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“Petals for Armor” pulled up her roots, but she’s headed for the sky
Paramore lead singer Hayley Willams released her debut solo album on May 8. The teenage punk icon has turned over a new petal, silently expressing her loud message of self-liberation through pain and self-confrontation. The teenage punk-rock icon has shed her tough exterior and found her strength from the inside outward.
The album begins with the lead single “Simmer,” in which Williams starts by singing about rage and learning to tame it in a low and quick tempo. It contrasts with the soft image of flowers in the album’s title. There is a consistent tonal style across the album in which Williams bathes in debilitating vulnerability, apart from the moments of upbeat optimism in “Over Yet” and “Sugar On The Rim.” She admits she is perhaps unaware of her own abilities and does not yet know the boundary between wrath and mercy. It’s a sign of a maturity acquired through recognition of her effect on others, and vice versa.
Despite the surface-level stylistic chaos of the album — ranging from indie-alternative to nearly pure pop — the album’s lyrics thread a common message of beautiful optimism in dark places like that of a rose pushing its way through the surface of the dirt. She speaks of struggling with depression in “Dead Horse,” during which a recorded voicemail by Williams reveals that she had trouble putting together the album. The listener hears the bark of William’s dog and pulls back the curtain to reveal that despite her position in society, she is human.
In the struggle of humans, particularly women, Williams uses “Roses/Lotus/Violet/Iris” to address the constant expectation of society for women to spare each other and compete — a mere smoke and mirror attempt of a patriarchy to which Williams pays no mind.
She sings, “But I am in a garden / Tending to my own / So what do I care / And what do you care if I grow?” She also compares herself to a wilting flower that struggles to find sunlight and pulls its own petals until she decides to bloom, implying an agency unmatched when she takes care of herself to better a greater fight for equality.
Williams knows who she is now and expresses that long search in “Watch Me While I Bloom” and “Cinnamon.” The former features raspy, electrified vocals which make clear there’s more than one side to her. Much like a sculpture in a museum, it takes a few paces around to get the full picture. “Cinnamon” shows that Williams is unbothered by being alone, knowing how it differs from loneliness. In a fulfilled manner, she describes her home as a place where she gets to make her favorite tea and eat her breakfast while talking to her dog. More importantly, she is free.
The album features nearly unrecognizable styles that are not at all reminiscent of her Paramore era. “Sugar On The Rim” has elements of ethereal pop honed by that of Kimbra and even mid-discography of Madonna. “Over Yet” has the most synth-presence on the album and has a feel-good disco lightness of artists like Kylie Minogue.
The album takes great care in each track, as they are an unseemingly purposeful mix of emotions that express the pain that can be used as fertilizer in our rose garden if one sees that possibility.
“Petals for Armor” is available on all streaming services.
Written by: Josh Madrid — firstname.lastname@example.org