Hayley Williams may be best known as the frontwoman of highly influential alternative rock band Paramore, but with the long awaited release of her solo album Petals For Armor I, the powerhouse vocalist and songwriter is carving her path to becoming a legendary rock icon herself.
For dedicated Hayley Williams fans that have stuck around for years, Petals For Armor I may have been taken as a bit of a surprise, but nevertheless a thrilling one. It’s no shocker that Hayley Williams has surpassed the alternative rock world’s expectations again. She has a knack for effortlessly reinventing herself musically, as evident with the development of Paramore’s sound from teenage pop punk to acclaimed contemporary rock with funk, soul, and alternative influences. But don’t be fooled–Petals For Armor I doesn’t rely on Paramore nostalgia to shine. It’s a deeply personal work of Williams created in a different universe.
Petals For Armor I introduces unique electronic and experimental elements to Williams’ hard-hitting rock based sound. Produced by fellow band member and longtime collaborator Taylor York, the complex arrangements, production and song content are vastly different from Williams’ former discography, but doesn’t veer so far that it feels forced, or completely foreign. The album begins with its lead single and arguably most accessible tune “Simmer”. The first few seconds include a haunting synth loop and sporadic unsettling breath samples–right before launching into a catchy, fast moving bass and drum groove with subtle additions of synths. And as per usual, Williams’ powerful vocals fail to disappoint, bringing life to truthful lines like “rage is a quiet thing” and “nothing cuts like a mother”. In contrast, The album’s second track “Leave It Alone” is a mellow, slow paced ballad with odd chord changes, echoing similarities with many of Radiohead’s works. “Cinnamon” and “Creepin'” introduce even more offbeat material to the album, featuring layers of Williams’ voice filtered through a megaphone-like effect, often repeating as a hook. The album’s words feature detailed visuals like “we bleed holy water” and “don’t you know that I’m a moon in daylight?”
The title “Petals For Armor” is a lyric pulled from “Simmer”, revealing quite a bit about what inspired Williams’ writing. In her own words, Petals For Armor is essentially “the idea that being vulnerable is a shield”. We get a glimpse into Williams’ ongoing struggle with depression through Paramore’s 2017 album After Laughter, but Petals For Armor I offers an even closer look–as her lyrics explore personal themes like family and relationship issues, and being at war with oneself.
As dark as Petals For Armor I gets, Hayley Williams unapologetically wears her vulnerability like armor. With or without Paramore, her empowering presence in contemporary rock won’t be fading away any time soon.