Paramore singer Hayley Williams has appeared semi-frequently as a solo artist over the years, mostly guesting on songs by artists ranging from B.o.B to Chvrches to Zedd to American Football. She’s only shared one solo track as a lead artist, “Teenagers” from the soundtrack to 2009 film Jennifer’s Body. But she’s going all-in on her solo career in 2020. Last month, on her 31st birthday, Williams announced, “With the help of some of my closest friends, I made something I’m going to call my own.” She also promised we’d get to hear some of it in January, a promise she’s following through on today.
Williams has released a new solo track called “Simmer,” our first taste of her debut solo album Petals For Armor, out in May. She cowrote the song with Paramore guitarist Taylor York, who produced it, and Joey Howard, a touring member of Paramore. Despite the personnel continuity, this is not billed as Paramore’s follow-up to 2017’s After Laughter — nor does its creeping, synthetic sound have much to do with that album’s aesthetic beyond a shared interest in heavy syncopation. It reminds me a bit of ’00s Radiohead attempting ’80s pop, but Williams’ melodic instincts and vocal delivery are unmistakably her own. She’s spoken before about her reluctance to assert authority in her own band, so perhaps this is what happens when she truly takes control.
In a press release, Williams writes:
Making it was a scary, empowering experience. Some of my proudest moments as a lyricist happened while writing “PETALS FOR ARMOR.” And I was able to get my hands a little dirtier than usual when it came to instrumentation. I’m in a band with my favorite musicians so I never really feel the need to step into a role as a player when it comes to Paramore records. This project, however, benefited from a little bit of musical naïveté and rawness and so I experimented quite a bit more. I made this with some of the closest people to me. Their respective talents really shine bright throughout the record. I like to think we all make each other better and the result is something that sounds and FEELS exactly as I’d hoped it would. Now that it’s time to put it all out there, I can finally exhale. I’m excited to let people in to experience a different side of myself that I’ve only very recently become familiar with.
The “Simmer” visuals are helmed by veteran music video director Warren Fu, who also headed up Paramore’s “Rose-Colored Boy” video and has worked closely with the 1975 in recent years. Williams and Fu wrote the video’s story along with creative director Lindsey Byrnes.
Petals For Armor is out 5/8 on Atlantic.