially made up of Williams and her childhood friends Josh Farro, Zac Farro and Jeremy Davis. After signing with Fueled By Ramen and adding a rhythm guitarist, they released their debut album ‘All We Know Is Falling’ in 2005.
‘All We Know Is Falling’ was a promising start to Paramore’s career and a worthy addition to the third wave of emo that was rapidly taking shape. With Williams as the powerful lead vocalist, Paramore also offered a much-needed female voice to the male-dominated scene. The band’s emotional lyrics and experimental approach to music would see them proving their longevity over the coming four albums, culminating with 2017’s synth-pop-filled ‘After Laughter’.
Over the years, Paramore would work through and recover from lineup changes, interpersonal dramas and individual trauma, much of which was dealt with openly in their music. Their oeuvre is intimidatingly vast and diverse for their ages, but we’ve attempted to rank 15 years of it – or at least, the album tracks – here.
The results are not objective: Paramore being what they are, our responses to their music are highly individual and personal. Plus, there really aren’t that many duds in their back catalogue. But here goes. Tell us your Top 10 in the comments section at the bottom.
62. ‘Whoa’ – (‘All We Know Is Falling ‘)
‘Whoa’ is a fun early example of Williams’ venomous-sounding vocal skills, but for the most part, “we’ve got everybody singing whoa” isn’t a particularly inspiring chorus. It probably went hard live, though, which is maybe the idea.
61. ‘No Friend’ – (‘After Laughter‘)
‘No Friend’ is the only Paramore track to not feature Williams on vocals, which is perhaps why it’s not a great listen. ‘No Friend’ is a quasi-post-hardcore track reminiscent of Glassjaw with a looping inversion of the ‘Idle Worship’ riff as Aaron Weiss of MewithoutYou runs through a spoken word monologue. While it’s interesting as an experiment, it’s not a thrilling listen.
60. ‘Fences’ – (‘Riot!‘)
A pretty standard ‘Riot!’ track, ‘Fences’ is a jab at some former friend or other, but it lacks the heart of ‘Misery Business’ or ‘crushcrushcrush’.
59. ‘Oh Star’ (bonus track) – (‘All We Know Is Falling‘)
An ‘All We Know Is Falling’ bonus that originally featured on their ‘The Summer Tic’ EP, ‘Oh Star’ is pretty simple, but with early signs of Williams’ incredibly powerful vocals, it’s a worthy addition.
58. ‘Escape Route’ (bonus track) – (‘Paramore‘)
The deluxe edition of ‘Paramore’ near-doubled the track listing with bonus tracks and live versions. ‘Escape Route’ is Paramore’s offering to a well-established canon: pop-punk songs about artists desperate to move away to California. It’s a cliché, but it’s a good one.
57. ‘Brighter’ – (‘All We Know Is Falling‘)
‘Brighter’ combines heavy guitars with Williams’ sweet vocals for a pure emo goodbye to a loved one. It’s full of the authentic emotion that made Paramore special.
56. ‘Stop This Song (Lovesick Melody)’ – (‘Riot!’)
Originally a bonus track for the Best Buy and iTunes UK release, on ‘Stop This Song’ Williams wrestles with a love she doesn’t want to let into her heart. The guitars and drums build to a big chorus, but its lyrics are a little too on the nose to look past: “to this 4/4 beat I would die for you”.
55. ‘Future’ – (‘Paramore‘)
Opening with chatter and vaguely grainy vocals, ‘Future’ has the roughness of a demo, which makes it feel honest but is kind of a weak close to an otherwise incredibly powerful album. Still, its inspiring lyrics, aimed at listeners reaching a crossroads, carry value of their own.
54. ‘My Heart’ – (‘All We Know Is Falling‘)
Despite its moving vocals, ‘My Heart’ is a repetitive song that’s only set apart from other tracks on ‘All We Know Is Falling’ by Williams’ powerful repetition of “this heart, it beats, beats for only you” backed by some hardcore screamo by Josh Farro.
53. ‘Be Alone’ – (‘Paramore‘)
Under repetitive lyrics and guitars, ‘Be Alone’ extols the virtues of being all by yourself, which feels more than a little fitting considering recent events. After a while, ironically, it gets pretty boring.
52. ‘Hallelujah’ – (‘Riot!’)
Before Paramore fell out and ex-members criticised Williams’ “drift from spirituality”, Paramore often had a Christian slant. A track written long before ‘Riot!’, ‘Hallelujah’ is a straightforward, upbeat track featuring doves, God, and blind optimism. Still, maybe it’s a welcome respite in a pessimistic genre.
51. ‘Now’ – (‘Paramore!’)
On ‘Paramore’, the band shed their emo roots and leaned towards hope lyrically. ‘Now’ is a rallying cry for winning your battle against depression: “if there’s a future we want it now” Williams sings defiantly against poppy backing vocals.
50. ‘Miracle’ – (‘Riot!‘)
On “Miracle”, Williams’ spirituality is again evident as she wrestles with her pain and fears, lamenting her long wait for a miracle. Its powerful message, though, is lost a little in the fact that it’s one of the least enjoyable songs on the record.
READ MORE: The best emo songs of all time
49. ‘Born for This’ – (‘Riot!‘)
A fun anecdote: the backing vocals on ‘Born for This’ are sung by a fan who submitted the winning entry to a competition for the opportunity. With a rousing singalong of “we were born for this”, references to fame and a small nod to their past with “tell me, tell me, can you feel the pressure?”, ‘Born for This’ is fun, if nothing else.
48. ‘Conspiracy’ – (‘All We Know Is Falling‘)
Paramore were pretty affected by the early departure of bassist Jeremy Davis. A lot of the lyrics deal explicitly with the apparent betrayal felt by that loss, and ‘Conspiracy’ seems to be no exception, as Williams explores the personal shock of losing someone close.
47. ‘Native Tongue’ (bonus track) – (‘Paramore‘)
A bonus track on the band’s 2013 self-titled, ‘Native Tongue’ is a fun, uplifting song about the secret languages we make with friends that people on the outside struggle to understand. With poppy guitars and an unusual, shouty breakdown that builds to an enjoyable close, it should have found a home on the album.
46. ‘Never Let This Go’ – ‘(All We Know Is Falling‘)
While ‘Never Let This Go’ is a pretty standard, if very good, third wave emo song, it’s a brilliant showcase of Williams’ powerful vocals as she builds to crooning, ‘I’ll never let this go’, giving every single other pop punk vocalist a run for their money.
45. ‘Feeling Sorry’ – (‘Brand New Eyes‘)
An unsympathetic track that feels like it perhaps belongs more on ‘Riot!’, ‘Feeling Sorry’ is a vicious stab at an unspecified ex-friend that feels out of place on a record that’s otherwise evolved past petty beefs.
44. ‘Here We Go Again’ – (‘All We Know Is Falling‘)
‘Here We Go Again’ is typical ‘All We Know Is Falling’–era Paramore: powerful guitars, spiky lyrics, and big singalong choruses. Sidenote, though – it’s actually part of the reason we have Paramore, as it’s one of two songs written by Williams and Farro in an attempt to dissuade the label from firing them.
43. ‘Pressure’ – (‘All We Know Is Falling‘)
Their first ever single, ‘Pressure’ and its accompanying video deal with, well, various pressures. It introduced us to Hayley Williams as we’d come to know her: an ultra-talented teen with poppy singalong choruses and bright red hair. Plus, it absolutely goes, showing their potential for more mainstream bops.
42. ‘Brick by Boring Brick’ – (‘Brand New Eyes‘)
The second single from ‘Brand New Eyes’, ‘Brick by Boring Brick’ is a twisted fairytale of a song, but also the most fun for its pop-punk singalong “ba-da-ba-ba-da-ba-ba-da” breakdown that leads into Williams singing over drums before it abruptly ends.
41. ‘All We Know’ – (‘All We Know Is Falling ‘)
Heavier than anyone ever gives them credit for, opening track and final single ‘All We Know’ was a promising start to Paramore’s career, seeing them open their 2005 debut with big rock guitars and an emotional breakdown to rival any of their emo contemporaries.
40. ‘Turn It Off’ – (‘Brand New Eyes‘)
Returning to religion, on ‘Turn It Off’ Williams slows it down again to explore her complicated emotions and myriad of sins, lamenting the ways her pride and spite play against and with each other. It’s a remarkably mature song that sees Williams recognising the virtues of rock bottom.
39. ‘Careful’ – (‘Brand New Eyes‘)
Paramore’s 2009 album, ‘Brand New Eyes’, saw a slight shift in direction for the band. The maturity that earned it praise is evident from opening track ‘Careful’, a rumination on healing and pain that features the heavy guitar that would be eschewed for much of the record.
38. ‘Franklin’ – (‘All We Know Is Falling’)
Named after the town in Tennessee where she moved after her parents divorced, “Franklin” is maybe Paramore’s most explicitly adolescent song. Moving and heartfelt, it deals with the struggle of feeling like somewhere new isn’t home at all, but also knowing you can’t go back to the one you came from.
37. Fast in My Car’ – (‘Paramore‘)
The first album after Josh and Zac Farro’s controversial departure from Paramore, 2013’s self-titled record saw a huge shift in sound for the band. Opening track ‘Fast in My Car’ is a fun, power pop song and a blueprint for the rest of the record.
36. ‘Where the Lines Overlap’ – (‘Brand New Eyes‘)
Straight, wholesome love songs with no strings or reticence are rare in Paramore’s back catalogue, which is what makes “When the Lines Overlap” so pleasing. Plus, the opening lines, “give me attention, I need it now”, are nothing if not utterly relatable.
35. ‘Emergency’ – (‘All We Know Is Falling‘)
The second single from ‘All We Know Is Falling’, ‘Emergency’ cemented Hayley Williams’ emo clout. Asking the question, “are you listening?” the answer, for a generation, was: “hell yeah”. Its lyrics, dealing with Williams’ parents’ failing marriage, are an early hint at her wisdom: “I’ve seen love die way too many times”.
34. ‘Misery Business’ – (‘Riot!‘)
Hayley Williams’ iconic tale of romantic jealousy and competition has earned some controversy for its use of a misogynistic word that every other male peer is still insisting on using. Feeling unfairly guilty, Williams opts to either avoid the offending lyrics or playing the song entirely, which is a shame, because it slaps. Still, the whole saga just cements the fact that she’s a self-aware legend, unafraid of growth.
33. ‘Daydreaming’ – (‘Paramore‘)
Opening with movie soundtrack-worthy synths and power pop guitars, ‘Daydreaming’ slips into slower, reflective lyrics before building to become a full-blown emotional, optimistic bop. It’s a positive sign of what’s possible for Paramore, and plus, the video premiered on MSN!
32. ‘When It Rains’ – (‘Riot!‘)
Perhaps down to the bold inclusion of an organ, ‘When It Rains’ feels like one of the more evolved tracks on ‘Riot!’. Diverging away from straightforward pop-punk bops, ‘When It Rains’ sees Williams grappling with yet another betrayal through soulful laments of “how could you do it?”
31. ‘Looking Up’ – (‘Brand New Eyes‘)
With bouncy guitars and an optimistic pop punk clap-a-long breakdown, ‘Looking Up’ is a monument to Paramore’s perseverance and success, taking a grateful look at how far they’ve come and how many times they almost gave up. With the tongue-in-cheek line “God knows the world doesn’t need another band”, Williams proves that she’s not only earned the “whoa-oas”, but that she’s already far surpassed her pop-punk contemporaries.
READ MORE: Growing up with Hayley Williams
30. ‘Forgiveness’ – (‘After Laughter‘)
A crooning, sympathetic, more blatantly vulnerable track compared to others on the album, ‘Forgiveness’ sees Williams wrestling with whether or not to forgive someone. It’s open in a way that evokes the best female solo artists of the 90s.
29. ‘Grow Up’ – (‘Paramore‘)
Perhaps the strongest hint of what would come on ‘After Laughter’, ‘Grow Up’ is a funky ode to maturity and leaving shitty friends behind. Remarkably not a single, it’s a fun and powerful testament to growing up, but never old.
28. ‘Let the Flames Begin’ – (‘Riot!‘)
In ways evocative of heavier, post hardcore-inspired emo, ‘Let the Flames Begin’ is another strong, vaguely threatening-sounding exploration of Williams’ faith. Cries of “oh glory” give the song even more spiritual depth.
27. ‘That’s What You Get’ – (‘Riot!‘)
The final single from 2007’s ‘Riot!’, ‘That’s What You Get’ has a powerful, poppy chorus with an incisive message for those of us inclined to wear our hearts on our sleeve: “that’s what you get when you let when you let your heart win.” It also has a good old fashioned group singalong, so, yes.
26. ‘Told You So’ – (‘After Laughter‘)
The second single from ambitious fifth album ‘After Laughter’, ‘Told You So’ is a fun, brightly-coloured track built around groovy guitars and beats. It’s a departure from lyric-led Paramore tracks, but it’s powerful all the same.
25. ’26’ – (‘After Laughter‘)
Teasing a return to ‘The Only Exception’-era heartfelt acoustic tracks, ’26’ is an emotive, striking ballad with a heartbreaking message: “reality will break your heart”. Ultimately, though, with its heart-tugging strings and careful guitar, it’s an ode to getting through the depression that inspired the entirety of ‘After Laughter’, whatever it costs.
24. ‘For a Pessimist, I’m Pretty Optimistic’ – (‘Riot!‘)
Jumping on the mid-2000s trend for rogue exclamation points and contradictory titles, on ‘Riot!’ Paramore cemented their third-wave emo status. Somehow never a single, ‘For a Pessimist’ is a powerful track more than worthy of screaming in sticky venues.
23. ‘Caught in the Middle’ – (‘After Laughter‘)
Borrowing from the bouncy ska of No Doubt, ‘Caught in the Middle’ is an enjoyable track on which Williams reflects on growing up, the meaning of glory days, and the uselessness of nostalgia. It’s an anthem for most millennials, and it’s a fun one to sing along with.
22. ‘We Are Broken’ – (‘Riot!‘)
Reminiscent of Avril Lavigne on tracks like ‘I’m With You’, ‘We Are Broken’ is bolstered by the inclusion of an organ but made by Williams’ huge voice and unexpected vulnerability on an album largely made up of venom. It’s got the uplifting, forward-looking energy of a Christian song with none of the cheese.
21. ‘Part II’ – (‘Paramore‘)
A follow-up to 2007’s ‘Let the Flames Begin’, ‘Part II’ opens with Cure-sounding guitars and a familiar “what a shame” before launching into a reworked track with entirely new lyrics, bar a few “oh glory”s. It’s a worthy sequel to an already powerful song, evidence in itself of Paramore’s evolution.
20. ‘Idle Worship’ – (‘After Laughter‘)
On ‘Idle Worship’, Williams wrestles with the pressures of fame and the distance between how much people look up to her and the way she sees herself. It puts forward the idea that not one person is worthy of worship, but with yet another absolute bop, it’s hard to imagine not looking up to Williams.
19. ‘All I Wanted’ – (‘Brand New Eyes‘)
Again showcasing Williams’ vocals set against bare instrumentals before bursting into an Avril-style shouting chorus, ‘All I Wanted’ is an honest examination of the shame that comes with the vulnerability needed to admit you want someone completely.
18. ‘Misguided Ghosts’ – (‘Brand New Eyes‘)
With the simple strings and “1, 2, 3, 4,” reminiscent of Elliott Smith, ‘Misguided Ghosts’ wouldn’t be out of place on The O.C. soundtrack. Struggling with the pressures of touring and the agony of heartbreak, ‘Misguided Ghosts’ is yet another reminder that sometimes Williams is at her best with her heart on her sleeve and zero distractions.
17. ‘Hate to See Your Heart Break’ – (‘Paramore‘)
The original version of ‘Hate to See Your Heart Break’ is still powerful, but for the deluxe version, Hayley Williams enlisted real-life friend Joy Williams for her first ever studio collaboration. Hayley called the new version an ode to “close friendship between women who share their stories with each other”. Both versions’ powerful strings, slow build and vocals give “Hate to See Your Heart Break” a depth, moving beyond boring rock music and well into classic ballad territory.
16. ‘Grudges’ – (‘After Laughter‘)
Williams’ fallout with the Farro brothers is a difficult part of Paramore lore. After reconciling for ‘After Laughter’, the band still had a whole lotta complicated feelings to work through. ‘Grudges’, co-written with Zac Farro, examines the strangeness of reuniting with someone that you’ve known for your entire life when you can’t remember quite why you fell out in the first place. It feels warm, and sweet, and like a flag in the ground that firmly says those days are behind them.
15. ‘crushcrushcrush’ – (‘Riot!‘)
With sinister, venomous whispers, heavy guitars and cruel lyrics about subterfuge and difficult crushes, ‘crushcrushcrush’ is the most powerful single on ‘Riot!’. Sounding a lot like underrated alt-pop queen Fefe Dobson on 2003’s ‘Take Me Away’, ‘crushcrushcrush’ is a bonafide rock song.
14. ‘Tell Me How’ – (‘After Laughter‘)
Another powerful, heartfelt ballad with a quiet, tropical, synth-y undercurrent, ‘Tell Me How’ looks at the complications of still caring deeply about someone you don’t speak to anymore. It’s a strong closer on an incredibly vulnerable and ambitious record that calls Tegan and Sara to mind.
13. ‘Hard Times’ – (‘After Laughter‘)
Signalling the prodigious return of Zac Farro, After Laughter’s lead single ‘Hard Times’ forecast a massive shift in sound for Paramore. Juxtaposing heavy subject matter with 80s new wave-style synths, ‘Hard Times’ was a bold experiment that the band managed to pull off.
12. ‘Playing God’ – (‘Brand New Eyes‘)
If the overarching theme of Brand New Eyes, with its slowed-down pace and butterfly imagery on the cover, is maturation and vindication, then ‘Playing God’ is its anthem. Deceptively calm, on ‘Playing God’, Williams explores her own growth and gently threatens “next time you point a finger I might have to bend it back/or break it, break it off” with a quiet rage we’ll see again on ‘Petals For Armor’.
11. ‘Anklebiters’ – (‘Paramore‘)
A fun anecdote: despite never being released as a single, Paramore still made a video for ‘Anklebiters’. A fun, chaotic track with fast-paced pop-punk guitars and genuine laughter at the end, it sounds like after all the stress, Paramore are finally having some fun again.
10. ‘(One of Those) Crazy Girls’ – (‘Paramore‘)
With a playful, 60s pop song-style opening that could just as easily belong on ‘After Laughter’ as ‘Grease’, ‘(One of Those) Crazy Girls’ is a satirical take on jealous, obsessive lyrics. The Beach Boys, or Weezer, style guitars and Williams’ repetition “I’m not one of those crazy girls”, make the song a fun, irreverent play on the kind of lyrics men get away with.
9. ‘Rose-Colored Boy’ – (‘After Laughter‘)
Much like ‘Hard Times’, ‘Rose-Colored Boy’ sounded like it was designed to be listened to while sipping a coconut cocktail on a beach somewhere. That keyboard-tinkling, beach wave sound is deceptive: again, the lyrics deal directly with depression and climbing out of the other side.
8. ‘Proof’ – (‘Paramore‘)
‘Paramore’ expands on the growth of ‘Brand New Eyes’ with a new theme: optimism. ‘Proof’, with uplifting backing vocals and a pure singalong chorus, feels designed for singing along when you feel down and out. On ‘Proof’, Williams seems to be trying to take the well-meaning compliments of a lover to heart, believing in her own strength and value.
7. ‘The Only Exception’ – (‘Brand New Eyes’)
Returning to her parents’ formative divorce and its impact on her belief in love, ‘The Only Exception’ is a heartfelt tearjerker without any tricks. Singing over an acoustic guitar, squeaks n’all, it’s an authentic exploration of the long lasting effect of early trauma and the risks we take when we let ourselves be known.
6. ‘Pool’ – (‘After Laughter‘)
With bouncy lyrics and opening beats that feel fit for a pool day, ‘Pool’ is, like many songs on ‘After Laughter’, somewhat deceptively upbeat. It explores the complexity and risk of giving second chances, while carrying the optimism for the joy and comfort that can come with forgiving and trusting someone all over again. Its tinkling, dreamlike sounds and repeated lines make it a pure power pop song, with emo sensibilities.
5. ‘Last Hope’ – (‘Paramore’)
Some of Paramore’s most powerful tracks see Williams alone, exposed with her guitar and voice. On ‘Last Hope’, that foundation is built on before growing into a powerful conclusion with backing vocals, piano and organ additions to build a powerful ode to optimism and strength.
4. ‘Fake Happy’ – (‘After Laughter‘)
Returning briefly to hushed, acoustic guitar and emo vocals before stepping boldly into the new wave synth riffs that define ‘After Laughter’, ‘Fake Happy’ is a poppy exploration of the ways we fake our emotions. The chorus is pure pop, deceptively easy to dance to with lyrics that cut deeper than any emo.
3. ‘Ignorance’ – (‘Brand New Eyes‘)
The lead single from ‘Brand New Eyes’, ‘Ignorance’ has the mean, quick-tongued lyrical play of ‘Misery Business’ without the controversial words. A rumination on the cruel gossip that followed Paramore around, ‘Ignorance’ is dripping with righteous anger before leading into a carefully enunciated cry of “ignorance is your new best friend”.
2. ‘Ain’t It Fun’ – (‘Paramore‘)
Proof that Paramore dabbled in electro-pop before ‘After Laughter’, ‘Ain’t It Fun’, the final single from ‘Paramore’, is incredibly ambitious. Featuring a keyboard loop, xylophone and most notably, a gospel choir, it’s clear evidence of a band matured. ‘Ain’t It Fun’ is a massively developed track that takes cues from Fall Out Boy to surpass rock music entirely.
1. ‘Still Into You’ – (‘Paramore‘)
A fun, upbeat track that wouldn’t be out of place on either ‘After Laughter’ or Carly Rae Jepsen’s ‘Emotion’, ‘Still Into You’ is a pure pop song that draws on the butterflies and sparks of teenage love to tell a story of something deeper. ‘Still Into You’ carries the optimistic message that long-lasting love doesn’t have to be dreary, that it can have all the intensity and joy of its early days even if things get heavy. Plus: Hayley! Williams’! Voice!