As pop punk slowly lost its popularity as the 2000s chugged along, many mainstream acts started to lose steam. Blink-182 was still in its first hiatus, New Found Glory hadn’t had a hit in years and Good Charlotte went electro pop.
However the scene remained loyal and newer bands started sprouting up. One of those bands, Tennessee’s Paramore, crossed into the mainstream with their sophomore album ‘RIOT!,’ which is in the midst of its 10-year anniversary. The record is often remembered for containing the mega hit ‘Misery Business,’ which catapulted the group to stardom. However the record is more than that. It’s a seminal album of the genre that’s not only a nostalgic kick in the gut but was the female-voiced album the scene needed.
Ever since their debut album ‘All We Know Is Falling in 2005, it became apparent that the band was something special. Led by flame-haired frontwoman Hayley Williams, the band were more than your typical angsty pop punk band. Of course their music still contained all the musical staples the genre was known for: power riffs, catchy hooks and lyrics concerning relationships and growing up. Nonetheless Paramore stood out due to Williams’ larger-than-life vocals, and no matter how much she tried to deflect the attention, it was obvious from the start she possessed the God-given talent required to take a band to the next level.
‘AWKIF’ largely went unnoticed by most music fans, as none of the singles charted on any of the major charts. However the band quickly gained a following and toured on the popular Warped Tour summer concert series in 2005 and 2006, building their fanbase. They began recording for ‘RIOT!’ in the early parts of 2007, calling upon David Bendeth (Papa Roach, Breaking Benjamin, Taking Back Sunday) to produce.
By just looking at the hair styles and fashion of the members in the video above you can tell it’s from 2007. The razor-sharp hair that falls long at the sides of the face, the totally aesthetic scarves. It just screams mid-aughts. Part of what makes ‘RIOT!’ a fan favorite is it harkens back to that era, where pop punk and emo were still going strong and everyone was in their ‘it’s not a phase, mom!’ phase.
The album was a steady grower, ‘only’ selling 42,000 its first week. However promotion from MTV as well as the growing popularity of ‘Misery Business’ eventually made the album a staple of the scene and would launch Paramore’s career.
“I put my faith in you, so much faith // And then you just threw it away”
Album opener ‘For A Pessimist I’m Pretty Optimistic’ is exactly the type of song fans of the band and genre want to hear. Beginning with an urgent electric guitar riff, the song later details how it feels to lose faith in someone you trusted., with Williams bursting open on the chorus. It’s an irresistibly energetic song with dark-ish lyrics, a theme that continues on the album.
“If I ever start to think straight // This heart will start a riot in me”
‘That’s What You Get’ is a ska-influenced kiss-off that has Williams showcasing some of her sass. Co-written with now-guitarist Taylor York, the song is sarcastic in tone and has her cynically viewing love as something that can only go wrong. Very No Doubt-esque and catchy as hell, the song was chosen as the last single for the album and is considered a classic among longtime fans.
“Got nothing but time on our hands”
‘Hallelujah’ was a song the band had in the stash for a while. Williams explained that they wanted to wait for the right home for the song, and described it as a “claim of victory for both ourselves and our fans.” The song encourages listeners to never stop following their dreams and make everyday count. The song was the second single chosen for the record,
“I never meant to brag // But I got him where I want him now”
Lead single ‘Misery Business’ is quintessential Paramore. Arguably the band’s most popular song and what launched their careers, it’s a sass-fueled pop punk banger. In the song, Williams tells a story of how a close friend of hers was being sexually controlled by another girl, and how good it felt after he was finally hers. With one of the most memorable hooks the genre has ever seen and a music video that was on constant rotation on MTV, the song has become a classic and will live on long after Paramore hang it up for good.
“Take these chances to turn it around”
‘When It Rains’ is a beautiful downtempo track that details how suicide can come from out of nowhere and how it can be prevented. The song was inspired by one of Williams’ friends who killed themselves, and is the most downtrodden song on the record.
“What a shame we all became // Such fragile broken things”
‘Let The Flames Begin’ is a rock epic that sounds even better when performed live. It’s about how fighting for what you believe in can be hard, especially when there are others trying to take you down. Williams’ vocals are spot on and highlight her strength as a frontwoman; the constant changing of soft/loud dynamics in particular are noteworthy. The song spawned a sequel, ‘Part II,’ which appeared on their fourth record ‘Paramore’ in 2013.
“It’s not faith if you’re using your eyes”
‘Miracle’ contains a catchy-as-hell guitar riff and is lyrically about not giving up. Williams shouts on the chorus that she’s not losing hope because a miracle could be just around the corner. The song also contains one of Williams’ favorite lyrics: ‘It’s not faith if you’re using your eyes.’ The band is openly Christian and have discussed multiple times that their faith has gotten them through hard times, and ‘Miracle’ is an example.
‘Crushcrushcrush” is the album’s third single and is a power pop anthem that has Williams explaining her frustrations of being stuck in the dreaded friendzone. She really wants this guy but doesn’t think they’ll ever be more than friends. Containing loads of muscular guitar, the song is one of their most popular and reached as high as 54 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
“Give us life again // Cause we just wanna be whole”
‘We Are Broken’ has Williams pleading to someone, probably her god, to save her and the band from being too detached from what makes them who they are. The band dedicated the song to victims of sex trafficking and slavery.
“And open wide // Cause this is your night // So smile // Cause you’ll go out in style”
‘Fences’ is one of the band’s catchiest songs to date. The track has undeniable rhythm, which then-bassist Jeremy Davis heavily provides. Lyrically the song is about dealing with fame and being in the public eye all the time, where Williams sings that she tries to ‘build a fence’ between her public and private life. The bridge in particular will have you moving and grooving in no time.
“And it takes acquired minds // To taste this wine // You can’t down it with your eyes”
The last song on the album is ‘Born For This,’ another undeniable smash that begins with relentless guitars. In it Williams sends one last kiss-off, flipping her middle finger to the critics and declaring the fans as the only people they make music for. The reception to the song was so popular among fans that the band chose it to open their Final RIOT! Tour setlist with.
The album came in multiple different versions containing numerous bonus tracks and demos, the most popular among them being ‘Decoy.’ The song continues the loud/soft dynamic explored in previous songs, and has Williams unapologetically telling her item at the time that he should move on because she already has.
SO, TEN YEARS HAVE PASSED – WHAT LEGACY HAS THE ALBUM LEFT BEHIND?
While the album isn’t a critic darling by any means (it currently holds a modest 67 on Metacritic), the album has become a staple of the pop punk and alternative rock scene. More importantly however, the album’s success and in turn Paramore’s success has empowered women and given them a voice in a genre largely dominated by men. Many women in today’s rock landscape have credited Williams with inspiring them to join bands of their own. In fact, a few years ago Williams was awarded the Trailblazer Award at the Billboard Women in Music awards.
Buoyed by the album’s success, Paramore went on to become one of the most popular rock bands in the world. And while their recent albums have become more critically acclaimed, ‘RIOT!’ remains their most essential and pure album. It perfectly represents what it’s like to be a teenager in the 2000s, where Hot Topic trips at the mall and MySpace were everything. It balances high-octane, headbanging rock with delicate, emotional lyrics, all punctuated by Williams amazing vocals. Simply put, you can’t tell the story of 2000s rock without ‘RIOT!’
Williams fondly remembers the time as the ‘ketchup and mustard’ era, a reference to the bright red and yellow skinny jeans and shoes the band wore during the time. Condiments aside, ‘RIOT!’ takes fans back to the angsty days of their youth, and what it was like to be a fan of a band just about to blow. Longtime fans of the band always knew that it was only a matter of time before the rest of the world caught up. When it happened, like a real riot, there was nothing that could stop them.