Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017

Paramore – Hard Times

Ain’t it (a slightly lesser ranking of) fun?


Will Rivitz: Whither the mall rats? In most cases, washed-up obscurity. Black Veil Brides continue to glam, Breaking Benjamin continues to rawk, and Linkin Park continues to make half-hearted feints towards mediocre “atmospheric” pop, but all of those bands (and thousands like them) have lost their luster. As the ever-impressive prominence of Halsey and twenty one pilots demonstrates, being relatable to young people in 2017 requires a more introverted and disillusioned anger than the loud, dramatic displays put on by the dinosaurs. Especially in the Fueled By Ramen camp, though, another simple (and effective) solution is to get poppier, goofier and brighter, while maintaining just enough shreds of disquiet below the seemingly serene surface to resonate. That’s “Hard Times”: a clean, clear chunk of disco-pop that dances with dull-eyed misanthropy. Paramore is a master of making emptiness palatable, and the cartoonish bells and bouncy guitar masterfully cloak Hayley Williams as she careens out of control. The dirty little secret that’s dogged Paramore throughout their existence is that they’ve always been a pop band; thankfully, they’re embracing that moniker with aplomb.

Thomas Inskeep: a/k/a The One Where Paramore Decide To Turn Into Blondie. About damned time! This is the disco chug Hayley Williams and co. have always needed, and it works like a charm.

Katie Gill: I don’t know who decided to pair up lyrics about crippling depression with 1980s pseudo-Blondie stylings, but they’re an absolute genius. Not even Hayley Williams’s odd rendering of “and I gotta get to rock bottom” is enough to turn me off.

Hannah Jocelyn: Hearing Hayley Williams shout “and I gotta get to rock bottom!” and “hit me with lightning!!!” like David Byrne makes me incredibly happy. In fact, everything about this makes me happy, and that’s likely the goal; it’s a departure from some of the darker material on the last album, like “Now” and “Part II”, but it’s also a perfect follow-up to songs like “Ain’t It Fun”. More importantly, it feels like the same band made all those songs, and it’s even consistent going back to their early years. To quote a YouTube comment on the video for “Hard Times,” “Paramore 2007: Life is hard 👿 Paramore 2017: Life is hard 😎.”

Leonel Manzanares de la Rosa: Summer night-ready Neon Pop is a fantastic direction for Paramore; it places them in the right side of the grand chronology of today’s post-Emotion pop, and we get to hear Ms. Williams deliver some of the most infectious chorus melodies this side of Carly Rae. “Hard Times” could easily be derailed by overproduction, but it still feels like it’s performed by a band. It still feels like Paramore. Maybe Fall Out Boy can learn a lesson from this.

Alfred Soto: I’m sick of The Eighties as amorphous, value-free signifier, and, in any event, “Hard Times” sounds like Paramore’s usual pop punk accelerations but with tropical accents like marimbas, real or sampled, and the four-note keyboard auguring the sticky-as-glue chorus. As welcome as Taylor York’s strummed electric accents are, Hayley Williams’ force, commitment, and humor put this over. She could’ve titled this thing “Good Times.”

Katherine St Asaph: An ever-more-engaging vocalist caught in the sonic equivalent of one of those ghastly ’80s VHS cover memes. Imagine that “andIgottagettorockbottom!” grafted into an arrangement with danger.

Ryo Miyauchi: Clunky music and trend-hopping, I can deal, but I believed in this band for too long to let them off hook for phoning in a shallow bit about “hard times.” They disguised struggle as silly fun with much more substance on the last record. And they also made a hell of an anthem out of musical clutter.

William John: The Paramore lineup seems to change as frequently as frontwoman Hayley Williams’ hair colour, and ostensibly this volatility has taken a toll. “Gonna make you wonder why you even try”, Williams sings. On the page, it reads morosely, but there is fight left. “And I gotta hit rock bottom!” she shrieks at the end of the chorus; it’s abrupt, unruly, and defiant. The tumult was painful, but it could have been worse. Solace arrives in tessellating pastel. Though seeming like an even more shameless pop move for the group, everything about “Hard Times” is delightfully angular — the jaunty guitar rhythms, Williams’ adaptable, expressive voice, the wholehearted embrace of new wave, the scene-stealing vocodered coda. In a way, the result is reminiscent of the worshipping of ’80s aesthetics in late-2000s indie, but Paramore gentrify these touchstones in a manner far less grotesque and more naturally reverent than their forebears.

Edward Okulicz: This sounds almost exactly like the first Alphabeat album — Hayley Williams even sounds like Stine Bramsen on the chorus. It feels like a natural step not forwards but sideways from Paramore, and the energy is infectious. The second verse supplies most of the giddy highlights — “hit me with lightning!” Williams comes across as an evangelist for pure pleasure.

Cassy Gress: So hey, turns out Hayley Williams with stringy blonde hair, big black sunglasses and pink lipstick, raving over a Talking Heads-meets-Frankie Goes To Hollywood discoball beat without a hint of self-consciousness, is totally my thing.

Will Adams: All I’m getting is a rewrite of “Ain’t It Fun,” right down to the marimba opening. “Ain’t It Fun” was profoundly important to me as the threat of graduation loomed, and I found solace in its tough-love, “you gotta grow up” message. But that was years ago, and I’m well on to another stage of my life. What’s strange is that Paramore haven’t seemed to move on.

Juana Giaimo: “Hard Times” is for me a song to truly identify with — not because the situation is similar, but because the tone reflects your mind’s (il)logical mechanism. I’m currently going through easier times, but it takes no effort to hear the absolute despair reflected in the ironically upbeat self-despising mood, summed up by how lightly Hayley Williams sings “And I still don’t know how I even survive”. This was already present in “Ain’t It Fun” and other Paramore album tracks, but this time there’s no moral. Instead, the goofy guitar riff, the ’80s vibes and vocals joining in the chorus reflect a mind losing control of the situation, enhanced by Hayley’s eruption after the chorus: “And I gotta get to rock bottom!” Sometimes there is no other way out. But “Hard Times” is also enriched by the reflective bridge — it’s short, but its deepness relies on the fear of losing youth: the desperation of being left behind when you suddenly realize that you are simply not fun to be around anymore. 

Megan Harrington: In tiny fitful bursts, “Hard Times” is almost transcendent, but the majority sinks into the murk of ’80s-inspired and tropipop and gimmick. It’s not a bad patch of quicksand for Paramore — anything with a pinch of brightness suits them well — but it’s so tired in the greater arena-ready sphere. If “Hard Times” is redeemed, it’s by the straightforward and bracing way Hayley Williams tackles a feeling that could be anything from a bad mood to major depression. Her ability to paint the darkness with primary colors demystifies and destigmatizes a struggle with mental health. Unfortunately, as a piece of music, it’s less fun than it should be.

Reader average: [8.26] (15 votes)

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5 Responses to “Paramore – Hard Times”

  1. Edward O’s Alphabeat comparison OTM!

  2. Hate that I missed blurbing this. Free of any previous knowledge of Paramore–other than the like, head-nod of recognition in HS–I love this, it would be a 9 for me because the baby xylophone and distorted choruses make me think of a less cynical cousin of Oingo Boingo.

  3. Taylor York needs to stop being so adorable.

  4. This > anything on Paramore’s s/t :)

  5. alfred: AGREED