Dark, vibrant, and nostalgic—Paramore front-woman Hayley Williams comes out stronger and more vulnerable than ever with her 2020 debut album, Petals For Armor.
Williams’ debut marks her return to music since Paramore’s 2017 release, After Laughter.
Petals For Armor is composed from material off of Williams’ two 2020 EP’s: Petals For Armor I and Petals For Armor II. Additional songs are added to make-up the project’s 15 tracks.
Williams doesn’t shy away from showcasing her musical inspirations on her solo debut. The melodic and distant guitar work as well as the study percussion in “Roses/Lotus/Violet/Iris” sound like the song came straight from Radiohead’s 2007 effort, In Rainbows. In contrast to the calming sounds of Radiohead, Icelandic singer Björk’s presence can be found on Williams’ Petals For Armor. “Sugar on the Rim” and “Watch Me While I Bloom” display chaotic and edgy singing styles, while simultaneously blending with electronic infused beats. Despite these clear influences, Williams truly makes the album’s songs her own.
Hayley Williams also expands upon the synth and 80s-pop flavors found on Paramore’s 2017 album, After Laughter. This album was often seen as a departure from Paramore’s traditional pop-punk sound, as the band traded in distorted guitars for flashy and colorful synthesizers. Songs like “Dead Horse” and “Cinnamon” seem to have solidified Williams’ preference towards pop.
The continuation of After Laughter’s sounds makes sense, as Petals For Armor was produced by Taylor York, Paramore’s guitarist.
A lot has happened in Williams’ life since 2017. So naturally, she has a lot to sing about.
The album centers around the themes of love and acceptance in her personal life. “Simmer” opens up the project with Williams singing about the anger she feels in relationships. This comes after her separation from her husband, Chad Gilbert, in 2017. As the album continues, Williams discusses what role her femininity should play throughout her life, as well as coming to grips with ending her own nine-year relationship with Gilbert.
Coming full circle, the album ends with “Crystal Clear.” One of the more personal tracks, “Crystal Clear”, has Williams discussing how she will “risk it again” when falling in love. Despite how angry she may have been, falling in love was only natural at the time. The song’s music was recorded by all of Paramore’s band members, thus showing how it is the band itself where Williams lets her femininity shine the brightest. Williams has moved on, becoming stronger in the process.
Petals For Armor’s cover-art further connects to the album’s central themes. The spiral black box design found on Williams’ face and hand has a deeper meaning. In fact, the three boxes on her hand are cover-up tattoos of Gilbert’s initials. If anything, this creative art reveals how moving on from the past can sprout new possibilities. Williams was able to make art out of her former partner’s memories, revealing how she has moved on from that period of her life.
You can hear songs from Hayley Williams’ Petals For Armor on KCPR’s curated playlist on Spotify, titled Bloom:
Alex Cambra is a Cal Poly History freshman and KCPR staff member. He wrote the article. Image credit to Hayley Williams.