Aw, that’s sweet. We kinda like you too.
Alex Ostroff: Fall Out Boy might be experts at signifying ‘earnest,’ but it turns out that Paramore are superior at ‘sincere’. As a personality, Hayley Williams remains a cipher but she nimbly flits between genres, vocal styles and tempos on Paramore without once making me wonder if she’s serious. Here, what appears to be a frothy, disposable pop-punk delight posits enduring love not as comfort or stability, but as intoxicant and bliss — and does so convincingly. Taylor occasionally attempts this sort of joy, but usually sticks to isolated moments of bliss or yacht club fantasies. “Still Into You” delivers infatuation and certainty and passion, all with a specificity that Swift tends to reserve for heartbreak. Some things just make sense.
Anthony Easton: My friend Sundar says that he sees an overlap between Avril and Taylor Swift, and if that is the case, this might be the center of the Venn diagram. Which makes me wonder: why does rock as taken by current country still seem like a boys’ game, and what are the implications of this being read as a country song, if Taylor is still country?
Edward Okulicz: “Still Into You” takes a strain of snappy radio pop (best exemplified by Taylor Swift) and flips the template on its head — where Swift saves the noise for relationships gone south, Hayley Williams has just as much energy and fireworks alongside big, dorky declarations of love and enduring passion. This is not all that common in pop, where too often a song with this message might be a lot softer and wouldn’t sound exciting like this does. It’s not over-thought or over-written, either: the words are simple, all the sounds are crisp and Williams really has a lot of strings to her bow, and that she is a fantastic power-pop vocalist is one worth celebrating — how she jumps into the line “I should be over all the butterflies!” is the spine-tingling, life-affirming pop moment of the year.
Patrick St. Michel: “All I wanted was you!” Those were the final words Hayley Williams shouted to end her group’s last album, back in 2009, which was another set of songs steeped in longing, loneliness and sneers aimed at lousy ex-lovers. Jump ahead four years and Williams is no longer pacing her apartment, trying to distract herself with black and white reruns – she’s practically drunk on love now. I’d have been shocked enough had you told me Paramore’s best song to date would be a happy one, but I never would have guessed it would find Williams sipping on stability, reminiscing about meeting her lover’s mother and holding hands. Keyboards and what sounds like a child’s xylophone chime in the back, while the synths blooping off during the unfuckwithable chorus might as well be the butterflies Williams should be over by now. At the end of Brand New Eyes, she was screaming in hopes of somebody, anyone hearing her. Now, her voice is cracking because she just can’t contain her joy for what she has. I don’t even care if I hear the album, because this would be a hell of an ending for Paramore.
Jonathan Bogart: I’m not sure what it is that makes my skin crawl slightly at this joyous, giddy, even swinging declaration of steadfast love. Maybe it’s just that I’m out of practice listening to modern rock as an expression of happiness rather than of fury, moodiness or cerebral detachment; or maybe I’m picking up on the slightly corny country song underlying the pop-punk dynamics, and responding the way I did to Shania Twain when I was fifteen years younger and dumber. Either way, the phenomenon requires further study.
John Seroff: It’s likely a silly chicken-or-the-egg sort of question whether Paramore has shifted style to fun and 2012 Taylor Swiftery or if the band is simply refining the lessons they originally taught. I prefer my Hayley more lupine and angry than shiny and happy but, walking out into what feels like the first genuine spring day in a grim procession of gray mornings, there was an undeniable joy in letting “Into You” get into my head as the right song for the right moment. It’s a brief moment of forgettable, impactful kindness.
Scott Mildenhall: “Still Into You” sells nostalgia in the same light, summery way as so many songs that have come before it, but the one that springs to mind is, for some reason, Noisettes’ wonderful “Never Forget You.” Perhaps it’s because it makes for a pertinent comparison – like “Still Into You,” it’s also a song where the narrator has come to the realisation that, more than nostalgia, they’ve got a love that’s as strong as ever. The result is unselfconscious sincerity; an undervalued quality.
Brad Shoup: My actuarial tables give us ’til 2017 for a track-by-track response to Pinkerton. This is track 9, which means it can’t be a riposte to “Tired of Sex” or “The Good Life,” so we’re still waiting. Lineup changes or unfinished chart business mean that the off-bar emphases have given way to a backbeat you can set your fist to. It pings, it swings, and Williams… well, she brings the house down. The way she tears into the second “into you” on each refrain shows a kind of insensible hunger; the fact that she knows exactly when her partner’s stress melted away makes this a true couples’ song. The video could have been a montage of evangelical dudes proposing, fedoras in hand, and I’d probably still mist up.
Katherine St Asaph: This is such a total retcon of “The Only Exception.” And thus great.
Jonathan Bradley: The lovestruck awe of “The Only Exception” re-cast as uncontainable exuberance. Chunky basslines buffed this clean usually signal (an awkward) selling out, but the smart punk is comfortable with tones this bright; they match the hair-dye.
Alfred Soto: Hayley Williams has never sounded so much like Carrie Brownstein — without sanctimony or traces of post-punk. This is expert as hell, with celeste sprinkled on the verses, handclaps, muscular riff that doesn’t linger, even an unexpected synth, as if she’s deploying every instrument in her arsenal, to paraphrase Taylor Dayne, to prove her love.
Zach Lyon: Wood block! Glockenspiel! Joy! “Your mother!”! Dancing!!! The first song of 2013 I’ve needed to play on repeat for hours; the first song of 2013 I’ve woken up thinking about.