Over the past month, Paramore’s singer, Hayley Williams, has been releasing EPs that have ultimately culminated into her first solo album, Petals for Armor. Here, she looks vulnerably inward to explore her femininity and find strength within her body after her recent divorce and intensive time in therapy. Her raw lyrics and emotional instrumentals reflect her healing process, as well as her independence from her persona in Paramore.
To me, Williams’ wide vocal range has always been nothing short of electrifying, and I have been a fan since I was in elementary school. Needless to say, I was really excited when Petals for Armor came out, and I could not wait to hear how her sound individually transformed and how she was going to portray her experiences in a solo project. Here are some of my thoughts and comments on every song:
This first track encapsulates suppressed rage as the deep bass holds the song down and Williams’ voice remains low as if she is quite literally simmering in her feelings. I like the song, and I think it is a powerful start to the album.
- “Leave It Alone”
I was initially anticipating more up-tempo track that would release some tension after the buildup of “Simmer,” but “Leave It Alone” turned out to be a chilling song with eerie-sounding vocals and string swells. It became evident that this album was going to take its time unfolding Williams’ emotions, and listeners were really going experience her rawness throughout.
This song picks up with an interesting syncopated drum rhythm, and it eventually gets groovier as more instruments are brought in. It grew on me more and more as it went on.
The vocal distortion is one of the coolest parts of this song, and it pairs really well with the heavy bass. I think this is the best song on the first EP.
- “Sudden Desire”
I was really excited to hear Williams belt out after singing relatively low throughout the first couple of songs. Her lyrics are explicitly lustful, and it feels like a powerful command to take control of her femininity.
- “Dead Horse”
This is the beginning of the next EP, and it was the first song that I was immediately in love with. I feel like I needed to warm up to the other ones, but this was instantly a favorite. Although it has some fun pop-like qualities, Williams still remains vulnerable and honest by starting the song with, “Uh, sorry I was in a depression, but I’m trying to come out of it now.” However, the song is otherwise unsuspectingly sad as her darker lyrics are masked by a tropical-sounding, upbeat track.
- “My Friend”
The best part of this song is this chunk in the middle where there is a syncopated punchiness between her vocals, a synth, the drums and a guitar. Though “My Friend” showcases some beautiful vocals and soft synth, I think without that section, the song might sound too similar to the previous tracks and would fall a little flat.
- “Over Yet”
“Over Yet” has this super cool Madonna-like feel that screams female power, and I really love it for that. I truly am a sucker for an ‘80s-sounding track.
The floral imagery is really well-complimented by gorgeous strings and backing vocals by Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus. Williams documents her struggles with femininity and self-acceptance with this chilling piece centered around growth as a woman.
- “Why We Ever”
The bass throughout this album is truly so amazing, and I love how it plays along with the radiant synth melodies in “Why We Ever.” About halfway throughout the song, there is a stylistic change that exposes a gentle piano alongside Williams’ somber voice, emphasizing her melancholic vulnerabilities.
- “Pure Love”
This song kicks off the third EP, and it is probably my favorite song on the album. Her voice and the instrumentals are bright, and they have a bit of that ‘80s flair that I love so much. Also, it is so great to hear her vocals just take off at the end. This song stands alone really well, and I do not think that can be said for every song on the album.
“Taken” is a pretty simple love song with a mellow jazzy feel in its drums and guitar riffs. Despite this, it still was a little boring for me and its musical variations did not feel that exciting.
- “Sugar on the Rim”
“Sugar on the Rim” is an upbeat song that reminds me a lot of disco with its up-tempo nature, electronic sound and constant hits on every beat. It is undeniably fun, and her lower-voiced register does not keep this song from feeling like an enjoyable track that people can easily dance to.
- “Watch Me While I Bloom”
Another ode to the flower theme, “Watch Me While I Bloom” initially features Williams singing in way that almost sounds like screaming or shouting. It is raw but controlled. I wish she did that a little more, but the song jumps into a cool funky rhythm. As seen with this song and others, she is not at all afraid to change the direction and genre of a track at any point.
- “Crystal Clear”
“Crystal Clear” is a pretty good finale to the emotional journey that listeners have experienced with Williams throughout the 55-minute album. Her light vocals hazily float over the ambient instruments, and she somehow manages to make the song feel sad but hopeful all at the same time.
Petals for Armor truly takes you on a tour of healing that embraces vulnerability, femininity and honesty of emotion. Her vocal ability is certainly at the forefront of each song, and you can really hear how talented she is. She has a breathtaking poetic approach to lyricism, and that alone is interesting to dissect and listen to. Nevertheless, many of tracks on the album are quite heavy, and it can be difficult to digest to all at once if you are not prepared for it. With that being said, however, I do think the songs are best appreciated while listening to the album in its entirety. Like I mentioned before, for me, some of these songs do not stand alone, and I do not think I would fully realize their impact without prior context. Knowing the emotional journey from the preceding tracks makes the songs feel more powerful and poignant. My favorite songs are the more up-tempo ones, and I would listen to those in singularity. But quite frankly, that might just depend on my mood. If I am feeling a bit down, I might go for those gloomier tunes.
Even so, my biggest problem with the album is that at times, some of the songs can sound similar, and I wish there was bit more variety. Despite that, I do love her use of genre-blending and how she is not being afraid to experiment with style and content. Her overt messages in empowerment of femininity are inspiring, and all in all, I can definitely recommend Petals for Armor.