Gettin’ through hard times with Paramore’s After Laughter
Or, why After Laughter is everything we’ve ever wanted
All photos by Linsdey Byrnes
Or should I say: Dear super public, internet-based documentation tool that I’m about to share with everyone… Okay no, diary works.
Let me start over.
It’s been a little over a week since Paramore dropped After Laughter and I’ve been buzzing since. Like actually vibrating. I can’t tell if it’s because I’m inspired or terrified, and that in itself makes me feel even more uneasy, but I just can’t put my black chipped-polish finger on it.
There was a time when I thought Paramore would never make music again. Correction, there were a couple of times I thought Paramore would never make music again. Even in 2017, I’ve seen plenty of my favorites abandon their group monikers and stop making music altogether, and it’s been kind of gut-wrenching. Unfortunately I am hyper-aware of my dumb feelings and I constantly put myself in other’s people situations, so I have to believe that when bands, well, disband, it’s for the best.
Except when it came to Paramore.
For whatever reason, I thought that if you were a member of Paramore, you were invincible and could get through anything. I think to a tiny extent, so did Paramore, as proved by their self-titled album. Talk about an album with fight. The self-titled era was a game-changer for a lot of reasons, but that’s not really why I’m typing this out today.
Fast forward to 2015 and heartache showed its unfriendly face once again. Hayley and Taylor assured us all that Paramore would continue, but me and my dumb feelings put myself in their situation and prepared for another statement in the coming months that Paramore would be no more.
My suspicions never grew because I’m still a teenage emo at heart and want my favorite band to stay together forever, but they certainly never diminished. I kind of just shoved them in a dusty corner and threw some Parahoy memories and cool polaroids in front of my worries.
A mostly silent 2016 had my suspicions moving some boxes around and sliding to the front of my thoughts, but an active 2017 kicked them out of sight.
Fast forward one more time, and here we are. We’re about a week into the next Paramore era, and I’m still waiting for that familiar shock of understanding. The self-titled album offered me a ton of solutions to difficult feelings, as well as several avenues to pursue processes. I’m forever grateful for those avenues, those new found self-care routines, and the start of happy/sad music from the pmore arena. But my rose-colored glasses are broken and the lenses are starting to fade a bit, which means I’m due for a change of scenery.
And that scenery is now soundtracked by After Laughter.
It’s also accompanied by some soft pink and lavender hair, thanks to my leftover stash of goodDYEyoung.
Before we move forward, I’d like to first and foremost thank the universe for Taylor York. He is an underrated musical treasure that has put together some of my favorite bits that have gotten stuck in my head for years. Years. Actual years. Okay, moving on.
The best part of After Laughter is that there are no solutions to anything. There are no avenues, no foreign roads to discover or forgotten paths to dust off and re-familiarize with. No shiny new words or turns of phrases to comfort yourself with. No sense of unity, no “we’re all in this together,” High School Musical vibes. No safety nets.
Except that there are. All over the place. It’s just a different kind of safety net.
It took me a minute to uncover it, and by a minute, I mean an actual minute. It took me about halfway through “Hard Times” to realize what After Laughter is all about.
After Laughter isn’t about finding a way out of the hole you’ve built a home in, or just making it through the day with whatever it takes. It’s about being okay with the fact that you’re in the hole. It’s fine if you need something trivial or unconventional to get through the next few hours. It’s totally chill that you decided to stay in today because depression pushed your shoulders back into the mattress when you tried to get out of bed.
Okay, maybe not totally chill, but what I’m trying to say is that After Laughter, to me, is about coming to an understanding with how you’re feeling and accepting it with soft hands. Take care of that anger, that heartache. Look after your anxieties and your hopes, dreams, aspirations, and frustrations. Take inventory of your general well-being and don’t punish yourself when you uncover the outcome.
The second I realized this, I listened to “Hard Times” with intention. Truth be told, I had a lot of free time on my hands to sit around and sift through “Hard Times” because I had (read: have) my own stuff to figure out how to be “totally chill” about. That single has a lot going on and I think it’s super easy to not really grasp it at first. Could it be because it’s a straight up jam that has caused me to inadvertently swerve into oncoming traffic a few times? YES. Yes, it is.
It’s also the perfect example of my point; of how After Laughter doesn’t offer solutions. Only suggestions. Hayley’s not singing about how she got through those hard times. She literally sings: “I still don’t know how I even survived.” The point is that she did survive. The point is that if you heard this song, so did you.
You also made it to the second track on the record and honestly, good for you. I want to send “Rose-Colored Boy” to like, everyone I know. Everyone who has ever told me to show them a smile when my mouth only knew how to frown? This one’s for you. Why are people so afraid of non-positive feelings? Why are they not okay with having an off day, week, month? Year? Did they don those rose-colored glasses so they could look in the mirror? Just let me be sad! Let yourself be angry! Feel things! It can’t be healthy to only be happy forever and ever. How else will we know what actual happiness and joy are if we never have a down beat?
I think it’s important to take note of how people are feeling and respond empathetically. Like, duh. Care for your friends and do what you can to show them your heart, but level with them sometimes, rose-colored boy. Low key. No pressure. Just hang with your pals and their weather.
This point of view I’m trying to express is transparently discussed in “Fake Happy.” When the track listing leaked a few weeks prior to the album dropping, I kind of assumed “Fake Happy” would be about, well, being fake happy. I was only sort of right.
See, I thought Hayley would be speaking about her own “fake happy” moments, but she makes a point in the first 30 seconds to acknowledge that “everybody here is just as insincere.” Which brings me back to my original thought-train for “Rose-Colored Boy.” Literally everyone has stuff. Everyone. So when you’re having to draw your lipstick wider than your mouth or show off your teeth to persuade your peers that you’re feelin’ fine, take comfort in the fact that everyone else is probably trying to show their teeth too.
The closest thing to a solution on this record comes from the mid-album balled, “26.” Again, these lyrics are more of a suggestion than a solution, but should be taken to heart nonetheless. The song is performed in a way that sounds more like a warning tale than a sad story, wherein Hayley calls out someone who really knows “how to get someone down.” In a dreamy, innocent manner, she sings “You got me tied up, but I stay close to the window, / And I talk to myself about the places that I used to go.”
It sounds like a fairy tale in a way, like how Rapunzel was forbidden from leaving her castle so all she could do was find a place by her window and dream of the outside world. I won’t put any ideas into your head on who or what I think “26” is about, but I will tell you to appreciate the simple complexity of the lyrics in it. Although that’s an oxymoron, it’s one of my favorite ways to describe lyrics like what’s on After Laughter. My favorite kind of songs have lyrics that seem straight-forward at first glance, but when you take a step back and think about the song on its own, you’re suddenly standing in front of an enormous mountain of emotion.
Another example of this oxymoron makes up my favorite song on the album right now, “Caught In The Middle.”
Tell me that “I can’t think of getting old / it only makes me want to die” isn’t one of the most straight-forward things you’ve ever heard. The rest of the song is just as transparent, and it makes me wonder if Hayley’s writing style changed because she’s grown as a musician or grown as a person. Now that’s she’s 13+ years deep into Paramore, and 28 years into life, I can’t help but wonder if she’s moved on from the youthful Romantic-era style of poetry she wrote in in previous albums.
Whatever the reason, I’m here for it. I’m also here for the bridge in “Caught In The Middle” because dammit if I don’t inadvertently practice self-sabotage all the time.
I should have definitely mentioned this earlier, but one of my absolute favorite parts of After Laughter is the musical growth it demonstrates from their previous work. I mentioned that self-titled was a game-changer and that’s because of songs like “Ain’t It Fun,” “One Of Those (Crazy Girls),” and “Grow Up.”
Those songs are all so different from previous Paramore styles, and that’s partially because they sound much less rigid. It’s like the band didn’t give themselves ANY boundaries whatsoever and just ran with the first thing that came to their minds. Self-titled had some classic Paramore vibes of course, but I don’t think a single song on After Laughter sounds classically-Paramore. And that’s so awesome. I went absolutely nuts when “Hard Times” dropped! What an un-Paramore like song! So shiny! So new! So dancey! When “Told You So” dropped nearly a week later, I went even MORE bonkers because it was just as different and shiny new as “Hard Times,” which probably meant that the entire album was going to be new territory for Paramore. And I was right.
The closest thing to classic Paramore is “Idle Worship,” and I say that with a grain of salt. And really, I’m lying to you because the honesty in the vocals and the chaotic control of the music is so far off of what we’ve heard previously. We got a glimpse of it in “Fast In My Car” off self-titled, but “Idle Worship” takes it to a new level. With biting lyrics and frantic guitar riffs, “Idle Worship” took me by surprise in a weird way.
At first, I thought, “Man, we’re really throwing shade here,” until I realized that I am reason this song was written. Not me specifically, but people like me. The people who, accidentally or not, think that Paramore is invincible and that it’s fine to put my life in someone else’s hands. People who sometimes forget that Paramore are actual feeling people who get frustrated by the things they love, and want to write about it.
I suppose “Idle Worship” could offer a solution (to give people a break! jeez!), although it’s more of a three-minute vent session.
Actually, the entire album feels like a vent session. It’s like if your friend asked if she could just talk at you for 45 mins while you sit there and do nothing. Offering no advice, just nodding your head and allowing them to sift through their problems like the fragile humans they are. After all, their savior doesn’t look a thing like you.
So, diary, although you now live on the Internet for everyone and anyone to pick apart, I hope you give After Laughter a listen. And I hope you understand how much I needed to just be leveled out, as opposed to fixed. And I hope you understand that while I feel steady right now, I know for a fact that I’ll lose my balance any minute now. And that’s totally chill.
Oh, also, just because I didn’t mention every song on the album does NOT mean that every song on this album isn’t a bop. Because they all totally are and I can’t stop singing the small backing vocals at the end of “Forgiveness.”
P.S. Please do not disown me for using the word “bop.”
P.P.S. “No Friend” is a masterpiece and I don’t care what anyone says.
P.P.P.S ZAC IS BACK Y’ALL