Paramore’s “Hard Times” Reviewed
The Paramore hype-train has left the station. Everyone is up in odds about the newest single from Tennessee “rock” giants, Paramore. You’ll find “rock” in quotations because frankly, they’ve been anything but, for the last five years. “Hard Times” is taken from the much-anticipated follow-up to their career defining self-titled record, After Laughter.
“Hard Times” opens with a tropical vibe i.e. lots of congas and marimba-type sounds, a la Kenny Vasoli’s Vacationer, leading into the drums and guitar taking over with the same melody. Why change so suddenly though? The melody laid is catchy and has a summery vibe, and to overpower it almost immediately with the driven guitar and drums defeats the purpose of it. It’s experimental to the sound of the band, it’s something fresh that wasn’t presented in the harshest way, however the sudden change of timbre ruins the experience.
The track is a standard verse-chorus pop track with a bridge and outro, though it carries one of the catchiest Paramore hooks to date. This is something that should’ve been seen on the self-titled which often felt lost and didn’t maintain its purpose. Contradictory to the chorus hooky-melody, the verses are shrill, Hayley William’s vocal delivery is weak and unpassionate. The delivery of the “rock bottom” lyric is one of the worst occurrences in modern pop music as well, so harsh and unnecessary to the song. It’s clear through this track that Paramore have taken a turn in the pop direction they were headed towards. There’s a trend in pop-music to assert clear funk and synth-pop influence into tracks and it’s evident in “Hard Times”
As for the production of the track, “Hard Times” takes the cake for some of the worst production in Paramore history. The guitars have a nasty gate over them that doesn’t let them breath. The guitar tone is flat and has very little character, but relies on the overdrive to cut through the mix. The vocals have what’s become the signature “Hayley Williams Slap Reverb”, but you can’t slap (pun intended) the same effects on every vocal delivery expecting a positive outcome. Even a rookie producer knows that each project needs to be approach for what it is and should be worked in favor of the greater good of the song, not done with tried and true methods that very clearly don’t fit the vibe.
It’s sloppy songwriting; the lyrics are a mess and read like that of a first draft. The outro is as if Daft Punk’s cheap alternative vomited over a Blondie song that was inspired by the Talking Heads. It’s arrangement is boring, the pleasing tropical intro never makes a return, ultimately nullifying its importance. And worst of all it plays into all the 80s pop clichés in the worst way possible.
Take it for what some may call “experimental”, it’s still not a good song. There’s nothing wrong with a change in sound, there’s nothing wrong with straying from the expected, just don’t deliver the mess of a single that Paramore has done.