Had you walked into my bedroom eleven years ago you would’ve found my walls plastered with pull-out posters, sleeve notes, and magazine clippings, starring one particular person: Hayley Williams, the vocalist of Tennessee-hailing rock band Paramore. I don’t know what thirteen-year-old me was more awestruck by, seeing a female singer blaze a trail in a male-dominated genre, or her flame-coloured hair dye. Naturally, I tried to emulate all of it and, in all my adolescent angst, Hayley helped me find my identity as a musician and as a young woman.
Fast forward to the present day, and both Hayley (29), and I (24), have made the tumultuous voyage into our twenties. For the now world-renowned singer, the interim brought multiple changes in the band’s personnel, legal battles, and a divorce– on top of the everyday struggles of adulthood. Nevertheless, in the spirit of true artistry, she channelled those hardships into the band’s fifth record, ‘After Laughter’, a mirage of ‘80s-referencing sad pop, in which the singer’s struggles are not just audible, they’re palpable.
The record is the first glaring evidence of Hayley’s struggles with mental health, identity, and relationships. She doesn’t sugar-coat or glorify her pain the way a songwriter might be inclined to, it simply exists in the record the way a feeling exists in a human being. By owning her struggles and insecurities in such a candid way, she unconsciously gives the listener permission to own theirs. When this record found its way to me I was struggling with similar burdens, but the message woven into this record granted me a kind of liberation: it’s okay not to be okay. During adolescence, Hayley helped me find my identity, during adulthood she’s helping me to own it.