Other than Williams, the band’s members have changed a lot over the years, with founding members Josh and Zac Farro leaving in 2010 (with Zac rejoining the band in 2017), and various other members coming and going throughout the band’s tenure. Still, thankfully the revolving door of band members has never impacted on the quality of Paramore’s output, with them delivering four excellent albums to date.
# 10 – Crushcrushcrush
The third single from 2007’s Riot! album, Crushcrushcrush is a great example of the band’s ability to create immensely catchy choruses. You can practically feel the energy of the hoards of fans punching the air to every syllable of the chorus’ “No-thing com-pares to…” vocal hook. This is in sharp contrast to the titular crushcrushcrush, which is delivered in a sinister and ominous whisper in the song’s pre-chorus interlude – sounding like a commercial for a particularly unsettling perfume.
Unfortunately, the song’s bridge/breakdown “Rock and roll baby / Don’t you know / That we’re all alone now” manages to negate this creepy tone, sounding almost like it originated from a different song altogether. Nevertheless, the slightly cheesy elements do not manage to detract from what is an early example of the band’s trademark sound. Although it doesn’t quite reach the heights of the band’s best songs, Crushcrushcrush should not be ignored.
# 9 – Emergency
The only Paramore song from the band’s 2005 debut album to make this list, Emergency is an urgent pop punk/emo track which perfectly illustrates how the band has polished their distinctive sound throughout their tenure. The song starts with a few simple chords partnered with a throbbing deep bass note, before exploding into some huge power chords; a perfect analogy for the way Paramore went from humble beginnings to become international rock stars.
The sustained crunch notes throughout the song, coupled with the brief instrumental cut and resume in the song’s chorus display the band’s obvious pleasure in being playful with their music – something which is reflected by the different genres they went on explore later in their career. As well as this, the track illustrates how the band have never been afraid to be dark and threatening with their lyrics, with the foreboding and brilliant line “When you deserved to be alive” being repeated throughout the song.
Emergency is an even earlier example than Crushcrushcrush of the obvious excellence of Paramore and is an essential listen for fans who discovered the band after their breakout.
# 8 – Now
The first single from the self-titled fourth album, this was the public’s first taste of a Paramore song without founding members Josh and Zac Farro, and with guitarist Taylor York stepping up to take on a more involved songwriting role, it’s no surprise that Now represents a departure from the band’s established sound.
The song takes its influences from a variety of different places, rather than just traditional pop punk, with the intro to the song being best described as funky – not a sound usually associated with Paramore. Indeed, the song seems to have subtle reggae influences throughout, and the “Now-ow-ow-ow-ow-ow-ow-ow” refrain of the chorus is perhaps the closest the band will ever come to a dance hook. That’s not to say the song steers away from rock, though – in fact, the savagely frantic drumming of the songs final portion is some of the best the band has ever put out.
Given the circumstances, it’s no surprise that the reinvented Paramore produced a track that is noticeably different from their previous work, but thankfully Now doesn’t disappoint.
# 7 – Ain’t It Fun
Another track from the 2013 self-titled album, Ain’t It Fun is the band’s most recently released single at the time of writing. Once again, the song adds some nontraditional elements to the Paramore canon.
This track seems to actively oppose the stereotypical image of Paramore as a rebellious, black wearing, emo (associated) band. Indeed, it is as though Williams and co, along with many of their fans, have slightly moved on from their rebellious teen-hood, choosing instead to focus on making whatever great rock music they feel like, irrespective of sub-genre. As such, along with the obligatory guitar riffs, the song features a pleasant xylophone hook and, for the latter half the song, a gospel choir.
Listening to the Ain’t It Fun, it’s almost impossible not to imagine the song in a festival environment, singing along, surrounded by friends, with the stage silhouetted against a summer sunset. Pure rock bliss.
# 6 – Brick By Boring Brick
Perhaps one of the band’s most recognizable songs, Brick By Boring Brick is characterized by Paramore’s distinctive blend of emo and pop punk. This song is sonically and lyrically harsh and jagged, telling the story of a girl who escapes into a fairy tale world to get away from the grind of reality. Josh Farro likened the music video to Pan’s Labyrinth, a movie which presents a dark and twisted take on the fairy tale, and this perfectly illustrates the gnawing, edgy sound of the track.
A euphoric sing-a-long chorus – despite the dark lyrics – is the perfect contrast to the rest of the song, and the final breakdown of the massively catchy “Ba-da-ba / Ba-da / Ba-ba-da” hook marks one of very few times throughout the band history that the band’s backing singers get a chance at pure solo work. This tough male-heavy vocal ending is the perfect way to finish this heavy pop-punk masterpiece.
# 5 – The Only Exception
This light, soft rock/folk cut from 2009’s Brand New Eyes was the band’s most successful single until Ain’t It Fun was released, and it shows Hayley Williams at her sweetest and most vulnerable. An unapologetic love song, The Only Exception sees Williams drop her cynical edge and decide that perhaps there really is someone out there for everyone.
It’s interesting that were this track to be released by an artist like Taylor Swift or Katy Perry, it might feel disposable and exploitative, and yet coming from a band like Paramore it’s impossible not to sit up and take notice.
The song is unashamedly soppy, and yet the band manages to pull it off, perhaps because William’s comes across as entirely sincere and candid. It was good to see a softer side to the band, reminding us that behind all Williams’ bravado and spunk lurks a sensitive and delicate soul.
# 4 – That’s What You Get
This dynamic 2008 single from Riot! mixes frenetic guitar and drums with some comparatively peaceful verses. In actual fact, the verses of That’s What You Get are nothing particularly special, but that chorus. Could Paramore have stumbled across the ingredients to create a truly perfect pop punk chorus?
The instantly recognizable “That’s what you get when you let your heart win” hook repeated throughout the chorus makes textbook use of the classic “AABA” song form, while the irresistible “Woah” which follows is practically impossible not to be enticed by. The band was clearly aware of the magical chorus they had created, almost begging listeners to join in by briefly dropping the instrumental and having (what at least sounds like) a fair few backing singers belt out the hook towards the end of the song.
The fact Paramore managed to produce a pop punk chorus this essential on just their second album should tell you how talented Williams and co really are.
# 3 – Still Into You
The final track from the self-titled album to make this list, like The Only Exception, Still Into You is a love song, but rather than being a balled-esque track, this is an upbeat and joyful romp. The song is unusual for a Paramore track as it lacks their characteristically massive guitar riffs, instead opting for a more mellow and dance style new rave number.
There’s something pleasantly retro about Still Into You, from its enjoyably repetitive call and response chorus to the shamelessly Top 40 pop-inspired elements like the glockenspiel background pads (a big thing at the time) and the (relatively speaking) stripped back instrumental. The track is another example of the genre exploration that takes place on the self-titled album, and it is, without a doubt, the album’s highest point.
# 2 – Misery Business
The song that is responsible for innumerable “good” girls dyeing their hair bright orange and discovering there’s more to life than Fergie and Carrie Underwood; this was undoubtedly the band’s breakout hit and, for many, Misery Business is the definitive Paramore song.
With witty, relatable lyrics effortlessly spat by Williams, and a huge and infectious chorus (not to mention some massive pop punk riffs) it’s easy to see why this led to Paramore’s explosion in popularity.
Although William’s has gone on to say that her 26-year-old feminist self can no longer relate to the lyrics, the song remains an anthemic highlight of their live shows, no doubt reminding revelers of the wild Myspace-saturated emo/scene trend of the mid-00’s.
# 1 – Ignorance
It’s ironic that Ignorance was written just after a conversation the band had about how they might never be able to recreate the success of Misery Business, as they went on to immediately write its darker, moody and even more brilliant big brother.
When Paramore do angry, they do it well, and this alternative rock track is undoubtedly one of the bands heaviest and most aggressive songs. There’s something quite ominous about the frenzied strumming of the verses, that, following a wrathful bridge, builds to yet another enormous chorus. This time the chorus sees Williams bitingly (yet still melodically) confronting an ex-lover who has turned their back on her. The “Ignorance is your new best friend” interlude, and, in fact, the lyrics in general,have no doubt inspired many bitter and acrimonious breakups.
William’s belts her heart out throughout the track, but the guitars are just as much the star of the show, with the mosh-pit ready guitar solo giving Taylor York and Josh Farro a time to truly shine.
As you have seen, throughout their career, Paramore have produced a number of essential pop punk/alt rock tracks, but the tempestuous and ferocious Ignorance surely deserves to rank as the best of a great bunch.