hayley williams
Photo: Lindsey Byrnes / Press

Hayley Williams – Petals for Armor: Self-Serenades

4.5

Until 2020, it would have been difficult for many, including the Paramore frontwoman herself, to imagine Hayley Williams as a solo artist. However, in February, Hayley released her highly praised first EP, Petals for Armor I. Since February, Williams has continued to establish herself as a prominent female solo artist, promptly releasing Petals for Armor II in April and an album in May. It’s been a big year for Williams, and she rounded it off by completing the Petals for Armor era on Dec. 18 with Petals for Armor: Self-Serenades, released through Atlantic Records. 

The Self-Serenades EP includes acoustic versions of previously released “Simmer” and “Why We Ever,” as well as a new release, “Find Me Here.” These ethereal acoustic offerings are the perfect contrast and complement to the musically textured Petals for Armor album, which features its fair share of deep baselines, subtle grooves, and brooding tones. 

In a statement for her website subscribers, Hayley explained that, just like everyone else, she spent the best part of 2020 at home, dealing with loneliness and feelings of isolation. At home is where she found herself reunited with her acoustic guitar, just as she was before Paramore first hit the road, which inspired her to reimagine “Petals for Armor” and create the Self-Serenades EP. 

Self-Serenade’s “Simmer” is reborn as a soft, mature answer to frustration and rage and its sonic landscape provides a stark contrast to that of the album version. “Simmer” was initially released as a dark pop song, full of grit, depth, and bass. Although, despite its softer sound that approaches negativity in a quieter way, the acoustic counterpart retains all of its grit.

A lost love served as the inspiration for “Why We Ever,” and as Williams sings “And now I can’t seem to remember why / We ever felt like we had to say goodbye,” emotional turmoil becomes the prominent subject. The acoustic arrangement suits “Why We Ever” down to the ground. A twanging guitar and sad-girl vocals cut to the core of this track and allow Williams to wear her heart on her sleeve. 

The final song on the Self-Serenades EP is the previously unheard “Find Me Here.” In under two minutes, “Find Me Here” makes a huge musical and emotional impact. Lilting guitar riffs carry Williams’s soothing vocals through the track — which sounds like a nod to the Beatles’ Blackbird — and Hayley discusses the difficult but essential need to surrender and allow loved ones to handle their own struggles. 

Williams is a strong and commanding female voice in the music industry, so it comes as no surprise that her first single-handed endeavors have succeeded in placing her as a notable solo artist. On Petals for Armor: Self-Serenades, Williams has achieved synchronous delicacy and grit and has discovered that power is found in vulnerability.