“This must be the void,” lead singer Hayley Williams’ voice echoes in Paramore’s newly released demo, “Sanity.”
It’s been nine months since the band’s most recent album, “This Is Why.” Since, they’ve broken their own record of monthly listeners on Spotify at over 21 million, reached number two on the Billboard 200 in February, and announced a full 48-show tour leg with Taylor Swift after two successful performances together early this year. But the album cycle isn’t over yet, surprising us last month with a last-minute release titled, “Re: This Is Why.”
“Re: This Is Why is almost a remix album,” the band posted on social media to announce the project on October 2nd. As a way to celebrate the artists that inspired them most during this last writing process, Paramore entrusted their songs to artists like Julien Baker from boygenius, the xx’s vocalist Romy, and indie group Wet Leg to create their own renditions of “This Is Why.”
Though the “classically remixed” songs on the almost-remix album, like Zane Lowe’s version of “Running Out of Time,” bring a different, fast-paced energy, it’s songs that were completely reworked or rewritten that shine the most.
The Linda Lindas’ reimagining of “The News,” for example, takes the aggression of the original song and transforms it into a garage band anthem. By adding The Linda Lindas’ vocals, the song builds up to an even punchier chorus than the original. The teenaged rock band recently spent this past July and August as a supporting act for Paramore’s 2023 tour.
Williams was never secretive about Wet Leg’s influence on “This Is Why.” In December 2022, the singer sat down with Wet Leg’s Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers on a podcast hosted by The Face, recalling the first time she heard their song “Chaise Longue” in a curated Spotify playlist. “Probably the first day that we were headed to the studio to demo for the record,” Williams said, “I got out of the car, the guys were smoking on the porch, and I was like, […] ‘I can’t believe what I just heard.’ It’s so cool and special and everyone was just really into it. I was so grateful.”
So, it’s no surprise that “C’est Comme Ça,” the album’s only spoken word track, went to Wet Leg to recreate. Teasdale’s vocals completely replace Williams’ in this new version, featuring the signature deadpan style the group is known for, while Chambers reduces the punk-esque guitar of the source material to the basic chord progression. Instead of the angst Paramore brought to the track initially, Wet Leg makes it more tongue-in-cheek, finding a way to sing lyrics like, “I hate to admit getting better is boring/But the high cost of chaos/who can afford it?” without taking themselves too seriously.
“Re: This Is Why” defines itself in this way not as a remix (or “almost-remix”) album, but as a project of reciprocity. For a band that never has features on their albums, releasing an album solely of features gives artists that inspired them a platform to show how Paramore has done the same for so many over the past 17 years of their career.
It’s this reciprocity, this celebration of art, that allows Remi Wolf to interpret karma as its own character in the song “You First,” by changing the lyrics in the verses to antagonize a hypothetical opponent. Bartees Strange slows Williams’ vocals and switches the guitars out for synths to turn “Figure 8” from a battle song to a lament. Both Romy and Claud emphasize the raw candor in the songs “Liar” and “Crave,” and Julien Baker covers “Thick Skull” three years after recording background vocals for Williams’ solo work.
The album closes with “Sanity,” a previously unreleased demo from the band’s album “After Laughter” in 2017. “We never finished it, but that little verse was the first hint my subconscious gave me that I wasn’t okay,” Williams wrote for PAPER Magazine in 2018, the first and last time we heard of the song until this year.
“Re: This Is Why” is the perfect home for “Sanity,” having sat unfinished and unreleased for so long. To place it at the end of this album makes it more than just a gift to fans, but a thank-you note to the artists that kept them going.
In turn, we get to experience unique, sincere creativity on an album that could have been nothing more than remixes. Art inspires art, and Paramore can prove it.