This is a review of Hayley Williams solo music. Hayley Williams, the highly acclaimed singer from one of my favorite bands, Paramore, has come out with a bundle of new songs on YouTube intended to kick off a solo career. Is it any good? Can Hayley Williams function without the backing of her band?
I think the answer to that is not quite. I think she has the potential to be able to be solo, since she was such a successful frontwoman for Paramore; it’s entirely conceivable that she could move on to another band and succeed. The problem here is not necessarily that it’s Hayley on her own, it’s the decisions she’s made about genre and approach. The whole angle is reminiscent of Gwen Stefani’s “ascension” from No Doubt to a successful solo career as a pop star.
Surely the people surrounding Hayley painted a rosy picture of Stefani’s story, telling the tale of her increased reach, relevance and revenue. She was in some little ska/rock band and now she’s mentoring people on The Voice! That’s true enough, but let me tell you another perspective on the Gwen Stefani story:
No Doubt was an earthshattering band that created tons of instant classics that still play on the radio today. Its relevance was unquestioned. Stefani, after going solo, never created anything of note ever again and she slowly waits for death as an ornament at fashion parties, corporate awards shows and on reality TV. Gwen traded in her fanbase for an entirely different audience that loyally follows corporate advertising from pop star to pop star. Not that there’s anything wrong with fashion, but why does getting deeper into the fashion world seem to mean leaving rock behind?
This is the future I see for Hayley Williams at this point. If Gwen Stefani’s career looks like her definition of success, I think she can achieve a derivative and slightly lesser version of that. What she’s trading in is the possibility of being the biggest, most respected female rock star in generations. She’s trading in the opportunity to be the heir to Dave Grohl as the de facto leader of the rockers in order to be a middling pop star.
The new songs she released aren’t bad, but they’re not something fans of Paramore are going to enjoy. The music videos are really great. That’s undeniable. But the songs themselves are more easily compared to Lady Gaga and Billie Eilish than Paramore or any of Hayley’s rock contemporaries, like Of Monsters and Men or Wolf Alice.
Paramore was a band that has built up a catalog of classic rock songs that will stand the test of time for years to come: Hard Times, Aint it Fun, Misery Business, Decode, That’s What You Get, Still Into You, Brick by Boring Brick, and more. Paramore was on its way to having a Greatest Hits album that rivals the best rock bands in history and certainly the Foo Fighters. It’s hard to believe after the resounding success of 2017’s Hard Times, they decided to just junk it all and go in a totally different direction.
If I had to guess, I think Hayley was probably somewhat bored with Paramore’s style and wanted to try something new and to experiment and mature, which is fine.
Perhaps this is transitional work and Hayley will explore this new style and broaden her horizons as an artist and then begin to weave back in the classic Paramore influence. This work isn’t bad: Simmer is an excellent song with a lot of catch. Cinnamon is very inventive as well. Still, all these songs have “producer” written all over them which is like… how to explain this. Highly produced music like this is so 2018. It’s following in the footsteps of Billie Eilish, not getting out in front of it.
I think Hayley should take this new style, get a new band, call it Hayley Williams and the XXXXX or whatever, and meld the two styles together. Maybe incorporate some influences from Grimes and Poppy which is sort of the “alternative” pop star scene.
That about covers it for my review of Hayley Williams new solo music. Be sure to check out the Music Section for more content like this.