Track-by-Track of Paramore's 'Riot!' Read Through Emo Teen Memories
2007 was one helluva year for straightened sideswept hair, chipped nail polish and feelings.
Where were you in 2007? Maybe you were rendered grief-stricken by the end of The OC. Maybe you lived in a velour tracksuit and Uggs, because Paris Hilton taught you. You may well have been skipping through the good primary school years. Or maybe, like a load of people (and me), you split your time between lying on the sofa at your mate's house, watching System of a Down videos and going on MySpace on your family's desktop, posting passive aggressive bulletins to get your crush's attention when signing out and back into MSN didn't work.
If your life revolved around the latter, you may have identified somewhat as "Emo Under the Cork Tree, while 2006 belonged to My Chemical Romance's Welcome to the Black Parade. And then, in 2007, came Riot! by Paramore.
From its scrawled cover art which could well have passed as a page of a high school art sketchbook, to the power chord-heavy breakdowns over which powerhouse frontwoman Hayley Williams wailed fatalistic lyrics, Riot! captured that mainstream emo zeitgeist perfectly. For many of us, listening to it now is like an exercise in going back in time—it was so intrinsic to UK emo culture at the time that it's hard to separate the songs from the experiences you had to them (probably while wearing a studded belt). To celebrate Riot! turning 10, we asked some of our friends to tell us about their memories of the tracks on the record. There is nail polish, there are tears, there is rain and, of course, there is a lot of being underage and cheap cider-drunk in public parks. Thank you, Paramore.
"For a Pessimist, I'm Pretty Optimistic" Kicking You in the Face
Is there a more fire emoji album opener than this in the whole of emo? To this day, when it all kicks in I feel like I could mosh through a brick wall, and those fills throughout are air-drum gold. Even the title is perfect MSN screen name fodder—a sort of deep, meaningful statement on emotions and, like, stuff, which in reality means sweet fuck-all. Glorious. TOM CONNICK
Loitering to "That's What You Get"
Remember when a Saturday afternoon used to involve little more than loitering outside a prominent high street shop, playing with your fringe and sneering at adults? That's the entirety of the "That What You Get" video. It's literally just a bunch of people stood around awkwardly for an entire day, poking their Nokias and sending 'XD' faces to each other, and yet I still want to be in their gang. TOM CONNICK
The "Hallelujah" Better Than Jeff Buckley's, Don't @ Me
When I lived in halls (or what all of you outside the UK know as on-campus housing/where all your teen posters hopefully go to die), all the sad boy stoners boys had just discovered Jeff Buckley, despite him being dead a decade. There were so many "just listen to this bit" 4AM moments in hazy rooms I lost count. No, put that guitar down and just listen to Hayley Williams belt everything into how hard she's going to try to make her teen love last forever, go away. I still remain that this is the superior Hallelujah, FIGHT ME. KIRBY PARTINGTON
"Misery Business" Dominating the Indie Club Night
In 2007 I worked at the local ~alt club~. Fridays were both indie night and hell for all of us moshers who worked there. When this song blew up, it managed to penetrate even the indie nights and singing along to that iconic middle 8 was a welcome reprieve from The Pigeon Detectives or whatever crepey, dry-as-woodchips-in-your-mouth act was big, while pouring WKD into plastic cups. On reflection, wow, how gross is this song lyrically? In fairness though, 17-year-old Hayley's internalised misogyny is on a level with 30-year-old Drake's now so I guess I'll allow her. KIRBY PARTINGTON
"When It Rains" AKA Soggy Teen Feelings
As a teen I had a propensity to take things fairly literally, and as a specifically emo-leaning teen I had a moral responsibility towards feeling #misunderstood. So of course I have a very distinct memory of walking around my local area, alone, in the rain, listening to "When It Rains," my dodgy side-fringe stuck to my face by the wet. I usually reserved Bright Eyes, the sad girl's premium choice, as my music for feeling sorry for myself when it was pissing it down, but this more downbeat Riot! cut also did the job nicely. I learned about being a drama queen early – thank you Paramore. LAUREN O'NEILL
"Let the Flames Begin" and Being Lyrically Extra
Some people would suggest that "Let the Flames Begin" is filler, coming as it does during Riot!'s admittedly slightly saggy middle. Thirteen-year-old me, however, would have had to respectfully and loudly disagree. "Let the Flames Begin" has some of the most emo lyrics on the whole of this gloriously extra record, and that's what real #heads care about. It begins, "What a shame we all became such fragile broken things / a memory remains, just a tiny spark," and I'm fairly sure I had a school exercise book with those very words scrawled across the front, bookended by 'LAUREN O'NEILL.'
The Real-As-Shit Emotional Pull of "Miracle"
This, lads, is what you call a flawlessly constructed emo/pop punk crossover belter. This is having your heart broken in the middle of the summer, thrashing around with a hairbrush in your bedroom and then writing a really good poem about it with a pen and paper and then taking a picture of it next to some sentimental items and then uploading it to emopoetsociety.livejournal.com. It's exactly the sort of tune that would cause me to smash a half-full can on the floor and flip a table over before the vocals even kick in.
At the time, Paramore were usually compared to lighter mall punk bands like All Time Low, You Me At Six or, such was the state of rock criticism, Avril Lavigne, but when you break the arrangements down, Riot!—and "Miracle" in particular—belongs more toward the darker, fuller side of the spectrum alongside Taking Back Sunday's Where You Want To Be or Bayside circa Bayside. There. I said it. Fight me, purists. Tenuous connections aside though, the greatest thing about Paramore is the fact that they simply don't sound like anybody else (at least they didn't before they released an album that is extremely *listens to Carly Rae Jepsen's E•MO•TION once*). Have the emotions of longing, frustration, hope and determination ever culminated in a more satisfying song (that you can fully pit to) than "Miracle"? The answer is, passionately, no. EMMA GARLAND
Muffling Loneliness to "Crushcrushcrush"
"Crushcrushcrush" may be about the dark side to having a crush but emo lyrics are essentially formulated to be applicable to anything utterly miserable tbh. I remember the power in angrily singing the mantra crushcrushcrush; to destroy boys I fancied, parents who only had bile in their throats for each other, the sexual power I suddenly had over older men who I was both enamored with and disgusted by, enemies real and imagined, my body running on next to no sustenance, and my mind, already regulated by antidepressants. Listening to that song, I could crush it all. Especially for someone who spent all their time alone as a teenager, the lines "we're all alone now, give me something to sing about" and "nothing compares to a quiet evening alone" soared. This was one last defiant monologue on the album, before the catharsis of admitting that we're all broken. "Crushcrushcrush" doesn't mean all that now but it's still the best Paramore to do pissed karaoke to. HANNAH EWENS
As If You Didn't Cry to "We Are Broken"
I was lost—like, alone in a crowd, quirky-teen lost—when I heard this. I was searching for myself. Or God? Either way it was cliché. This song snagged on customary teen snark. Lyrics that usually rolled over me locked into me when it played. I cried when I first heard it, like I was in an angsty CW show. It's a hymn. It's praise, it's faith. It's anger and it's a reminder, comfort and catharsis. I wasn't alone, clearly. BOLU BABALOLA
"Fences" As an Outsider Anthem
This brings it all back tbh: flailing braids, remote as a mic, a mirror—being a teen who didn't relate to what she was meant to. Essentially, a precocious art hoe. WIth my attitude flagrant, this song was assurance. I didn't need people to get me. I got me. You don't need to let them in if you don't want them in, or to be seen as someone you're not to fit in if you see yourself. Art hoe vindication. I was insufferable and empowered. BOLU BABALOLA
"Born for This" Making Young Women See Themselves in Emo
One of the best things about Paramore and this album both being so objectively great is that Hayley Williams is a woman. Emo as it existed back in 2007 was dominated by men, and as a young girl who loved it, it meant a lot to me to hear Hayley smashing seven shades of shit out of a song better than any guy I could (and can) think of. "Born For This" is an excellent example of how important she was, not least because even when I hear it now, I think the exact same thought as I did when I first got hold of it ten years ago. When the chorus hits, I have this fantasy where I am Hayley, on stage head-banging my orange hair, one foot on an amp, mic cord round my neck, singing to a crowd. On Riot!, which saw Paramore arguably at the height of their powers, Hayley made emo girls realise that they could be rock stars too—that they could be "Born For This" too—and that alone is an enviable legacy. LAUREN O'NEILL
- Hayley Williams
- Remembering Things
- 10 years on