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Music Review: “Petals for Armor” by Hayley Williams


On May 8, 2020, Paramore frontwoman Hayley Williams released her debut solo studio album, “Petals for Armor.”

The album is her first solo work not as a featured artist, and is supported by three singles: “Simmer,” “Leave It Alone” and “Dead Horse.”

The album is a break from the pop-punk music that Williams had been creating in Paramore, going for a softer and more raw sound that ends up working really well as an overarching musical style. There are a few upbeat songs that steer the record in a pop direction without veering it too far left, and the result is an album far from half-baked.

Highlights

1. “Leave It Alone”

The minimalist, toned down melodies and percussion on this song give it a personal tone, and the harmonies are well-placed near the chorus’ end to bring everything together. It’s a perfect follow-up to “Simmer.”

2. “Dead Horse”

With a sound reminiscent of “After Laughter,” this is one of the more upbeat tracks on the album but it doesn’t feel distant from the rest of the tracklist. The tropical instrumentation introduces itself near the chorus, bringing a smooth rhythm to the track.

3. “Watch Me While I Bloom”

The groove and harmonies in this track are an aspect to really admire, selling this metaphor of growing through personal struggle and coming out of it stronger.

Background

Williams was discovered by managers Dave Steunebrink and Richard Williams in 2003 and signed a two-year production deal. At the time she was 14 years old.

Atlantic Records originally wanted to make her a solo artist, however, Williams was insistent on forming a band and creating pop-punk music instead of the pop songs Atlantic originally planned for her to make. The band Paramore was founded in 2004 with Hayley Williams as lead vocalist, alongside guitarist Josh Farro, bassist Jeremy Davis and drummer Zach Farro.

They have released five albums together as of 2020: “All We Know Is Falling” (2005), “Riot!” (2007), “Brand New Eyes” (2009), “Paramore” (2013) and “After Laughter” (2017). Each of these records was released on the record label Fueled By Ramen.

The band won a Grammy Award in 2015 for Best Rock Song with their hit “Ain’t It Fun.” Williams briefly left Paramore in 2015 due to her depression following Davis’ departure from the band, though she returned after a short period of time.

As a solo vocalist, Williams has collaborated with Weezer, New Found Glory, BoB, Zedd, Chvrches, American Football and Eminem. She officially announced the release of new solo music on Dec. 27, 2019, and premiered the album’s lead single

“Simmer” on January 22. The first two sections of this record were originally released as extended plays, with “Petals For Armor I” coming out on February 6. This was shortly followed by “Petals for Armor II” on April 21. The title “Petals for Armor” comes

from a lyric in “Simmer.” Williams explained in an interview with BBC 1 Radio that the lyric’s inspiration came from a belief that “the best way for me to protect myself is to be vulnerable.”

That vulnerability shows on this record and it doesn’t harm the album. Instead, the rawness and experimental sound on “Petals for Armor” allows the record to soar to new heights.

Williams’ vocals are as powerful as they’ve ever been, easily able to convey emotion through a nice groove. This doesn’t feel like a Paramore record, and that’s great. For Williams, the album is a metamorphosis of sorts.

While its instrumentals may draw comparisons to Radiohead, I don’t believe that’s a bad thing. The melodramatic and upbeat songs clash well together, mixing to create a really lovely sound.