There came a point early on in high school when I gave up listening to Warped Tour bands. I never had a ticket to the famed summer festival – a fact I later attributed to my precocious, superior music taste – but really, it was just because my dad realized how annoying it would be and refused to take me. As usual, I owe my dad a lot.
When Paramore made its first Warped rounds in 2005, that was even worse. The Tennessee fourpiece embodied everything I’d decided was wrong with the Tour: an overly emotive pop-emo-punk goulash with a heavy dose of eyeliner. And Paramore was the worst of all.
Maybe it was the poseur shaming we all perpetrated during Avril Lavigne’s “Sk8r Boi” takeover, but I was predisposed to hate Paramore frontwoman Hayley Williams. Her highlighted locks and one-of-the-bros approach made my skin crawl. It wasn’t long before more and more of my friends began to reject the band in direct correlation to its commercial success. Meanwhile, I gloated with an I-told-you-so sneer and plugged back into Cap’n Jazz.
Teenagers are the worst.
So imagine my shock when, long after my pop-punk vitriol had ceased, I scrolled through hundreds of tweets on March 14 raving about the new Paramore single that dropped that day. And all of them were from my tastemaker colleagues! In the wee hours of that morning, Paramore rounded off a set at the Belmont for South by Southwest, something I passively ignored even while wondering what kind of miracle landed them there. I later read a review from Los Angeles Times staff writer Mikael Wood praising the set.
Wait a minute – was I supposed to like Paramore now?
It took me a few weeks of processing, and what felt like a hundred listens to the aforementioned single, “Still Into You,” before I knew what had to happen. As both penance and a self-inflicted wound to my snotty teenage self, I got a copy of Paramore’s eponymous fourth offering, released April 5.
I haven’t stopped listening to it since. I’m not the only one.
The album reached the top of the Billboard charts today, the band’s first time in the peak slot, although 2009’s Brand New Eyes came in one notch lower. Suddenly, I can look at Hayley Williams’ hair color as Katy Perry cuteness rather than a stunt. It seems the more that they edge into the pop sphere, the easier it is to swallow the image and accept it as a quirk, rather than her putting on a fake edge.
After a nasty drama between brothers Josh and Zac Farro, who left the band in December 2010, Paramore had a bit of re-branding to do, and they did it well. What you hear on the new disc is a rebirth and new sense of unity, which the band cites as the influence behind the self-titled LP. They have fully immersed themselves into the pop realm, unapologetically and unabashedly.
This isn’t all that surprising after a little digging; Williams was signed to Atlantic Records initially, but her marketing team decided Warner Bros. subsidiary Fueled by Ramen, which boasts alumni including the Impossibles, Fall Out Boy, and Jimmy Eat World, was a better move. She’s always had pop potential, but with an album full of Top 40-ready hits, this may be the first time she’s capitalizing.
Plus, with new releases coming out from the likes of Fall Out Boy, I’m wondering if this is the point where the whole tired MySpace-emo paradigm swings back into relevance. Warped pulls into San Antonio’s AT&T Center on August 3 should that be the case.
Even then, however, I’m still not listening to any Yellowcard.
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