Hayley Williams Tasks New Direction in First Solo Album

Hayley Williams performs with Paramore at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, Tennessee, Jun 2018. Photo by Rmv/Shutterstock (9718943ar)

Hayley Williams has released the solo album she thought she would never make and it tells a different story to her Paramore records.

“Rage is a quiet thing”, Hayley utters in the opening track “Simmer”. The track snarls and then whispers, powering through a range of emotions with her vocals alone. Musically, “Simmer” takes inspiration from a range of influences. It nods to Christine & The Queens or even Bjork’s debut album. At the heart of the music, however, is Hayley’s own voice — raw and distinct from the band she has been performing with for almost half her life.

“Creepin'” is rooted in emo but moves more towards the fresher sound of Grimes and Poppy. Hayley’s roots are so established that she doesn’t need to honor them. She has earned the right to play with genre and trade distorted guitars for the double bass if it suits her mood.

The second part of the album takes on a more personal tone. Hayley apologizes for the delay on the track “Dead Horse”, claiming she has been “in a depression.” The lyrics are profound but the track plays as a light-hearted pop-rock single. And it really works.

“Why We Ever” concludes the second part of the album. It moves away from pop-rock and instead has R&B influences. It certainly sounds like Hayley has taken inspiration from Solange here. Williams layers her raspy vocals, creating a tune with cool underground tones. The muddy piano adds another layer of instrumentation to the record.

The third and final part of the album opens with the track “Pure Love”. This is a track that would not sound out of place on Paramore’s After Laughter. It has synth-pop tropes and nods back to the 80s. It shifts away from the R&B feel of “Taken” and “Sugar On The Rim”. Funnily enough, it is in these songs that Hayley sounds most comfortable.

Overall, Petals For Armor is a well-rounded album that shows off Hayley’s potential as an artist. For Paramore fans, she will always be the queen of emo but if Hayley continues in this new direction, she will likely gain a host of her own distinct fans too.

4/5