It’s always interesting when a band comes out of a long hiatus or internal turmoil with a new single. Most of the time, less music listeners are paying attention than before, and bands will often try to experiment with a change in direction or new sounds. That’s certainly true of the latest pair of “comeback” singles, from Paramore and Fall Out Boy.
Paramore’s “Now” starts off a bit oddly, with rapid-fire, almost spoken word lyrics, which in my mind don’t really suit the voice of lead singer Hayley Williams. After the first chorus, about a minute and a half in, “Now” starts to sound much more familiar to Paramore fans. There’s even a few cool moments where the drumbeats sync up with Hayley’s singing. Other than that, the instruments have that fairly standard pop-punk simplicity.
I’d be very surprised if the lyrics didn’t have to do with the recent departure of founding members Josh & Zac Farro. After their departure, the brothers took to the web and slammed Williams, accusing her of putting her own aspirations and dreams ahead of the interests of the band, among other things. The ensuing rumors and back-and-forth online spurred the rest of the band to respond with an interview on MTV to clear the air. Lyrics like “lost the battle, won the war,” “there’s a time and a place to die, and this ain’t it,” and “if there’s a future, we want it now,” seem to indicate that the recovery from the band’s internal strife provided the inspiration for this song. Paramore has used their songs to talk about this subject before; their first single from their last album, “Ignorance,” had to do with their near-breakup following the success of their first album. The music video also seems to be an allegory for this, featuring a soldier throwing a grenade that ignites a firestorm around a creepy and vulnerable-looking Williams. The other bandmates, Taylor York and Jeremy Davis, also appear in the video, tackling and pushing away any rival soldier that tries to hurt Williams.
Overall, “Now” is a solid comeback effort, and shows a slightly weirder Paramore that may be going in a slightly different direction, while still staying true to themselves. I still think they haven’t lived up to the energy and excitement of their first album, Riot!, but their eponymous new album’s release on April 9 should tell us more.
Fall Out Boy: My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light ‘Em Up)
Fall Out Boy’s first single since their hiatus in 2009 starts off a little similar to “Now,” actually, with a scat-singing layer and more fast-paced lead vocals. Lead singer Patrick Stump proves to be more adept at this vocal delivery than Williams. The resulting song is a little poppier and bouncier than Fall Out Boy’s normal offerings. Rather than the typical guitar-driven sound, the drums and percussion seem to be emphasized here, creating a more danceable beat. Stump’s voice is multitracked to create a “choral” sound in the chorus, when the lyric “I’m on fire” is sung. The lyrics also sound more neutral and less negative/emo, like some of their past songs. The music video also gives an indication that the band is going in a different direction, as it features several people throwing things into a pile that is then lit on fire. Near the end of the video, the camera zooms in close on the fire, and it is revealed that some of Fall Out Boy’s older albums are being burned. The end of the video implies that the band has been kidnapped and is going to be next to burn.
This sets up an interesting contradiction in my mind. If the song sounds poppier, and less like rock, and the video seems to say that the entire album will follow this path, then why is the forthcoming album called Save Rock & Roll? One would expect that an album with that title would brandish the usual screaming guitars and introspective vocals that rock typically features. Rock music has fallen out of favor somewhat on the mainstream pop charts in the last 10-15 years, so maybe what Fall Out Boy is trying to say is that the only way rock can save itself is to change and adapt to what pop has become? I hope not, and I would roundly disagree with them if that’s what they’re saying. The fact that there are so many different genres and styles of music out there is what makes it so great to listen to. If every genre all tries to conform to the same sound and style, the resulting musical landscape is much less rich and varied, and we would suffer as listeners because of it.
All that said, however, this is a strong single that should get some good radio airplay, and I think I think it’s a little better thought out than what Paramore came up with. I’m also interested to see if this new direction is reflected on their album, or if they were just teasing us all in the end.