After Laughter: A Song By Song Review

After Laughter is my favourite Paramore album. It’s fun and sad at the same time, and I relate to it far more than I’d like to admit. You can read my review of the album as a whole here, but if you want a breakdown of how I feel about each song, look no further.

1. Hard Times

I love this song with all of my miserable little heart. When I first heard it I was thrown off because I wasn’t entirely sure whether I liked the direction Paramore seemed to be going in. It was too different from their old sound, but within hours I found myself humming along to it like I had been listening to it for years, and I haven’t stopped since.

The beat is completely infectious, and the lyrics are completely relate-able. We all want to die sometimes, and this song makes that a little less of an extreme thing to say.

To me, this song is a round-up of all the feelings on the album. The album is about separate instances of hard times, but Hard Times is about dealing with it with a slightly morbid sense of humour, and you can dance to it to take the lack of feeling away, even if it is only for three minutes.

2. Rose-Colored Boy

One of my favourites off the album, Rose-Colored Boy has the same upbeat nature as Hard Times, though a little more youthful with the simple dynamic and adolescent voices used throughout. It covers a subject matter we’re all too familiar with: someone telling you to ‘just lighten up’ because ‘it’s not as bad as it seems’, when it reality it’s probably worse.

Hayley sings that she would love to see the world that way (wouldn’t we all?) but that’s just not how she’s hardwired. To her the world isn’t okay and she’s allowed to be bitter about it. She tried to take the optimistic approach and it’s failed, so in this particular song the bitterness and the anguish is all she’s got left.

This song features one of my favourite lyrics out of the album, ‘you say my eyes are getting too dark now / but boy, you ain’t ever seen my mind‘ which captures the same morbid humour Hayley shares in Hard Times while giving it a more serious edge. She shares the darkness, but in reality people don’t know the half of it. I’m sure there isn’t a single person in the world who hasn’t felt this, and Hayley is probably pretty sure of it too.

3. Told You So

To me, Told You So is reminiscent of a relationship where two people have very different view points and constantly go back and forth, with one person demanding the other admits they were wrong, and when the other tries to fight back makes it out as though everything is alright. It’s a constant back and forth where they kind of hate each other but they love each other enough not to want to let go.

Throw me into the fire… and pull me out again‘ Hayley sings over a familiar lighthearted beat, the music masking the severity of the lyrics they accompany. And you understand it. You know the feeling. You know when you’re holding onto something that you shouldn’t because it no longer works the way it used to, but you also know you can’t keep it going forever, and this song seems to be the acceptance of that.

4. Forgiveness

Forgiveness features a slightly more wistful sound to the first few songs, and highlights the desperation that surrounds breaking up with someone and choosing to let them go even though they want you to come back to them.

The chorus sounds like a soft cry, almost as though Hayley is pleading for the other person to understand that she doesn’t want to stay with them, but she can’t quite let go. She knows they’ve treated her badly, she knows they don’t deserve to be let back into her life, but she can’t help but miss them.

To me, it serves as a blunt reminder of how having your life change so suddenly when you go through a breakup is a shock that it difficult to deal with. You want them to call because that’s what you expect. You’re so used to the feeling of them being there that when they’re not you can’t take it, even when you know it’s better for you, and this song tackles coming to terms with that.

5. Fake Happy

Another one of my favourites, Fake Happy abandons the upbeat fun for the same wistful nature as Forgiveness in its first thirty seconds before breaking out into a guitar driven that highlights the difference between how Hayley is acting versus how she really feels.

And it features another universal situation, of pretending you’re fine when you’re simply not, and getting tired of having to do that. You’re sick of pretending so you just let it all go, and this is the result, a four-minute long track full of longing, desperation and weirdness, trying to prove that she’s not alone.

I imagine it coming to fruition with the band at some Hollywood party, where everybody is trying to prove that their lives are great and wonderful while trying to gloss over the things that suck, and Hayley just lets go of it all and decides that she’s allowed to not be happy, and that everybody else in the room is feeling the exact same things she is, they just don’t want to say it.

And she’s probably right.

6. 26

26 is a song that completely removes the upbeat music, and is the only time on the album that Hayley seems truly lost. She seems helpless, reminiscing about when she had hope and when she thought the world worked in her favour. She begs the listeners to not let go of the hope they have, because if not they’ll end up just like her.

It’s the only song on the album I’d deem as sad. The rest, despite the depressing lyrics which forces you into reality, the music makes it seem like Hayley isn’t taking it too seriously. Before this song, the world sucked but it was fine; but with this song you learn that it’s not fine. It’s scary and lonely and difficult to get through.

7. Pool

Pool pulls us back into the groovy vibes that came with the first few songs on the album, and seems almost angry in its portrayal of an ex-lover who Hayley can’t seem to give up, and she’s annoyed at herself for that.

In her eyes, no person should be able to be untamed by her, but this person was. This person makes her lose control of herself in the worst way possible, and she hates every second of it.

It’s a song that I love because it perfectly describes a relationship that you keep coming back to despite wanting it to end, because it’s so toxic and addicting that you can’t give it up. They say you can’t live with them and you can’t live without them, and this song proves that to be true for Hayley.

8. Grudges

This songs announces the ending of a relationship, where months later you see each other and the other person wants you to try again but you know it’s pointless.

Why’d we have to waste so much time?‘ the lover asks, and Hayley puts them in their place, because to her there’s no point of getting back together just to call it off again, and the song highlights that longing but also Hayley’s defiance and determination. She’s learnt to hold herself up and stand her ground, and her lover just can’t seem to take it.

t’s an electrifying, deeply weird sounding song with a lot of obvious passion behind it, but compared to the other’s on the album it sounds more like filler than anything else, which is sad because up until this point every song seemed to have a purpose.

9. Caught In The Middle

With a slightly more rock vibe to this track, this song seems to be the most reminiscent of a previous Paramore, with Hayley’s classic vocals dominating the track and creating something quite spectacular.

This song is yet another one which forces the listener to face the blunt realness of Hayley’s mindset. She wants to go ahead and achieve and prosper, but it’s not as easy as people seem to say it is, and this track reflects that.

By almost yelling the chorus, the vocals scream the frustration Hayley must feel from wanting to go further but feeling like she can’t, but all in all it’s a bit ironic, as this album proves just how far Paramore can go in order to get better and better with every leap they take.

10. Idle Worship

This song, while being my least favourite off the album, has the best track musically. It’s a little creepy, a little apprehensive, and it matches the lyrics perfectly.

Another rock inspired song, it all just gets a little too much for me. It’s forgettable, and Hayley’s vocals are the strongest element of the song, and of the album overall.

11. No Friend

For me, this sound sounds a little too much like the previous song for my tastes, to the point where I often think I’m listening to the same song when the track skips from Idle Worship to No Friend.

The only difference is the male vocalist, which may be intentional, but it just doesn’t come across that way. They might as well have made it the same song, as it just feels like an extension of the last song, and is all around lacking compared to the rest of the album, not even having Hayley’s vocals to help save it.

12. Tell Me How

The perfect ending to a brilliant album, Tell Me How ties up every loose end in a story-like fashion. This is the curtain-call, Hayley finally admitting that she’s sad and that the things she thinks aren’t fun or quirky, they hurt, and she’s desperate for people to understand that.

I’m tired of getting older‘, Hayley sings, but to me it seems that she’s just tired of it all. The song is the musical version of the long drawn out sigh you let out at the end of the day when the world is quiet but it all still burns in your mind.

She wants to know whether she should let everything go or let it consume her, and it’s like she’s begging for an answer she can never receive. It’s her final bow, her last plea, and there couldn’t be a more fitting ending.


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