Paramore have been quite a malleable group over the course of their 13 years of bandom. They’ve been the bright eyes, wild hair, can’t lose Warped Tour kids, the 20-somethings running through fire and finally the grown-ups who are still grappling with what it means to grow up. They’ve gone through much-publicized personnel changes, with the Farro brothers departing in 2010 and bassist Jeremy Davis departing in 2015. Then Zac Farro triumphantly returned on drums (#Zacisback!) to join Hayley Williams and Taylor York for the current lineup of Paramore.
The band has been given all sorts of cookie-cutter genre tags like pop-punk, alt-rock, alt-pop, grunge-infused crunchy guitar-driven emo, but Paramore’s new album, After Laughter confirms that they can bounce between all of them. Here’s a look at 13 of Paramore’s best tracks.
From the minute “Crushcrushcrush” starts—with a building percussion and a direct “I’ve got a lot to say to you / yeah, I’ve got a lot to say”—you know this song will be unrelenting. Williams sounds desperate and yearning when she asks, “I like you and you like me so why is this not working out?” And when she half-whispers the song’s title, and sings, “‘Cause I’d rather waste my life pretending / than have to forget you for one whole minute,” you believe her.
Be prepared to scream yourself hoarse if you try to sing along to this opening track off Brand New Eyes, the last album Paramore made with the both Farro brothers. It sets the tone for the rest of the album, which features some of the band’s most directly punishing songs, both in the heavy guitars and the angry vocals. On “Careful,” Williams sings about not being afraid to take risks, a theme that the band returns to over and over as they reinvent themselves.
“Hard Times” was arguably most anticipated song in Paramore’s history. With four years since their last release, the first single off After Laughter came in with a quirky xylophone, immediately setting the tone for their new sound. “All that I want is to wake up fine / tell me that I’m alright, that I ain’t gonna die,” Williams sings, and for being a song about such dark subject matter, its catchy hook and danceable rhythms make it the perfect song to bring Paramore back.
You know that feeling when you’ve been in a little band with your friends from middle school, and then it blows up and your lives are about to never be the same? No? Well, when Williams sings, “I miss who we were and the town we could call our own,” you kinda feel like you do. But the magic of “Franklin” is its universality—any kid who’s graduating high school or packing up a childhood bedroom or leaving friends behind can easily relate to the sentiments in this song. “Franklin” presents Paramore’s Tennessee roots (all three members still currently live in the small town or nearby Nashville) as well as their pitch-perfect blend of self-awareness and nostalgia.
Paramore closes out their newest album with this soulful track about lost relationships, regret and closure. In the bridge, Williams sings, “Of all the weapons you fight with / your silence is the most violent.” In the outro, though, the vocals sink in the mix, as Williams acknowledges that she might be the only one who can give herself closure on the relationship: “You don’t have to tell me/If you ever think of me…I can still believe.”
Okay, yes, this song came from the Twilight soundtrack. But “Decode” is a song that transcends the ridiculous movie from which it came thanks to a haunting opening guitar riff and amazingly dynamic vocals. It’s pensive as Williams asks, “Do you see what we’ve done?” and powerful as she demands, “How did we get here when I used to know you so well?” Bonus: if you take the song out of its vampire context, the line “But you think that I can’t see/what kind of man that you are/If you’re a man at all” could be construed as some serious shade.
The first verse comes in with such authority—“For all I know, the best is over and the worst is yet to come”—you know that “Told You So” is going to grab you by the throat. The guitar riff is supremely catchy, and the breakdown—“Throw me into the fire / throw me and pull me up again”—stops accusing the know-it-alls for a second to ask, look, isn’t this exhausting?
As the band’s most successful single (it won a Grammy for Best Rock Song in 2014), “Ain’t It Fun” is a standout track on Paramore’s self-titled fourth album. It demonstrates the more eclectic sound the band embraced on the record, which included a full choir as part of its outro that joins Williams on catchy refrain, “Don’t go cryin’ to your mama / ‘Cause you’re on your own in the real world.” For being such a fun track, it’s also delightfully tongue-in-cheek, as it reminds you that you gotta be an adult and take care of your own self.
Another continuous theme among many Paramore songs is resilience. “Let the Flames Begin” serves that inspiration with a side of aggression with lyrics like, “This is how we’ll stand when / When they burn our houses down.” In the 10 years since the song was released, it has become a staple of live shows, where the band stretches it to include a passionate outro—the band going off, Williams lying on the stage scream-singing into the microphone, more a plea than a prayer. As part of Paramore’s self-titled album, they released “Part II,” which is also worth a listen.
There’s a blatant creepiness to lyrics, “If you’re not here when I break in / I’m gonna go to your closet / just so I can smell your skin.” In spite of that, however, the ‘50s-esque chord progression and breezy L.A. feel makes “(One of Those) Crazy Girls” a pretty fun song. Williams explores the trope of the “crazy girl,” twisting it and exaggerating it but empathizing with it, acknowledging how we can all get a little crazy when we’re in love. This song is an anthem, from the beginning crooning to the end that flips the narrative completely.
On “Idle Worship,” the juxtaposition between the vocals—shouty and syncopated, almost breathless in places—and the music highlights the tension that’s always been a part of Paramore. York said in an interview with Beats 1’s Zane Lowe that the sound sampled through the track is wind rushing through a grate at the top of a building in the U.K. There’s something almost anxious about the way it loops under Williams as she sings, “What if I fall on my face? What if I make a mistake? If it’s okay a little grace would be appreciated.”
Nobody does meta quite like Paramore, and in “Fake Happy,” they acknowledge how hard it can be to stay positive even when making music is such a joyful career. The song starts quietly, with an intro that sounds like Williams is singing it into a voice memo on her phone, and then kicks up with verses like, “You see it’s easy when I’m stomping on a beat / But no one sees me when I crawl back underneath.” When Williams sings the last chorus, begging, “Oh, please, just don’t ask me how I’ve been / don’t make me play pretend,” the sincerity of her anguish is clear.
In an interview with Fresh 102.7, Williams said, “I think this song is our purpose. I feel like the reason our band has last this long is so we can write a song like this.” Authentic and vulnerable, this song from the band’s self-titled LP feels like driving down a deserted street at night with the stars out and the radio on and the certainty that you are more alive and invincible and the world is beautiful. “It’s just a spark / but it’s enough to keep me going / And when it’s dark out, no one’s around / It keeps glowing.” Goosebumps.