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?
“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.
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.
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?”
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.
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…”
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.”
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…”
“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.
“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.”
“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!
Until next time,