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Known for their anthemic, richly emotive brand of pop/rock, Paramore have garnered acclaim that far exceeds their initial success as one of the guiding lights of the emo scene of the mid-2000s. Led by singer Hayley Williams, the group broke through with 2007′s Riot!, hitting 15 on the Billboard 200 and spawning their trademark hit “Misery Business.” They reached number two with 2009′s Brand New Eyes and topped the Billboard 200 with 2013′s Paramore, winning a Grammy along the way for the single “Ain’t It Fun.” Over the years, the band have expanded their sound, embracing an increasingly genre-crossing blend of ’80s-style synth and dance-rock influences; a process that also found them paring down from a sometime-quintet to a trio for 2017’s sophisticated After Laughter. Away from Paramore, Williams has collaborated on equally diverse projects with artists like B.o.B, Zedd, and Chvrches. In 2020, she embarked on a solo career with Petals for Armor. The album debuted at number 18 on the Billboard 200 and paved the way for her sophomore album, 2021′s Flowers for Vases/Descansos. In 2023, Williams was back with Paramore for their sixth studio album, the artful, post-punk influenced This Is Why.
Hailing from Franklin, Tennessee, Paramore initially came together after Hayley Williams moved to town from Meridian, Mississippi in 2002. It was there that she met brothers Josh and Zac Farro while taking part in a local music program for homeschooled students. Already a powerhouse vocalist at the age of 13, Williams soon caught the attention of Atlantic Records, who signed her as a solo artist. However, clashing with the label over the direction of her music, she convinced them to let her piece together a full lineup with her Franklin-area friends. Officially launched in 2004, Paramore featured Williams, along with guitarist Josh Farro, drummer Zac Farro, guitarist Jason Bynum, and bassist Jeremy Davis.
From the start, Paramore’s hooky melodies and mature songwriting seemed to belie the fact that they were all still in their teens. They eventually co-signed with Fueled by Ramen, a Florida-based label with a strong roster of emo-pop acts, and in July 2005, released their full-length debut, All We Know Is Falling. In addition to a performance at New Jersey’s Bamboozle Festival and multiple dates on the Warped Tour circuit, Paramore played shows with such simpatico bands as Simple Plan and Straylight Run. Hunter Lamb replaced Bynum on guitar in December 2005, and the band spent the following summer on the Warped Tour once again, cementing its relationship with the fans who had caught the previous summer’s shows. Lamb parted ways with the group in early 2007 to get married, and Paramore continued onward as a quartet.
The following summer saw the release of the band’s sophomore album, Riot!, which was recorded alongside producer David Bendeth. Buoyed by the popular singles “Misery Business,” “crushcrushcrush,” and “That’s What You Get,” Riot! turned Paramore into industry heavyweights, going platinum within its first 13 months of release and earning the band a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist. It was around this time that guitarist Taylor York (a longtime friend of Williams and the Farro brothers) joined the band. Paramore toured exhaustively in support of the record, even landing a two-month jaunt across the continental U.S. with Jimmy Eat World. Meanwhile, the band found time to contribute two songs to the best-selling Twilight soundtrack, including the Top 40 single “Decode.” A live album entitled The Final Riot! was released several weeks after the Twilight soundtrack, capturing the group’s strength as a live act and concluding the long touring cycle in support of Riot!
As the lead singer, co-songwriter, and main lyricist, Williams was the focus of much of the attention Paramore received during this period. Her big voice and undeniable charisma drew comparisons to icons like Debbie Harry, helping the group stand out among their punk and emo peers, but also leading to some much-publicized friction within the band. Despite rumors of a breakup, Paramore’s lineup remained intact, and the band retreated to a California studio in 2009 to work on a third album. Following a popular summer tour with No Doubt, the group issued Brand New Eyes, a pensive record that featured some of Paramore’s strongest songwriting to date. The album debuted at number two on the Billboard 200, buoyed by “The Only Exception” which became the band’s highest-charting single to date in America.
On the heels of the band’s success, Williams embarked on a string of cameos as a featured artist on other albums. In 2009, she guested on the New Found Glory track “Tangled Up.” Also appearing that year was her first solo recording, “Teenagers,” which was included on the soundtrack to the horror film Jennifer's Body. The following year, she returned to the upper reaches of the charts with “Airplanes,” a collaboration with hip-hop artist B.o.B that peaked at number two in America and topped the charts in England.
However, by late 2010, long-simmering tensions between Williams and the Farro brothers had reached a boiling and both Josh and Zac Farro departed the group. Days after his exit, Josh Farro wrote a blog post detailing the band’s history and his reasons for leaving. In 2011, Paramore released the single “Monster,” which was included on the Transformers: Dark of the Moon soundtrack. This was the first song recorded without the Farro brothers and first to feature York taking over all guitar duties.
The following year, Paramore (now featuring Williams, York, and Davis) began work on new material with producer Justin Meldal-Johnsen (Beck, NIN, Neon Trees, M83) and former Lostprophets drummer Ilan Rubin. In 2013, they delivered their fourth studio album, the eponymously titled Paramore. Heralded by the hit singles “Still into You” and “Ain’t It Fun,” the album featured an expansive stylistic approach that found the group incorporating a variety of sounds including synth pop, dance-rock, funk, and gospel. A major breakthrough for the band, it debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and ultimately achieved platinum status. It also earned them their first-ever Grammy with “Ain’t It Fun” taking home the award for Best Rock Song.
Following the band’s tour in 2015, Paramore announced they had parted ways with bassist Davis, who left the band amid a legal dispute over royalties. Williams and York eventually moved forward musically after reconnecting with original drummer Zac Farro, who initially came on board as a studio guest and later rejoined as a full-time member. In 2017, the solidified trio released the single “Hard Times” as the leadoff track from their fifth studio album, After Laughter. Once again produced with Meldal-Johnsen, it featured an even more genre-open, ’80s synth-pop-inspired approach to songwriting, marked by Williams’ hard-won lyrical maturity. The album debuted at number six on the Billboard 200 and topped both the Alternative and Rock charts, spawning yet more singles, including “Told You So,” “Fake Happy,” and “Rose-Colored Boy.”
Following an extensive two-year tour, Paramore went on hiatus in 2019. Williams used the time off to begin work on a solo project, writing songs with York and Paramore’s touring bassist Joey Howard. In January 2020, she debuted the tracks “Simmer” and “Leave It Alone,” which featured a darker, more artistically minded tone than previous Paramore songs. The album debuted at number 18 on the Billboard 200. Nine months later, in February 2021, she released her second full-length solo album, Flowers for Vases/Descansos. Produced by Canon Blue’s Daniel James, the album found Williams playing all of the instruments herself.
Paramore eventually came off hiatus and Williams, York, and Farro returned to the studio. In September 2021, they released “This Is Why” as the first single and title track off the group’s sixth studio album. Produced by Carlos de la Garza, This Is Why arrived in February 2023 and found the group returning to a more guitar-oriented post-punk sound. The album hit number two on the Billboard 200 and topped both the Alternative and Rock Albums charts. ~ Matt Collar