PARAMORE, Paramore, Fueled By Ramen
Before the songs make the point, the package does. Taking the self-titled Paramore CD out of the case reveals Hayley Williams — Paramore’s orange-haired, 24-year-old singer and main songwriter — wearing a denim jacket that reads “Grow Up.” The band sets out to do exactly that on Paramore, its fourth studio album and its first since a bitter fissure split it.
Brand New Eyes, released in 2009, was Paramore’s second album to sell more than half a million copies, with brash pop-punk songs in which Williams wrestled with romance, rancor and independence. She had long since emerged from the Warped Tour circuit as a heroine for teenagers struggling with crushes and crises.
But in 2010, after touring for the album Brand New Eyes, the guitarist Josh Farro — who had written most of Paramore’s songs with Williams — and the drummer Zac Farro, his brother, left the band that they had started as teenagers in Tennessee, while Williams stayed with the guitarist Taylor York and the bassist Jeremy Davis as Paramore. Josh Farro complained online about his decreasing role in the band and differences over religious implications in lyrics, and said, “What started as natural somehow morphed into a manufactured product of a major label.”
Could Paramore’s songwriting survive the breakup? Yes, and then some. Paramore includes 17 songs — though three are brief ukulele ditties — and runs more than an hour. York is Williams’s collaborator throughout most of Paramore, and they have pushed the band beyond pop-punk without abandoning momentum or the big, catchy chorus.
The production toys with synthesizers, grunge guitar, even a glockenspiel and a string section in the ballad Hate to See Your Heart Break. It glances toward the yelp and swerve of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs at the beginning of Now and the Caribbean backbeat of No Doubt in Grow Up, in which the chorus insists, “Some of us have to grow up sometimes/And so if I have to I’m gonna leave you behind.”
That’s hardly the first parting shot in Paramore’s catalog. But it’s easy to hear the band’s recent history in the album’s opening song, Fast in My Car, which has Williams belting, “The three of us were initiates/We had to learn how to deal,” and in Now which warns, “Don’t try to take this from me.” In Interlude: Moving On, one of the ukulele songs, Williams shrugs, “Let ‘em play their own songs/Let `em say what’s right and wrong.”
But Paramore also has songs of joyful, steadfast love, like Still Into You, and invitations to trade vulnerability for commitment, like Proof and Be Alone. Another grown-up side of the album is in Williams’ vocals, which have taken on subtleties beyond her early brattiness and plaints, and in an emerging sense of humor. (One of Those) Crazy Girls, which melds 1960s girl-group pop with overdriven guitar, presents the jilted singer as a stalker: “I pour my heart out to your voice mail/Let you know I caught a bus to your side of town.”
In Interlude: Holiday, Williams promises to “move on to facing big girl problems/No more high school drama.” The reshaped Paramore is ready.
— Jon Pareles, NY Times News Service
HOTEL CALIFORNIA, Tyga, Young Money/Cash, Money/Universal Republic
A couple of weeks ago, the Los Angeles rapper Tyga found himself at the center of the culture wars, the target of a protest by Harvard students displeased that he was chosen to headline that university’s annual Yardfest concert, scheduled for this week.“Tyga is notorious for his explicitly and violently misogynistic lyrics,” reads a student-organized petition, and, to a degree, this is true. His biggest hit is Rack City, a monster strip-club anthem, and many of his songs touch on the same material, but far less effectively.