THE 25 BEST PARAMORE SONGS, RANKED

Since high school, I’ve been a self-proclaimed Paramore superfan. I always liked rock music, but never really listened to it because I wasn’t sure where to start. I will always readily admit that my default position is a frequenter of the Top 40 list, but I remember being so exhilarated when my dad would play Kings of Leon or when I heard Jimmy Eat World at school. The first time I heard a Paramore song was actually when they played That’s What You Get in my junior high gym class.

All that to say, once I signed up for Spotify Premium and started exploring new music, I stumbled upon the name and artist of that song from gym class that I never knew the title of. And the rest is history.

So here’s my non-exhaustive, but well-thought-out, list of Paramore‘s best songs (in my opinion).

25. Brick by Boring Brick

Probably one of their most popular, I don’t think Paramore will ever stop being celebrated for the song Brick by Boring Brick.

“She lives in a fairy tale / Somewhere too far for us to find / Forgotten the taste and smell / Of a world that she’s left behind…”

Anyone who’s a dreamer by nature will immediately understand the girl who Hayley is singing about in this narrative. She begs the girl over and over to “Keep your feet on the ground , when your head’s in the clouds.” But that’s easier said than done.

Between repetitions of the chorus which forms a plan to “bury the castle,” the verses are made up of classic fairy tale imagery – from Cinderella, to Red Riding Hood. But why is this girl so caught up in these fantasy worlds? The bridge breaks it down:

“Well you built up a world of magic / Because your real life is tragic…”

The melody of this song is fun, but the lyrics are well-structured and weighty. And of course, the “ba da ba” riffs & an allusion to the album cover art always make it more enjoyable.

“The angles were all wrong now / She’s ripping wings off of butterflies.”

24. Never Let This Go

“I’ll never let this go / But I can’t find the words to tell you / I don’t wanna be alone…”

Never Let This Go is three minutes and forty seconds of back and forth, bouncing between not wanting to be alone but not wanting to be in this relationship anymore.

“I can’t find the words to tell you / I don’t wanna be alone / But now I feel like I don’t know you…”

It sounds like Hayley is not only singing to convince the subject of the song that there are serious issues and that they need to “let this go,” but to convince herself of it.

After a few verses of legitimate reasons why this relationship is toxic, in the bridge the singer repeats the command, “let this go.”

“But I’ll never let this go…”

What’ll it be? Leave or stay?

23. crushcrushcrush

“I got a lot to say to you / Yeah, I got a lot to say / I noticed your eyes are always blue to me / Keeping them here and it makes no sense at all…”

Arguably one of their best songs musically, and definitely one of their angriest-sounding, this song presents the “breaking the chains” vibe instrumentally as much as it does lyrically.

“They taped over your mouth / Scribbled out the truth with their lies / Your little spies…”

This angsty song takes a turn in the bridge, though, after the singer begs to be “more than this”:

“Rock and roll honey, don’t you know baby / We’re all alone now, give me something to sing about.”

Angry, grungy and about budding romance? You can’t lose with crushcrushcrush.

22. Ain’t It Fun

Even though Ain’t It Fun has a very different sound than most of Paramore‘s catalog, I was so excited when this song became a radio hit and started being played everywhere.

“I don’t mind / Letting you down easy but just give it time / If it don’t hurt now, but just wait, just wait a while…”

Funky and fun, this song packs a catchy punch as it dissects what it’s like “to be on your own,” and realizing “you can’t count on no one, living in the real world.”

“So what are you gonna do / When the world don’t orbit around you? / So what are you gonna do / When nobody wants to fool with you?”

This “welcome to adulthood” anthem makes sure to knock any foundations you might have coming into this life lesson, though:

“Don’t go crying to your mama / Cause you’re on you’re own in the real world…”

This bit of tough love goes down easy with a quick tempo, syncopated guitar, and awesome gospel choir backup. So real, and so fun.

21. Hard Times

Another tough love & real life anthem, Hard Times is almost like Hayley revisiting the same topics of Ain’t It Fun a few years later with a fresh perspective… As un-fun as stepping into the “real world” is, we usually face them with hope for an easier future. But that’s not always what we get – or at least the hard times last much longer than we expected.

“All that I want / Is to wake up fine / Tell me that I’m alright / That I ain’t gonna die…”

Hayley is refreshingly honest from the first verse:

“All that I want / Is a hole in the ground / You can tell me when it’s alright / For me to come out…”

But as rough as the recent times have been, she’s refusing to let herself break when she drops out of her free-fall:

“I still don’t know how I even survive / I’m not gonna get to rock bottom! / Tell my friends / I’m coming down / We’ll kick it / When I hit the ground…”

Hard times will always get us every now and then, but its what we make of that counts. And Hayley Williams decided to make it a major-keyed bop that took the radio waves by storm almost as much as Ain’t It Fun.

20. Fast in My Car

“Been through the ringer a couple times / I came out calloused and cruel / And my cell friends know this very well / Because they went through it to…”

This song is just unbearably fun. I’ve always interpreted this song as being about the hardships of navigating the music industry as a band, while also going through the deep issues of personal life, with her band-mates as her “cell friends.”

“No one’s the same as they used to be / Much as we try to pretend / No one’s as innocent as can be / We all fall short, we all sin / But now we are looking backward / We won’t try raising the dead…”

Is the “dead” they are trying to raise a past band member? Are the “uninnocents” themselves or people from Paramore‘s past?

“The three of us were initiates / We had to learn how to deal / And when we spotted a second chance / We had to learn how to steal…”

It’s all conjecture, but it’s clear that Fast In My Car is a very personal song while also being super fun.

“We’re not looking for violence, no / We’re driving fast in my car / And we just want to have fun…”

Everyone needs to blow off steam sometimes with a good cruise around the town, and Paramore gets this. And I dare you to find a better song to drive fast to.

19. That’s What You Get

” Why do we like to hurt so much?”

Undeniably punky, That’s What You Get just sounds like the best of the early 2000’s. On top of a rock-solid syncopated beat with guitar riffs for the ages, this song completely breaks down the whole “follow your heart” mantra that has taken the world by storm.

“I drowned out all my sense with / The sound of it’s beating / And that’s what you get when you let your heart win…”

And, like Brick by Boring Brick does with the Brand New Eyes cover, That’s What You Get uses a timely allusion to it’s album name in the bridge:

“They make you wave to me, to me / And I’ll always be just so inviting / If I ever start to think straight / This heart will start a riot in me…”

18. Turn It Off

“And the worst part is / Before it gets any better / We’re headed for a cliff…”

This was always one of my favorites from Brand New Eyes. It’s raw, honest, and driven by simply but catchy guitar, the simplicity of the chord pattern matching the tone of the lyrics.

“And in the free fall I will realize / I’m better off when I hit the bottom…”

I love how honest the lyrics are in acknowledging that we can completely understand why certain systems in life are flawed, but don’t remove ourselves from them – this is more realistic for most of us than the angry ultimatums we hear far too often in rock lyrics.

“Well I can see behind the curtain / The wheels are cranking, turning, it’s all wrong the way we’re working / Towards a goal, that’s non existent / It’s not existent, but we just keep believing.”

Sometimes the best thing is to realize “we’re headed for a cliff” and make peace with it, knowing that maybe a crash and burn is what we need to achieve whatever good is on the other side of it.

17. Grudges

Grudges, like many of the other songs on After Laughter, totally embodies the 80’s vibe. The dreamy syncopated rhythm hides the band-favorite theme of past betrayal & messed up friendships under instrumentals that sound like a summer drive along the coast.

“Strange how we found ourselves exactly where we left off / I know you’re shaking my hand like it is the first time / Are we alright? / Are you recounting all my faults? / And are you racking your brain just to find them all? / Could it be that I’ve changed? Or did you?”

Everyone’s got someone from their past who things just fell apart with, and this song is as hopeful as it is catchy in that it paints the picture of those old wounds healing, all the hurt and grudges being put aside.

“And if you wanna call me up or come over / Come on, we’ll laugh ’till we cry / Like we did when we were kids / Cause we can’t keep holding on to grudges..”

If this song is autobiographical, Hayley is lucky. It’s often that both people in a broken friendship like this agree to come together and lay aside their differences to build a new future.

16. Still Into You

“It’s not a walk in the park to love each other / But when our fingers interlock, can’t deny, can’t deny, you’re the worth it / ‘Cause after all this time / I’m still into you…”

I remember reading in an interview somewhere that, when asked about Still Into You, Hayley commented about how surprised she was that the biggest chart-topping single from the Self-Titled album was a straight love song.

“I should be over all the butterflies but I’m into you, I’m into you / And even baby our worst nights / I’m into you, I’m into you / Let ’em wonder how we got this far / ‘Cause I don’t really need to wonder at all…”

Not much else needs to be said about this jam other than it’s just a sappy pop song with a much better, grungier beat than it’s musical peers. This is one Paramore hit I could never get tired of.

15. Conspiracy

Right off the bat, the unique chord pattern in Conspiracy makes the song so intriguing. But when Hayley‘s amazing vocals begin, it gets even more mysterious.

“Please speak softly / For they will hear us / And they’ll find out / Why we don’t trust them…”

More poetic than most of their songs, Conspiracy is an under-celebrated gem. Is it about the music industry? Back-stabbing friends? We may never know, but sometimes mysterious is so much more fun than straight-forward.

“I thought that we’d make it / Because you said / That we’d make it through / And when all security fails / Will you be there to help me through?”

14. Ignorance

This is musically one of their angriest and funnest songs, in my opinion. The little riffs between the verses and the chorus are perfect head-banging moments that never get old.

“Yeah, we used to stick together / We wrote our names in wood / But I guess you can’t accept that the change is good / It’s good, it’s good…”

Featuring one of their most common themes, betrayal & the subsequent loss of friendship, Ignorance is a more acid-driven expression of the same issues that Playing God presents (which we’ll get to later on).

“Where’s your gavel? Your jury? / What’s my offense this time? / You’re not a judge, but if you’re gonna judge me / Well, sentence me to another life.”

As the lyrics dissect the anger the singer has that she’s been replaced with “ignorance” by her best friend, Hayley’s voice carries an extra level of rasp and anger than most of her other songs. It adds so much to the narrative of the song, and the quick tempo makes this anthem of frustration so fun to listen to.

13. Proof

I’m unofficially naming Paramore‘s Self-Titled album the love song album.

“It’s really hard, I can’t cry in your arms / Cause you’re not here / It’s not your fault and if it was I wouldn’t care / My heart is bigger than the distance in-between us…”

Sure, Proof has some lines about feminism, life changes & moving on, and “driving faster than I ever did before” (clearly an allusion to the first track of the album), but this song boils down to one thing: I may not be around, but I’m still fighting for this romance to work out… are you?

“So do you love me? / All you gotta do is say yes / Now do you love me? / And I won’t ever second guess…”

12. Rose-Colored Boy

One of my favorite elements of After Laughter is the presentation of really deep, somber lyrics against peppy, major-key backgrounds of 80’s-esque synth & punky guitar riffs.

“Rose-colored boy / I hear you making all that noise / About the world you want to see / And oh, I’m so annoyed / Cause I just killed off what was left of the optimist in me…”

Even after she’s taken her rose-colored glasses off, admitting she’s a “nervous” & “half-empty girl,” Hayley’s desires are straightforward in her lyrics:

“Just let me cry a little bit longer / I ain’t gon’ smile if I don’t want to / Hey, man, we all can’t be like you / I wish we were all rose-colored too / My rose-colored boy…”

I love how realistic this juxtaposition is of wanting to be left alone because you’re not seeing the world as “rose-colored,” that you might choke if someone makes you laugh, insisting that others acknowledge you might very well be “a lost cause,” yet wishing you could be optimistic like this rose-colored boy is.

“Leave me here a little bit longer / I think I wanna stay in the car / I don’t want anybody seeing me cry now / You say ,”We gotta look on the bright side” / I say, “Well maybe if you wanna go blind” / You say my eyes are getting too dark now / But boy, you ain’t ever seen my mind…”

Depressive honesty takes a catchy turn in this song, which makes it a true masterpiece in my opinion (much moreso than Fake Happy, sorry not sorry).

11. Tell Me It’s Okay (Demo)

“Maybe it’s been years since I genuinely smiled / Maybe it’s been years since I wanted to be a part of anything / Well, lately I’ve been good, you know I’ve actually been great / Man, I even laughed a little today…”

The only bad thing about this song is that it wasn’t included in the original track listing of Paramore’s Self-Titled album.

“Thought it was my right to be as sorry as I wanted to be / I wasted all my teenage years being a misery factory / But something had to give, I had to finally see the light / I think at 23 it’s time to practice what I preach …”

Adorably retrospective, Tell Me It’s Okay reflects on the band’s early years, with a nod to Misery Business, in a tone that foreshadows all the glory of After Laughter and its melancholy bops.

“Tell me it’s okay to be happy now, because I’m happy now / Tell me it’s okay to be happy now, my life is finally leveling out…”

We’re glad to hear it, Hayley. Give us more of this kind of content, please!

10. Let the Flames Begin

“What a shame we all became such fragile, broken things / A memory remains just a tiny spark / I give it all my oxygen / To let the flames begin…”

About standing up in the face of hardship, Let The Flames Begin sticks it to the man in a different way than most of Paramore’s other songs.

“This is how we’ll dance when / When they try to take us down / This is what will be our glory…”

More about standing up for what it right, or for themselves, than standing up for the sake of rioting, this song is full of somber resolution.

“This is how we’ll stand when / When they burn our houses down / This is what will be our glory…”

9. Misery Business

As if it was even possible, I think I actually like this song more now that Paramore has decided they won’t play it anymore at their future shows. How long did I rock out to this song, oblivious to the fact that this famous head-banger is actually a huge source of shame for Hayley?

“I waited eight long months / She finally set him free / I told him I couldn’t lie, he was the only one for me / Two weeks and we caught on fire / She’s got it out for me, but I wear the biggest smile…”

Misery Business not only cranks up the tempo, but also the anger and judgement. A revenge anthem if I’ve ever heard one, the singer spends three and a half minutes bragging (even though she claims she “never meant to brag”) about her conquests.

“Whoa, I never meant to brag / But I got him where I want him now / Whoa, it was never my intention to brag / To steal it all away from you now / But God does it feel so good / Cause I got him where I want him now…”

In recent years, Hayley has said that she doesn’t relate to these lyrics at all, and is ashamed of the place she was in when she wrote them… but as “anti-feminism” and “slut-shaming” as this song is said to be now, “it just feels so good!” And no matter what, it will always be a jam & a Paramore essential.

8. All I Wanted

All I Wanted doesn’t have that many lyrics, but it doesn’t need more. The repetition of “All I wanted was you” between verses packs enough of a blow, I think.

A sucker-punch-ending to Brand New Eyes, this song is beautifully poetic, and the lyrics glow against the background of rising guitar as the singer grows more and more honest.

“And when the world treats you way too fairly / Well it’s a shame I’m a dream…”

This song is full of words it sounds like should’ve been said closer to the beginning she wants to relive, but the only choice now is to declare all that she wanted in retrospect – making for a bittersweet punk ballad that never grows old to me.

“I could follow you to the beginning / And just to relive the start / And maybe then we’ll remember to slow down / At all of our favorite parts…”

7. Pressure

The uber-garage beat and “bye to the haters” lyrical vibes of Pressure make it a classic that I’ll never stop rocking out to.

“I can feel the pressure / It’s getting closer now / We’re better off without you…”

Broad enough to be fitted to a variety of situations, this song’s righteous anger makes it timeless in that it can be applied to at least one situation we’re experiencing with someone or have experienced in the past.

“Now that I’m losing hope and there’s nothing else to show / For all of the days that we spent carried away from home / Some things I’ll never know, and I had to let them go / I’m sitting all alone, feeling empty…”

And not only is this a lyrical classic, Pressure was also Paramore’s first music video – a video that fulfilled (and still fulfills, tbh) all our punk dreams. Can you feel the pressure?

6. Tell Me How

A perfect song to finish out After Laughter, this somber ballad is one of the finest breakup songs of modern music.

” I can’t call you a stranger / But I can’t call you / I know you think that I erased you / You may hate me but I can’t hate you / And I won’t replace you…”

The fact that the song is all phrased as a question to the subject Hayley is singing about makes it intensely emotional and personal, especially with the subtle piano-driven background.

“Tell me how to feel about you now / Tell me how to feel about you now / Oh, let me know / Do I suffocate or let go?”

I love how Tell Me How brings the themes of this album full circle, from the being ready to “dive back in” discussed in Pool (which we’ll get to in a minute) to being “sick of the beginnings” in this song. It presents a complete picture of different phases of a relationship, and of the ending of a relationship:

“I think I’m tired of getting over it / Just starting something new again / I’m getting sick of the beginnings / And always coming to your defenses / I guess it’s good to get it off my chest / I guess I can’t believe I haven’t yet / You know I got my own convictions / And they’re stronger than any addiction / But no one’s winning…”

The last lines are arguably the best of the song, Hayley’s breathy vocals fading out with the beat in a perfectly poetic ending to their most recent album, almost saying, forget all I’ve just sung about, I don’t want to know what you really think. Let me just live in the lie I’ve been telling myself this whole time.

“You don’t have to tell me / If you ever think of me / I know you see me dancing / Wildly, in the fog of your memory / You don’t have to tell me, I can still believe.”

5. Future

This was one of my all-time favorite songs in high school. From its recording-room B-roll intro to the dramatic volume-shifting interlude near the end of the song, Future is a messy, dramatic masterpiece.

There are few lyrics, but that doesn’t take away from the introspective power of the song.

“I’m writing the future / I’m writing it out loud / We don’t talk about the past / We don’t talk about the past now…”

Honest and nostalgic, somehow so hopeful in it’s ironically-optimistic lyrics, this song is always my go-to for lonely evening drives and nights when I can’t fall asleep.

“Just think of the future / And think of your dreams / You’ll get away from here / You’ll get away eventually / So, just think of the future / Think of a new life / And don’t get lost in the memories / Keep your eyes on a new prize…”

Self-Titled was the album when Paramore‘s lyrics really began to openly discuss the band members’ mental health issues, and Future is a beautiful musical embodiment of the ups-and-downs our emotions can so often bring.

4. Playing God

“You don’t have to believe me / But the way I, way I see it / Next time you point a finger / I might have to bend it back / And break it, break it off …”

So smooth and passive-aggressive, this witty song was bound to have left its subject of Playing God burying their head in the sand after they heard it.

“If God’s the game that you’re playing / Well, we must get more acquainted / Because it has to be so lonely / To be the only one who’s holy… You don’t deserve a point of view / If the only thing you see is you…”

By prefacing the digs in the chorus with the humble “You don’t have to believe me, but the way I see it,” makes the ultimatums that the singer spends the verses explaining seem even more petty.

“Next time you point a finger / I’ll point you to the mirror…”

3. Part II

A similar yet oh-so-unique sequel to Let the Flames Begin, the similar opening actually is what sets a very different tone for Part II than the tone of its predecessor from Riot!.

“What a shame, what a shame we all remained / Such fragile broken things / A beauty half-betrayed / Butterflies with punctured wings…”

So many shoutouts to earlier songs, with ever-strong guitar pulsing to a heart-beat-sounding beat.

“Fighting on my own / In a war that’s already been won / I’ll be lost until / You come and find me here, oh glory…”

The shrouded lyrics and incomparable instrumental bridge of this song from their Self-Titled album leave listeners thinking through its meaning and subtly head-banging long after the 4 minutes and 41 seconds are up.

“Like the moon we burrow our light / I am nothing but a shadow in the night / So if you let me, I will catch fire / To let your glory and mercy shine…”

2. Pool

“As if the first cut / Wasn’t deep enough / I dove in again cause I’m not into giving up / Could got the same rush / From any lover’s touch / But why get used to something new / Cause no one breaks my heart like you…”

Don’t let the windchimey intro fool you, Pool is a seriously contemplative song. We may never be able to fully articulate the draw of the on-again-off-again romance, but Hayley expresses it a smoothly and calmly as the in-and-out waves slide across the shore.

“Never found the deep end / Of our little ocean / Drained the fantasy of you / Headfirst into shallow pools…”

As foolish as the singer’s actions may sound, sometimes the current is too strong and we “dive right back into” the same water we drowned in before.

“You are the wave / I could never tame / If I survive / I’ll dive back in…”

They say love is blind, but maybe love also breathes underwater. (Or at least that’s just what we tell ourselves.) Old habits die hard, especially when turned into something as fun to listen to as this.

1. Last Hope

“Every night I try my best to dream / Tomorrow makes it better / Then I wake up to the cold reality / That not a thing is changed…”

How poetic and raw those words are. Paramore has no reservations in Last Hope, openly sharing about what it’s like to have nothing left to give, yet a core, unbreakable hope still fights through the sadness.

“It’s just a spark / But it’s enough / To keep me going / And when it’s dark out / No one’s around / But it keeps glowing…”

I have always believed this song to be both their most emotional song, and their best melody. Somehow somber, nostalgic, and hopeful all at once, this driving ballad is easily my favorite Paramore song.

“And the salt in my wounds / Isn’t burning any more than it used to / It’s not that I don’t feel the pain / It’s just I’m not afraid of hurting anymore…”

Coming to terms with the wounds of the past and admitting to a depressed state of mind, Williams seems to be singing to herself even more than she’s singing to the audience as she repeats “Gotta let it happen, gotta let it happen.”

“So if I let go of control now, I could be strong…”

Maybe letting go of control is the secret to healing and moving forward. This is something we all have to figure out for ourselves at certain points in life, but it’s a rare gift to be given a song in which we can listen to someone else working this out. Even if you’re down to your “last hope,” “it keeps glowing…” and you’re never alone. There is no more important or more resonant message than this.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

A. Monster

“You were my conscience, so solid, now you’re like water / We started drowning, not like we’d sink any further / But I let my heart go, it’s somewhere down at the bottom / But I’ll get a new one and come back for the hope that you’ve stolen…”

Rich with emotional turmoil, as many of their songs are, this Paramore extra-album track is just generally amazing.

“I’ll stop the whole world / I’ll stop the whole world / From turning into a monster / And eating us alive…”

About fighting for a near-toxic love in the midst of the attacks of a carnivorous world, the lyrics of Monster are perfectly in-tune with the syncopated, stop-and-start beauty of the bridge:

“Well you find your strength in solutions / But I liked the tension / And not always knowing the answers / But you’re gonna lose it, you’re gonna lose it…

B. Interlude: I’m Not Angry Anymore

Clocking in at a whopping 52 seconds, this break-between-songs is perfection.

“I’m not angry anymore / Well sometimes I am / I don’t think badly of you / Well, sometimes I do / It depends on the day / The extent of all my worthless rage…”

I’ve never liked ukulele, but this song (along with the two other interludes from Self-Titled), has converted me, in all it’s washed-out, back-and-forth glory.

“I’m not bitter anymore / I’m syrupy sweet / I’ll rot your teeth down to their core / If I’m really happy / It depends on the day / If I wake up in a giddy haze / Well, I’m not angry / I’m not totally angry / I’m not all that angry anymore.”

C. Decode

“How did we get here? / I used to know you so well…”

I’m not a Twilight fan, so I’m always hesitant to fangirl over this song… yet the more I listen to it, the more I’m convinced it’s one of their best.

“The truth is hiding in your eyes / And it’s hanging on your tongue / Just boiling in my blood / But you think that I can’t see / What kind of man that you are / If you’re a man at all…”

With lyrics like these and that perfect driving guitar, this one is definitely album-worthy and deserved way more than meager movie exposure.

“Do you see / What we’ve done / We’ve gone and made such fools / Of ourselves… It might kill me / I want it to be true…”

Comment if you agreed (or disagreed) with this list!

#longliveparamore

Until next time,

-A

THE EIGHT DEEPEST DANCE-POP SONGS

The Eight Deepest Dance Pop Songs

While I try never to limit myself to specific genres of music enjoyment, since the Dance/Electronic genre starting ruling the Pop charts, it has always been one of my favorites.

Below are what I believe to be the deepest lyrical narratives from the electro-pop charts of the 2010s, plus some painstakingly-narrowed-down honorable mentions.

8. Stay – Zedd, Alessia Cara

Though an immediate chart-topper, this song is actually really emotionally powerful. Opening softly but quickly building to Zedd’s classic “ticking clock” beats in the chorus, Stay starts by reminiscing about days past before beginning to plead the listener to “Stay!”

“Living on my sofa, drinking rum and cola / Underneath the rising sun… All you have to do is wait a second / Your hands on mine / The clock is ticking, so stay…”

It sounds so easy. But even if it’s not, she “could give a thousand reasons why,” two of them being:

“I know you, / and you’ve got to.”

Whatever is driving the person away, the singer pleads honestly with them.

“Won’t admit what I already know / I’ve never been the best at letting go… Guess I need you, and I need to / Make it on my own, but I don’t wanna grow up…”

Change is hard, even if we know deep down it is necessary for life to move forward. But it would be so much easier if people could always just “Stay,” and yet again Zedd pulls off deep themes through a super-catchy melody.

7. Outside – Calvin Harris, Ellie Goulding

Some of us more than others, we all have known what its like to be on the “Outside” like Ellie Goulding sings about in this hit from Calvin Harris‘s2014 album Motion.

Ellie Goulding does emotionally-rich electronic better than almost anyone, so I was stoked when this came out as a single and it has never gotten old for me. Whether a social outsider or looking at things from a new perspective after a breakup, this song is one that we so easily find ourselves belting out because it is just vague enough to fit into a wide scope of situations.

“There’s a power in what you do / Now every other day I’ve been watching you…”

With this new perspective, the singer realizes she can no longer be passive. She has the power and the insight now to turn the tables and show the “insider” what the effects of their actions truly are.

“I’ll show you what it feels like / Now I’m on the outside…”

With possible connections ranging from emotional abuse to social bullying, this song is a power boost for the underdog we’ve all been at one time or another.

6. Find You – Zedd, Matthew Koma, Miriam Bryant

Find You was the very first song I ever saved to my Spotify… and while I have never felt like it really fit with the movie Divergent which it was written for, it is one I can listen to over and over. (And that’s exactly what I’ve been doing since it came out in 2014.)

“Silent love is calling faith / To shatter me through your hallways / Into echoes you can feel / And rehearse the way you heal…”

A beautifully poetic display of the singers’ passionate commitment to each other, this 3 1/2 minute ride uses vivid metaphors to express the depth of the feelings that are being sung about:

“High on words / We almost used / We’re fireworks with a wet fuse / Flying planes with paper wheels / To the same Achilles heels…”

Always a sucker for Matthew Koma‘s incredible voice, the soft intro flows seamlessly into the powerful driving chorus and bridge which make this song movie-level epic.

“I’ll run away with your foot steps / I’ll build a city that dreams for two / And if you lose yourself / I will find you.”

5. Remedy – Alesso, Conor Maynard

With a steady beat and choral background, Alesso‘s Remedy is brutally honest by oh-so-dance-inducing.

“I didn’t know that I was broken / Until I found my missing piece / Feeling so high on that look in your eyes / I got nothing but time for you…”

Conor Maynard‘s falsetto vocals leave the listener as dizzy and overwhelmed as the singer is. The repetition of raw confessions and the almost-hopeful pleading for the “remedy” he’s been so desperately searching for makes the 3 minutes and 10 seconds go down easy, somehow beautifully convincing listeners that they’ve been feeling lonely too.

“I believe, I believe, I believe, I believe / That loneliness is my disease… That you are the remedy…”

4. Remember – Gryffin, ZOHARA

I discovered Gryffin shortly before he released his first album, Gravity, toward the end of last year. And he immediately took over my Spotify account. His smooth, unique electronic beats are the perfect backdrop for his captivating melodies and lyrics. The lyrics for Remember, in particular, were written mostly (if not entirely) by the vocalist, but it is Gryffin’s pulsing chord progression that wraps the emotional lyrics into such a hard-hitting but velvety-smooth package.

“Don’t you remember / The way that we used to live for each other? Remember the way we fell for each other / When I was yours and when you were mine…”

The steady beat makes this minor-key song impossible not to move to, yet the singer spends the whole 3 minutes and 41 seconds are pleading for their ex to remember what their love was like, and how they will be lost without it.

“You’re gonna need my love / You’re gonna need me…”

This song screams “crying in the club” way more accurately than Camila Cabello’s song by that name, and I will forever be fascinated by songs like this that intertwine such a fun sound with such somber lyrical themes.

3. Hold On – Illenium, Georgia Ku

Incredibly strong and stunning, Illenium‘slatest album ASCEND doesn’t waste any time with it’s first song Hold On. The first verse goes right into honest revelations of the singer, who’s in the middle of an intense battle between mind and heart.

“I can’t listen to these stupid songs / ‘Cause they all remind me that you’re gone / I’m still sleeping in your favorite tee / Pictures I just can’t delete / Don’t know how to be, how to be alone…”

Epically catchy, as the rest of his catalog is, Illenium tells a story of heartbreak and the difficulties of moving on through a dramatic melody and driving beat, making it what I think is one of his richest songs.

“If I can’t live without you / I can’t live at all… I don’t wanna waste another day / I don’t wanna wish that you would stay / If I know I should let go / Why do I hold on to you?”

2. Flames – David Guetta, Sia

Sia has easily become the queen of girl-power, get-yourself-out-of-the-dirt power ballads. In the likes of Titanium and ChandelierFlames is dramatic and empowering.

“So my love, keep on running / You gotta get through today, yeah / There my love, keep on running / Gotta keep those tears at bay, oh / Oh, my love, don’t stop burning / Gonna send them up in flames …”

Painfully aware of the power of the past, and the power of the right mindset during difficulties, the singer cries out to the listeners to “keep running” and “keep moving.” That’s the only thing that will propel you out of the past into all the possibility of the future.

“Don’t stop, tomorrow’s another day / Don’t stop, tomorrow you’ll feel no pain / Just keep moving / Don’t stop the past’ll trip you up / You know, right now’s gotta be enough / Just keep moving…”

For the myriad of electro-pop breakup songs, this anthem is one for empowerment after all types of disappointment and pain – and an incredibly helpful and insightful one, at that.

1. Clarity – Zedd, Foxes

Zedd was the first Electronic artist I got into, and I credit most of my love for dance music to his first studio album Clarity. But I don’t love this song for nostalgic reasons – it is extremely poetic, and it still surprises me that the Orchestral Version he released later was not original version of the song. I have found few electronic songs that are able to pack so much poetic passion through computer-generated sounds.

I wasn’t surprised, yet still disappointed, to find out that Matthew Koma penned most of this song and yet receives such little credit for it. His professional separation from Zedd a few years back is a whole other discussion, but it turns out that the songs I always believed to be Zedd’s best work were mostly written by Matthew Koma, including Clarity and Spectrum, two of my favorite electro-pop songs and just general favorites.

‘Cause you are the piece of me / I wish I didn’t need / Chasing relentlessly / Still fight and I don’t know why…”

There aren’t many individual lyrics in this song, as it repeats the same chorus multiple times between lengthy instrumental interludes. Yet the lyrics always captivate me, and Foxes‘ vocal delivery of the poetic words is flawless.

“If our love is tragedy why are you my remedy / If our love’s insanity why are you my clarity?”

No one other than Zedd himself will ever truly understand his fascination with ticking clocks, but this characteristic temporal metaphor I think fits even more beautifully in this song than in his others:

“Our clock ticks till it breaks your glass / And I drown in you again…”

And the best part is, this is likely where this recurring metaphor began for Zedd. Its this kind detail that makes music as much fun for the consumer as it is for the creator… Even if we don’t know what began his obsession with timekeepers, it feels like a little detail that fills out the greater narrative of the album and his entire musical catalog.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

A. Happy Now – Zedd, Elly Duhe

I cannot explain how badly I wanted to put this as my #1 on this list, but I can’t in good conscience call this electronic. It’s just a pop ballad that happens to be electronically-based, but it’s not dance music. But Happy Now happens to be the most raw, emotionally-rich hit song from Zedd, and, in my opinion, from all of 2018.

“In the palm of your hands / You can make me dance / Spin me around in circles till I’m wrapped in string / You keep on talking sweet till your fingers bleed / But don’t you dare ask me how I’ve been…”

If there’s anything that can give the same feeling as brokenheartedly staring out at the ocean without actually staring at the ocean, its listening to this song.

B. Fight for You – Fareoh, Ethan Thompson

Easily one of my favorite songs of all time. But I put it down here because technically this was supposed to be a more or less Top-40-based list, and sadly Fareoh does not make that cut. But I have always been and always will be obsessed with this song. There is something about the unique chord progression and slow-building beat that drips with emotional anticipation. Ethan Thompson‘s breathy vocals only add to the intriguing romantic narrative of Fight for You.

“I know the world is going crazy / But here your eyes the world is hushed / All the past and its pain, fades to oblivion / Cause here your eyes there is nothing but love…”

The lyrics utilize almost outlandish metaphors that ultimately add to the poetic nature of this electric guitar-driven song.

“You are my strength / You are my youth / You are my shelter and my truth / I’ll be the fire If you need me too / I’ll be the weight you’ll never lose…”

C. Papercut – Zedd, Troye Sivan

Because I didn’t want to fill out the entire list with Zedd songs, the song Papercut from Zedd’s second studio album True Colors finds it’s place here. Through Troye Sivan‘s masterful delivery, this song is about as close as you can get to listening to a poem.

“Right now it feels like we’re bleeding / So deep that we might not get back up / Our words will tear through the surface / Like a paper, like a papercut…”

Gives a whole new meaning to “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

“Right now I don’t know why I love you / But by the morning when we wake up / I’ll reach for you and remember / It was just a paper, just a papercut…”

D. This is What You Came For – Calvin Harris, Rihanna

Since I found out that Taylor Swift assisted with the lyrics as a ghost writer, This is What You Came For has made even more sense. The smart, observant singer in this narrative recognizes that there is someone dominating the scene she and the person she is with are in – and its not her.

“Lightning strikes every time she moves…”

A tough realization to admit to, let alone to repeat aloud for nearly 4 minutes to a bouncy electronic beat.

“Everybody’s watching her / But she’s looking at you…”

Do we pity the singer, who’s watching another woman enchant the person she’s clearly trying to enchant herself? “Who knows why it’s gotta be this way…” Or do we turn our gazes toward the electric connection sparking between this lightning-striking girl and the guy who’s gaze she is returning from across the room?

While most of Calvin Harris‘s songs are a lot less innocent and enchanting, this 2016 hit paints a sleek picture of the sparks of new romance and the jealousy that follows in a style that, when looked at closely, is very “Swift” in nature – which is why I had to end my list with this one. (#swiftieaboveall ?)

Leave a comment if you agreed with this list!

Until next time,

-A

THE TWELVE DEEPEST TAYLOR SWIFT LYRICS

While I am known by friends (& enemies) to be a HUGE Swiftie, some of my T-Swizzle tastes vary quite a lot from the rest of the fan population. So I’m here to argue why my favorites are my favorites… and my reasoning doesn’t come down to chord progressions or production, but to the depth of her lyrics.

So, from old favorites to Lover ballads, here is a breakdown of Tay’s best works and biggest lyrical sucker-punches of emotion.

12. “Time won’t fly, it’s like I’m paralyzed by it…”

The pre-chorus toward the end of “All Too Well” is breathy and quiet, but packs a mean punch to the heart. While this whole song is totally quotable and has become a cult favorite, this is the part that haunts me and stays with me long after listening:

“Time won’t fly, it’s like I’m paralyzed by it / I’d like to be my old self again, but I’m still trying to find it…”

This song is perfectly poetic, full of nuances that are picked up without even listening that hard. It’s effortlessly nostalgic, and not much more needs to be said about it. It’s a universal Taylor favorite for good reason.

11. “I scream, for whatever it’s worth…”

“Cruel Summer”, Track 2 on the new album, has quickly jumped up to the top of my T Swift favorites. The synth beat that drives the surprisingly haunting major-key chord pattern is the perfect match for the lyrics of the song. Sure, summer is fun and warm and romantic days spent outdoors, but when it is filled with hesitation and fear from falling hard for your summer fling, the feelings of “cold,” “blue,” and “crying like a baby” are closer to reality.

“I scream, for whatever it’s worth, / ‘I love you! Ain’t that the worst thing you ever heard?’”

But what really gave me goosebumps during my first listen was the part that comes after that:

“He looks up, grinning like a devil.”

10. “Oh, darling, don’t you ever grow up…”

This song has always been too much of a tearjerker for me to listen to more than once in a blue moon. But in the midst of her advice to listeners to hold on to their youth, the bridge makes me the most weepy:

“Take pictures in your mind of your childhood room / Memorize what it sounded like when your dad gets home / Remember the footsteps, remember the words said / And all your little brother’s favorite songs / I just realized everything I have is someday gonna be gone…”

This is an extremely insightful ballad, especially against the broad backdrop of romance-gone-wrong lyrics. “Never Grow Up” ties up all the high emotions that come with growing up and truly venturing into adulthood, in a pretty package with an aesthetically pleasing bow.

9. “Are we out of the woods yet?”

I truly believe Taylor Swift grew up when she released 1989. There was still the same shiny, catchy youthfulness to her music, but her lyrics move from dealing with the past and the present as separate entities to approaching things as a whole. “Out of the Woods” was never my favorite musically, but paired with a careful study of the music video, I have come to see so much depth in this song.

“Remember when we couldn’t take the heat / I walked out and said, ‘I’m settin’ you free’ / But the monsters turned out to be just trees / And when the sun came up, you were lookin’ at me .”

This song is the reflection of a young poet who is merging her creativity and youthful optimism with her new understanding of adult relationships. Teen romance seems so dramatic and serious at the time, but I think this was the stage in which Miss Swift grew out of that stage. Things are no longer black and white… like the world she mentions having lived in at the beginning of “Out of the Woods.” There is a tension between love and pain, regret and fond memories, fear and hope. This is a clear instance in which she is not just creating art for public consumption. She is processing and dealing with what she’s going through by turning it into music.

8. “I’d never walk Cornelia Street again…”

Much like “Out of the Woods,” I think Taylor Swift is working through another new phase in her life. The album Lover leaves listeners without a doubt that Taylor is done messing around with immaturity and lack of commitment. She is all-in, and I think “Cornelia Street” displays this the most clearly out of all the songs in the album.

“I hope I never lose you, hope it never ends / I’d never walk Cornelia Street again / That’s the kinda heartbreak time could never mend / I’d never walk Cornelia Street again…”

There have been rumors that this song somehow “proves” that Taylor has married her boyfriend Joe Alwyn, but all I hear in this pop-driven ballad is that she is experiencing a new kind of love. This is not the roller-coaster romance that she wrote about in her previous albums. She has grown up, and she is more in love than she ever has been before.

Many people are lucky enough to have that kind of love be their “one.” But many of us fall for the wrong person because, at the time, it seems no one but them could possibly be right. Because Taylor Swift is someone who has had relationships in the past, it sounds like she is now able to draw a clear distinction between those past feelings and what she feels now. To be able to acknowledge the depth of your feelings and the fear that something will happen to hurt you in the midst of that vulnerability is an incredibly scary feeling… and think something we all experience when we have this kind of love she sings about finding on Cornelia Street in New York.

7. “If this was a movie…”

The chorus (and title) of this song says it all. It is refreshing and bittersweet to listen to Taylor Swift acknowledge that, in the middle of this fairytale life of pop-country that she had created thus far, things are not like a movie. She spends the song pleading with her estranged love to act like he should if he were a movie character, inherently acknowledging that he’s not and never will be. That’s just not how things are in real life, as painful as that is to admit.

“Come back, come back, come back to me like / You would, you would if this was a movie / Stand in the rain outside ’til I came out … But if this was a movie, you’d be here by now.”

6. “This is the last time I’m asking you this…”

I may be partial because I love Snow Patrol, but I think “The Last Time” ft. Gary Lightbody is highly underrated in the midst of the rest of the emotionally-rich ballads off “Red.”

“This is the last time I’m asking you this / Put my name at the top of your list / This is the last time I’m asking you why / You break my heart in the blink of an eye, eye, eye…”

I also happen to be partial to the one-sided romance when it comes to types of heartbreak. My first novel is pretty much entirely about what that feels like. But “The Last Time” paints a beautifully tragic picture of what it feels like to be second, to be forgotten, to be strung along. This is heavy stuff, even in the field of breakup songs which Taylor is the ruling queen of. The repetition of certain lines throughout the song creates this feeling of something that sounds like an ultimatum, but is really just begging the person to change their mind and for things to be different.

5. “We were flying, but we’d never get far…”

Arguably the catchiest song on Reputation, “Getaway Car” deals a serious hand of depth.

“X marks the spot, where we fell apart / He poisoned the well, every man for himself / I knew it from the first old fashioned, we were cursed / It hit you like a shotgun shot to the heart / You were driving the getaway car / We were flying, but we’d never get far… No, nothing good starts in a getaway car.”

This song is like a lyrical cringe hidden under a smooth pop beat. Taylor is acknowledging the fragility of this relationship as well as admiting her knowledge of its short life-span from the beginning. It’s almost like she didn’t even want it to go anywhere, even to the point of her just using this guy to get away from her ex. I think people get too wrapped up in the tabloid draw of this song, many believing this song is about running away from a jealous Calvin Harris into the arms of Tom Hiddleston, which is unfortunate because this song is rich with reflection. She knew the relationship was “cursed” and that “nothing good starts in a getaway car,” but “every man [was] for himself” in this one. Or maybe she should’ve said every man and woman, because clearly she realizes that she was not the victim in this narrative.

4. “I’m too tired tonight for all these games..”

“Come in with the Rain” was one of the first songs of Taylor Swift’s that I really loved. I love Fearless, but most of the songs are pretty on-the-nose. Yet this one stands out to me.

“I’ll leave my window open / ‘Cause I’m too tired tonight for all these games / Just know I’m right here hopin’ / That you’ll come in with the rain.”

Taylor is ready to admit that these “games” they’ve been playing have become too much for her. It is easy to go along with the lightheartedness and insecurity of a budding romance… it’s often part of the draw and the excitement. But I love that she acknowledges that she is ready to actually get down to the nitty gritty and get her true feelings out in the open. This is a brave admission for her at this age, and I love seeing this thread of maturity and deep emotion grow through her albums.

3. “The drought was the very worst…”

It’s not often that you hear a breakup song that is truly about healing. Letting go. Moving on and actually being okay with that. I think the song “Clean” represents a point which we all desire to reach after having our hearts broken.

“The drought was the very worst / When the flowers that we’d grown together died of thirst / It was months and months of back and forth / You’re still all over me like a white stained dress I can’t wear anymore.”

Learning to live every day without someone you’ve spent so long loving is the hardest part of losing them. This song is insightful and raw, and is a beautiful, delicate balance of loss and hope. The fact that the song begins with these lines sets the tone for the perfectly-synthesized introspection that follows. I believe this is one of her most quietly strong songs.

2. “I’ve been the archer, I’ve been the prey…”

The famous Taylor Swift Track 5. I don’t know if just one lyric can be picked out of this heavy song, but if there had to be one, I believe the themes of the song culminate in the bridge:

“All the king’s horses / All the king’s men / Couldn’t put me together again / ‘Cause all of my enemies / Started out friends / Help me hold on to you.”

We see right into the heart of the trust issues that Taylor Swift has developed from past relationships. And anyone who’s been betrayed, dumped, cheated on, disappointed, or had their heart broken in any way, I think can understand this. “Who could ever leave me, darling, but who could stay?” Being misunderstood or taken for granted, especially if it happens multiple times, severely wounds self-image. This often leads to this feeling that Taylor is clearly battling: maybe I’m not worthy of being loved. “We accept the love we think we deserve” is the motto that comes to mind.

This is kind of emotional vulnerability we don’t often see from Miss Swift. We see all the details and ups and downs of her romances through her lyrical catalog, but this honest portrayal of her trying to work through her self-image and interpretation of the things that have happened to her in the past is surprisingly raw and relatable, even for someone who has experienced this image crisis primarily because of her fame. But there are numerous events and experiences that rattle our views of ourselves and of life, which is why I feel “The Archer” to be one of her most relatable songs.

1. “This slope is treacherous, and I like it…”

Even though Reputation quickly became my favorite Taylor Swift album, the song “Treacherous” from Red always has (and always will be) my favorite Swift song of all time. The driving guitar in the chorus combined with the lyrics of “driving” through the night to take a risky romantic leap will never get old for me. But the chorus doesn’t hold as much as the second verse does:

“I can’t decide if it’s a choice / Getting swept away / I hear the sound of my own voice / Asking you to stay / And all we are is skin and bone / Trained to get along / Forever going with the flow / But you’re friction.”

Taylor is not only dealing with the ugly truth that following the mainstream or taking the “easy road” is so much simpler and done with such frequency, but also with the dark idea that maybe she is not in control of her own actions – or her own thoughts. Do we let ourselves get swept into love too easily? Could we really stand our ground against budding feelings, or are we totally helpless? Not being in control is scary, especially with something as high-risk as matters of the heart. This is a serious, mature question that has much more depth and consequence than many of the questions she raises in the rest of her portfolio.

I think being unable to fully trust yourself is much scarier than being unable to fully trust someone else ever could be, which is why “Treacherous” ranks at the top of my list. Even if it’s not driving at midnight, I think we all have our “two headlights shine through the sleepless night” moments. And those are the moments that can make or break us, that can change the course of our lives. Which makes them scary and very real. And Taylor puts this fear and mistrust and vulnerability into exactly 4 minutes of soft acoustic guitar, emotion, and choral harmonies.

If you agreed with any of these rankings, or have some favorite deep lyrics of your own, comment below! Art is subjective, especially music, but I hope Taylor Swift’s lyrics have impacted other fans as much as they have impacted me.

Until TS8,

-A

BEHIND THE THRONE

This book sets a lofty goal for itself in the synopsis – a protagonist in the realm of Han Solo, Leia, AND Rey. And were it not for the overuse of cursing, I would almost say that the protagonist filled this role. It was an interesting, well-developed world that I enjoyed living in – until the very end. I found the “matriarchy” concept a little hard to swallow, as it stood out against a unique, well-crafted backdrop as the only element of the author’s world-building that was so blatantly inspired by liberal-toned feminism. I typically turn away anything with that roughly feminist undertone because it ends up, in my opinion, usually being whiny, on-the-nose, and unrealistic when juxtaposed with the true core of femininity. But I chose to put that aside, and I was able to appreciate the rest of the Indranan world despite it.

Since I started this book right after many weeks spent studying worldbuilding myself, I could see her attention to detail and the solving of potential problems or plot holes within the narrative that fit seamlessly, not weighing down the story with exposition. She clearly has experience and understands the concepts, and that was refreshing for me. She chose unique elements of real-world cultures to combine into her fantasy world, which made it very different than the mainstream worldbuilding I am used to seeing. I even was thrilled by the cover art – I usually HATE the cover art of sci-fi/fantasy, because, well, it’s usually over-sexualized CRAP. I loved that the face of the character art was not shown… I always find it more satisfying to be able to picture the character in my mind as I read about them, without that vision being tainted by low-budget cover art. And the art was low-key, still representing the fantastic world of the Indranan Empire without being distractingly filled with a sky of nebulas and weird alien ships and hair blowing in the wind. All this added up to a book I was really hoping and expecting to like.

At the end of the book, though, the worldbuilding and the well-executed cover started to mean less and less as the clearly “PC” tones of Hail’s culture (and subsequently, Hail’s personal values and beliefs) went over the line in a really amateur and choppy way. While there were definitely allusions and straight acknowledgements throughout the novel to the fictional culture’s stance on LGBT relations, within the 3 core characters – Hail, Emmory, and Zin – there were no clear mentions of anything in this area. There was history that was repeatedly brought up in regards to Hail’s previous relationship with Emmory’s brother, which, in combination with their chemistry-filled relationship throughout the book, gave off a serious vibe of a potential future relationship between Hail and Emmory. As a reader I was so convinced of this possibility at least being a consideration for the characters, that I actually laughed when I read a line Hail gave to Emmory about “your husband being mad” or something to that effect. I read this as Hail poking fun at Emmory & Zin’s close bond. There was no mention of Emmory’s relationship status, and there was plenty of imaginative fodder within the many illusions the author gave to Emmory’s tragic backstory that was not yet fleshed out. So you can imagine my surprise when I went to look at the synopsis of the second book in the series and read the words “Emmory and his husband Zin.” Are you serious? There was little to no mention of this even being a future possibility for those two characters – and you want to tell me that they were married the whole first book and you never wanted to mention it? This felt like a cheap copout. The whole thing reeked of a last-minute inclusion of the ever-so-trendy YA homosexual relationship as an excuse to dim the well-placed sparks between Hail and Emmory because the author simply changed her mind mid-series, or did not feel like carefully working out that multi-faceted relationship when she could just take the easy way out and throw in some gay dudes so there was a distraction from poor long-term character arching.

As a reader, I felt completely betrayed by the author because she broke the #1 rule of the author-reader relationship: Cherkov’s Gun. What could’ve been a great series lost all of its appeal because the author betrayed my trust, letting me read the whole book believing it was night time, in anticipation of finally getting to see the sun rise, and at the very end realizing the sun was already up and it was daytime all along. As a reader, I should NOT have to GOOGLE the characters’ history to figure out what I missed. If you want characters to be in a relationship, WE SHOULD KNOW. WITHOUT A SHADOW OF DOUBT. But instead, I was given one brief mention, in the midst of a humorous, high-stakes conversation about battle, AT THE END OF THE BOOK. How could I not feel like reading this book was a complete waste of my time and energy? I had spent all 300-whatever pages adding lines and shades to these character sketches in my mind, and then, out of nowhere, had the author snatch the paper out of my hand and tear it up in little pieces right in front of me. And for some reason I picture her cackling with laughter while she’s doing this, so proud of her LGBTQ “inclusion,” when really the only inclusion she made was for stupid readers who care little about the craft of storytelling and just want to read about the whiny triumphs of trashy, foul-mouthed characters to make them feel better about themselves.

I’m renaming this book “Behind the Crap” by K(ay).B(e). QUIET. Thanks for attending today’s roast session, now get out there and buy any book other than this!

RED RISING

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I kept bracing myself for the moment this book would turn into the Hunger Games, but the moment never came. And I was so glad it didn’t. Red Rising is decidedly more intricate, thorough, and exciting than even the best of the Hunger Games trilogy, Catching Fire. Red Rising has more thematic romance than in the Hunger Games, but it clicks in perfectly with the other core elements of the plot and Darrow’s romantic struggle is so much more solid and believable than Peeta could ever hope to be within his unsteady love triangle.

The story carries on steadily from page 1, and by the time the real action begins it is already sweeping through seasons with smooth movement – a plot so well-planned and executed that there is no place to stop and yawn and no plot holes or missteps in sight. I used to really love and look up to Katniss, but once Darrow (or even Mustang) came into my life, I’ve started to forget why archery and tracker jackers were once so fascinating to me. Red Rising kept me guessing at every turn, even as I subconsciously read with a writer’s eye, dissecting the plot structure along the way. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything so power-packed and violent with such an emotional and relatable, yet incredibly MALE protagonist. On paper, this isn’t a book I would usually go for, but you know it’s good storytelling when you look up halfway through – remembering that you really like female protagonists and hints of sappy romance and sci-fi that isn’t based on an oppressive government – and then you shrug your shoulders and keep reading.

Darrow is the new hero of this generation – and Pierce Brown is my new hero.