The album was produced and mixed by David Bendeth. Lead vocalist Hayley Williams, explained the album was titled Riot! because, "For us, the title ‘Riot!’ literally means an unbridled outburst of emotions. When we were writing, it seemed like our thoughts and emotions were coming out so fast that we couldn't control them. It felt like there was a riot within us. So the album takes our passion to a new level; it’s just all raw energy."
The first track "For a Pessimist I'm Pretty Optimistic" comes from what lead guitarist Josh Farro reflects as "putting your faith in someone and they blow it." Farro composed the song and gave the demo to Williams. Farro is known as saying "I wrote the music specifically to be awesome live and to be extremely energetic. It all came out at once. I showed it to Hayley and she just nailed it lyrically. She completely got the feeling I wanted the song to have."
During production, Paramore held an online contest, titled "The Last Song You'll Ever Sing", where fans submitted videos on YouTube for the opportunity to sing back-up vocals on the track "Born for This". The winner was Mary Bonney of McLean, Virginia.
The album has yielded four singles, with "Misery Business" being the first. Its origins came from a message Williams posted on the band's LiveJournal, asking fans to post what they're ashamed of. "I found that people really were reaching out to someone to spill their guts to," she recalls, "so I did the same thing lyrically in the song and let everything out. It's more honest than anything I've ever written, and the guys matched that emotion musically." The song became a hit, eventually receiving heavy rotation on MTV and other music television networks.
The album's second single was "Hallelujah". As Williams recounts, "It's one of the oldest songs we've got, but we wanted to save it for this record, and it's the perfect home for it. It's a claim of victory for both ourselves and our fans."
The album's third single was "Crushcrushcrush" and was released January 15, 2008, in the US and the January 23 in the UK.
The album's fourth single, "That's What You Get", was released just over a week after Paramore cancelled their European tour to work on "personal issues", amidst media speculation of the band breaking up. Williams explained that, given the fragile state of the band, they all thought it best if they kept the shoot low-key, surrounding themselves with their friends and family, keeping it simple. Williams added, "We had tons of friends there, and it really just felt like a hangout session. And Marcos [Siega, the director] was so cool about it. He said, 'Bring your friends.' We shot it in some of our friends' houses, and it just felt so real... and I think it's the first time in a video you're gonna get to see who we really are."
The eleventh track "Born for This" contains the line "we want the airwaves back", from the song "Liberation Frequency" taken from the album The Shape of Punk to Come by the influential Swedish hardcore band Refused. Williams has explained that this song was written "about the fans" and "that the whole pre-chorus is actually inspired by that one line of the song."
Riot! was released in the United States on June 12, 2007, following the debut of "Misery Business" on the radio. It entered the U.S. Billboard 200 albums chart at 20 in late 2007. Riot! sold 42,000 albums in the U.S. in its first week and three months later the album hit its peak at 15 on the Billboard 200. The album was certified Platinum on July 11, 2008. The hit single "Misery Business" has also been certified Platinum by the RIAA. The album achieved some success in the UK reaching #24 on the albums chart sales and selling 250,094 copies to date. The album was re-released in late 2007 as a U-MYX MVI CD/DVD. In New Zealand, the album peaked at number 15, and was certified Gold on February 1, 2009, shipping over 15,000 copies.
Riot! received generally positive reviews from music critics. According to Metacritic, the album holds a score of 67 out of 100, indicating "generally favorable reviews" based on 8 reviews. Jason Lymangrover of AllMusic stated "Filled with crossover potential, the songs are consistent and zippy with catchy hooks in the vein of Boys Like Girls fronted by a young Shirley Manson." At Stylus Magazine, Jonathan Bradley opined that "Riot! is immediately appealing because it focuses on sounds that have been neglected by the genre's front-runners. This is an uncomplicated album of strikingly uncomplicated music, entirely lacking in 15 word song titles." Bradley also compared it to the "better songs" from Kelly Clarkson and Avril Lavigne. Gareth Dobson at Drowned in Sound observed "At 38 minutes long, it's mercifully brief, but still manages to feel like a double album for those who endure it. That is, those who don't manage to forget that it's on the stereo at all. People, get your pop-punk thrills somewhere else. At least somewhere where there are actual thrills to be had."
IGN's Ed Thompson stated "This is by no means a must have album and is not going to be remembered as the band's defining moment by any stretch of the imagination. But what Riot! will do is serve as a foundation from which the kids can continue to learn, grow and improve." Thompson also commented that it shows more maturity compared to similar bands. Lewis P. at Sputnikmusic described it as the best pop punk album of 2007, commenting "Paramore might not be tapping into anything new, but it has finally hit its stride, making pop-punk anthems that match the praise."Alternative Press writer Scott Heisel commented "considering the median age of the band, the musicianship shown on Riot! is mightily impressive...while the record as a whole may not be a home run, it’s solid stand-up double that keeps Fueled By Ramen’s inning alive for their next clean-up hitter." Justin Mabee at Jesus Freak Hideout declared "While this new album may lack some of the spiritual depth that rocked their debut, the whole record retains a very positive feeling to it" Mabee commented that the band "has come a long way" with the album since they have formed.
Williams had stated "We're hoping to do one more tour across the States before we really get started with all the (European summer) festivals. Of course, I want to do more Warped Tour dates, 'cause it's, like, my favorite tour ever. We'll see what works out and hopefully just have another great year."
After the album release the band went on an American tour, following it up with a world tour. After their fourth single from Riot! was released the band canceled their European tour to work on "personal issues."