Hayley Williams has been a versatile female voice in music for over a decade. As the frontwoman of Paramore, she has endured the band being smashed into a million pieces and reinventing itself time and time again. They’ve been punk, rock, pop, and their most recent album, After Laughter, is a fizzy 80s inspired piece with melancholic ballads, that showed yet another new aspect of the band.
On May 8, Williams released her debut solo album, something she never thought she would do as she has always seen herself as a bandmate rather than a soloist. Titling the album Petals for Armor represents Williams’ coping mechanism of being vulnerable in order to protect herself.
The album was preceded by two EPs,Petals for Armor I and Petals for Armor II, which allowed Williams to slowly give fanssections of the album for them to decode. The album is in three chapter-like parts with five tracks in each.
Petals for Armoropens with the lyrics “Rage is a quiet thing,” from opening single “Simmer”— a track that foreshadows an album by an artist who has been hurt and hasemotionally matured. The song hints at maternal thoughts and childhood experience: “Nothing cuts like a mother.”
“Simmer” and “Leave It Alone” invite you into an album that contemplates femininity, loneliness and finds clarity through grief.“Cinnamon”draws on domestic themes and feeling isolated, whilst she makes the realization that shefinds empowerment through her lowest times:“I’m not lonely, baby — I am free.”Williams declares her new-found single life, alongside the desperation and excitement that comes with it in “Sudden Desire”—a track that simulatesBjörk-like belting vocals.
Part two of the album exhibits a deep-rooted confidence within Williams. Stand out track “Dead Horse” features bouncy vocals that haunt like an old nursery rhyme. Williams blatantly confronts her divorce with cutting lyrics: “Held my breath for a decade /I was the other woman first.”The contagiously catchy chorus picks the album up right at its center. It becomes asclear as day that Williams has been rebuilding herself throughout the making of the album.
“Over Yet” is an 80s type track thatfeels like a friendly ode to After Laughter.Hayley made a lighthearted workout video at home to accompany the track.Radiohead-style droning features in “Roses/Lotus/Violet/Iris,” a track with poeticlyrics and untrodden connections to femininity “Think of all the wilted women/ Ripping all their petals off.”Boygenius (Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker, and Lucy Dacus) sing backing vocals on the track. Williams’ Paramore roots come to light in the chilled, understated song “Why We Ever.”
The final section of Petals for Armor isn’t easy to fit into a box and might not be to mosttastes. A fifteen-track album is lengthy, and the final few tracks don’t seem as significant to Williams’ solo journey as the rest of the tracks are. “Sugar On The Rim” is certainlyexperimental, it features a clubby beat that throws you off the scent, just when you think you can predict Williams’ next move.
Petals for Armoris an album that speaks with convictionand final track “Crystal Clear” concludes the album on a wistful note.