Colour Paramore fans relieved. Last week, the band released “Monster”, its first song since the departure of founding members Josh and Zac Farro. (For those keeping track, that leaves the former quintet a trio, with two original members.) Much to the delight of Team Edward members everywhere, the new Paramore sounds exactly like the old Paramore.
Which is to say, it’s guitar-based emo pop with suitably soaring minor-key melodies courtesy of 22-year-old frontwoman Hayley Williams. Paramore is essentially Evanescence for kids too young to know who Evanescence is.
That’s not a knock against Paramore, either. Evanescence is a fine band. Or at least it was until Ben Moody left to go write songs for Kelly Clarkson and Céline Dion. There’s much to be said for terminal angst buoyed by precision-tooled ensemble playing. The thing is, though, as tight as Paramore has always seemed musically, it has often been a different story on the interpersonal level.
After the Farro brothers took their leave last December, guitarist Josh posted an epic statement on his blog, which made it clear that things became fractious not long after Williams joined their high-school garage group in 2004. “Months down the road things changed and this band became all about Hayley,” Farro wrote. “She had a manager at the time that controlled her every move along with her parents. They didn’t like the idea of Hayley being in a rock band so they forced her to leave wanting her to pursue a solo career.”
Needless to say, the nascent Paramore eventually reconvened, but the idea that it was ever going to be anything other than a showcase for the flame-haired frontwoman went out the window. The act began playing industry showcases, and eventually landed a major-label contract. Or at least Williams did. “After many meetings between Hayley, her manager and the labels they decided to sign her to Atlantic records,” Farro explained on his blog. “We didn’t understand why Hayley was the only one signing the contract since we were told this was a ”˜band’, but we were too young to grasp all of this.”
Upon releasing its debut album, 2005’s All We Know Is Falling, on the Atlantic subsidiary Fueled by Ramen, Paramore hit the road and spent two-and-half years doing what Farro described as “building our fan base, pretending to be a band that started naturally. In reality, what started as natural somehow morphed into a manufactured product of a major label, riding on the coattails of ”˜Hayley’s dream’.”
And on it went, with Williams being pushed in one direction and pulled in another, not really a solo artist but not quite a member of a band, either. She has only one song out under just her own name—the Jennifer’s Body soundtrack throwaway “Teenagers”—but she scored a major hit last spring with “Airplanes”, a collaboration with rapper B.o.B to which she provided the hook. Around the same time, she also provided millions of teenage boys with fresh jacking material by “accidentally” posting a topless picture of herself to Twitter. Oops.
Funny thing about Williams: in the context of Paramore her image is as squeaky-clean as a Disney Channel sitcom princess. On her own, though, watch out. Her now-infamous tits made another, albeit somewhat more demure, appearance on the front of last month’s Cosmopolitan, book-ended by cover copy enticing readers with “75 Sex Moves Men Crave: Guys Confess Naughty Desires They Never Had the Balls to Tell Their Exes” and “This Sex Position Increases Female Orgasm by 56%”.
Someone must have thought this would be good for her image. And maybe it will be, if the idea is to finally morph Williams into the pop star her management has always wanted her to be: a little more Britney Spears and a whole let less Amy Lee. Of course, she’ll have to ditch those other two dudes in her “band” first.