After Laughter

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After Laughter
After Laughter Paramore album cover.png
Studio album by Paramore
Released May 12, 2017
Recorded June 2016 – November 2016
Studio RCA Studio B, Nashville
Genre
Length 42:31
Label Fueled by Ramen
Producer
Paramore chronology
The Holiday Sessions
(2013)
After Laughter
(2017)
Singles from After Laughter
  1. "Hard Times"
    Released: April 19, 2017
  2. "Told You So"
    Released: May 3, 2017
  3. "Fake Happy"
    Released: August 29, 2017
  4. "Rose-Colored Boy"
    Released: March 2, 2018
  5. "Caught in the Middle"
    Released: June 26, 2018

After Laughter is the fifth studio album by American rock band Paramore. It was released on May 12, 2017, through Fueled by Ramen as a follow-up to Paramore, their 2013 self-titled album. The album was produced by guitarist Taylor York alongside previous collaborator, Justin Meldal-Johnsen. It is the band's first album since the return of drummer Zac Farro, who left the band with his brother Josh in 2010, and the departure of former bassist Jeremy Davis, who left the band in 2015.[1] After Laughter represents a complete departure from the usual pop punk and alternative rock sound of their previous releases. The album touches on themes of exhaustion, depression and anxiety, contrasting the upbeat and vibrant sound of the record.

Upon release, After Laughter received critical acclaim from music critics, who praised the band's new sonic direction and the 1980s new wave and synth-pop sound on the album.

The album was supported by five singles: "Hard Times", released on April 19, 2017 as the lead single, "Told You So", released two weeks later as the second single, "Fake Happy", released on August 29, 2017 as the third single, "Rose-Colored Boy", released on March 2, 2018 as the fourth single, and "Caught in the Middle," released on June 26, 2018 as the fifth single.

Background and recording[edit]

On January 19, 2016, Hayley Williams announced over Twitter that the band was in the process of writing their fifth studio album,[2] following up their 2013 self-tiled album Paramore.[3] On June 8, 2016, the band posted a short video of themselves in a studio to their social media,[4] the same month the album recording started.[5][6] This was preceded by a number of images which all included both former drummer Zac Farro and producer Justin Meldal-Johnsen,[7] leading fans and various media outlets to speculate the return of Farro.[8] On June 17, Farro was featured yet again in a picture uploaded to social media, this time behind a drum set, confirming that he would be recording drums for the album,[9] though he later clarified that he was only recording drums for the album and that he had not rejoined the band as a full member.[10] Despite this, on February 2, 2017, the band announced that Farro would return as the band's official drummer.[11] The album was recorded in Nashville's historic RCA Studio B, marking the first time the group recorded an album in their hometown. It was produced by the band's guitarist Taylor York, and Meldal-Johnsen, who also produced their self-titled record.[12] The recording of the album concluded in November 2016.[13][14]

In an interview with The New York Times, Williams stated: "I didn't even know if we were going to make another record...There was a moment when I didn't even want it to happen. Then it was like, I want it to happen, but I don't know how we're going to do it."[15]

Release and promotion[edit]

On April 19, 2017, the lead single, "Hard Times", was released along with a music video. On the same day, pre-orders of the album were made available,[16][17] revealing the album title, cover art, track listing, and release date.[18] A European headline tour was later announced via the band's official website, kicking off in Ireland on June 15.[19][20] Riot Fest also announced that Paramore will be part of the festival's lineup in September.[21][22] On May 3, the band released a second single from the album, titled "Told You So",[23] along with a music video.[24] On May 10, the album leaked online before its official release.[25] On the day of the album's release, the band announced their third "Parahoy!" cruise, which took place from April 6 to April 10, 2018, sailing from Miami to Nassau, Bahamas.[26] On May 17, the band performed on Jimmy Kimmel Live!.[27] On May 25, they performed on The Late Late Show.[28] On August 29, 2017, the band released "Fake Happy" as the third single from the album,[29] with a music video following on November 17.[30] On February 5, 2018, a music video directed by Warren Fu for "Rose-Colored Boy" was released,[31][32] which is also the album's fourth single.[33] On June 26, 2018, a music video for "Caught In The Middle" was released, which is also the album's fifth single.[34]

Composition[edit]

Music and lyrics[edit]

After Laughter is a departure from Paramore's previous material, leaving behind the pop punk and emo genres of previous releases.[35][36] Matt Collar from AllMusic described the album as synth-pop and new wave sound.[35] Paste characterized the album as 1980s new wave pop.[37] Similarly, Billboard described it as an "early '80s new wave" album, as well as calling the songs on After Laughter "slick, sun-kissed alternative pop."[36] Spin also described the album as new wave, saying that "it's the band’s brightest, most animated album. The sound is crisp, every layer discernible, lacking the blurs and reverberations that constitute traditional rock production and instead drawing from the rhythmic separations that characterize '80s pop and freestyle."[38] Newsday stated that the band is "pushing deeper into their own pop-rock world," and that the album has "the candy-colored energy of '80s pop built on sleek synths and spiky, Afrobeat-tinged guitars."[39] Pitchfork called the album a "piece of '80s pop-rock," saying "York focuses his inspirations the styles of 1980s rock and pop, conjuring a slicked-back take on fixtures like Talking Heads, Paul Simon, and the Bangles."[40] The Line of Best Fit noted "the band have fully embraced chart-friendly, power pop."[41]

The album's lyrical content predominantly touches upon themes of exhaustion, depression and anxiety.[38] NME said the album is a "pop triumph", highlighting the contrast between the "serious sadness" of the lyrics "underneath all the bangers."[42] Similarly, The Guardian called the album a "vibrant record, a contrast to its lyrical themes, which cover masking misery, spiralling depression and the anxiety of ageing, only with a knowing wink."[43] Newsday called the album "a collection of songs about remaining upbeat in the face of adversity that bounce around with."[39] Billboard said "Williams sings about the act of crying on no less than five songs, and there are numerous moments where she could be addressing the unfriendly exit and subsequent legal entanglements of former bassist Jeremy Davis."[36] Spin said the album "observes a different aspect of the subject of survival: the emptiness and pointlessness, and how often it fails to alter the indifferent universe that surrounds and requires it."[38] The Line of Best Fit said "despite all its sunny hooks, After Laughter is a deep album with plenty to say. It’s easily the most honest and mature Paramore have sounded yet."[41]

Songs and lyrical content[edit]

Aaron Weiss of MewithoutYou (right) is featured on "No Friend".

After Laughter opens with "Hard Times", a synth-heavy, disco-tinged new wave song about the feeling of going through hard times, and being useless in achieving one's goals.[40][44][35] "Rose-Colored Boy" is a synth-pop song. Rolling Stone compared the track to Cupid & Psyche 85 by pop group Scritti Politti.[45] "Told You So" is a funk-pop song[46][47] that has also been characterized as new wave, indie pop and electropop.[48][49][50] "Forgiveness" is a "dreamy power ballad" which features "sassy handclaps and hairflicks". It has been compared to rock bands Heart, Fleetwood Mac and Haim.[42][36] NPR said the song is "the band's take on Haim's chiming California soft-rock revival."[51] Spin called it one of the band's best songs, "their gentlest and most buoyant kiss-off."[38] "Fake Happy" starts out as an acoustic dirge that transforms into an "ambitious, funky anthem about everyone masking their sadness."[39] "26" is a string-laden ballad that "sighs into its lush strings." It has been compared to Paramore's older songs "Misguided Ghosts" and "The Only Exception" from their 2009 album, Brand New Eyes.[45][42][38] With the lyrics "And I've been chasing after dreamers in the clouds, after all wasn't I the one who said to keep your feet on the ground" the ballad makes a reference to "Brick by Boring Brick", also from Brand New Eyes.

The "aqueous" and "bouncy" seventh track "Pool" is a new wave song that "bathes Williams' voice in crystalline distortion" and "shimmers like a mirage on a blazing day."[42][45][36] "Grudges" is "a sweet reflection of Williams' repaired relationship with both Farro brothers", with Zac Farro harmonizing on the track.[51] It has been compared by NME to The Bangles' work, whereas AllMusic compared it to The Cure's "Friday I'm in Love".[35][42] "Caught in the Middle" is a "ska-inflected" song of persistence and goal setting.[42][52] According to NME, it is one of the album's nods to their punk past. They also compared it to No Doubt's earlier music.[42] "Idle Worship" is a commentary about fame, with Williams' voice providing even more of a contrast to the stunning acridity of lyrics.[45] York revealed that he sampled wind howling through a building in the UK, then played the sample on a keyboard in the song.[53] The "moody" and "marauding" eleventh track "No Friend" has been described as post-hardcore.[51] It is the first Paramore song to not feature Williams on the vocals. Instead, Aaron Weiss of MewithoutYou is on the vocals, delivering a spoken word monologue buried in a cacophony of York and Farro's dark inversions of the "Idle Worship" riff. The lyrics add metrical detail to the sentiments of "Idle Worship", a song about interpersonal expectations, and the vast distance between one's self-conception and the idea of oneself that exists in the minds of others,[38][45] Many of its lyrics also make references to past Paramore songs.[51] Several publications referred to it as "the strangest song that’s ever made it to a Paramore album."[36][40][54] The album closes with "Tell Me How", a tender piano ballad which features a "vaguely tropical pulse and warily confessional words" that allows Williams' voice to curl around and into expressions of anxiety that sound impossible to quiet.[36][40][45] It's been characterized as "a soft R&B exploration disguised as a piano ballad" by NPR, who compared it to Drake and The Weeknd.[51]

Title and artwork[edit]

Regarding the album's title, Williams told iHeartRadio that "After Laughter is about the look on people's faces when they're done laughing. If you watch somebody long enough, there's always this look that comes across their face when they're done smiling, and I always find it really fascinating to wonder what it is that brought them back to reality. So, that's what After Laughter is."[55]

The artwork of After Laughter, which features an impossible trident optical illusion, was designed by LA based designer Scott Cleary. It reflects a new sound and direction for the band. Cleary stated:[56]

"The band came to me when they were recording the album in LA. We've been friends for a while so we were spending a lot of time together while they were in town from Nashville. They asked me if I'd be interested in doing the album artwork and band re-brand, to which I jumped at the chance. They had some ideas around the 80s vibes of the record, and a few visual references they were feeling. I did the usual "listen to the record, write/draw a bunch of stuff" and came up with the idea of a landscape where colors, shapes and textures would represent sounds and moments on the record. They were sold from my first concept, which is very rare, but just shows we were all on the same page. The band were great to work with—it helped being friends, as I didn't need to go through a bunch of people to get fast opinions. I created a computer generated layout of the whole artwork, then recreated each element in real life (lots of crafting), photographed it, then brought it back into the landscape. Sonically, the record is very "real" and I wanted the imagery details to have that finishing touch as well."

According to Cleary, his artwork was "the first piece of visual material that accompanied the new record and the band wanted a super-cohesive roll-out", therefore the music video for the lead single "Hard Times" was "very much influenced by the artwork."[56]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
SourceRating
Metacritic82/100[57]
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic4/5 stars[35]
Consequence of SoundB[58]
Drowned in Sound8/10[59]
The Guardian4/5 stars[43]
NewsdayA-[39]
NME4/5 stars[42]
Paste8.7/10[37]
Pitchfork7.5/10[40]
Rolling Stone4/5 stars[60]
Sputnikmusic4.1/5[54]

After Laughter received critical acclaim. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream publications, the album received an average score of 82, based on 15 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim."[57] Matt Collar at AllMusic commented that "much credit here goes to York, who co-wrote all of the songs and whose deft guitar and keyboard make up much of the album's distinct aural character. But of course, Williams still beats at the center of everything, her voice providing the album's warm, exuberant core. Tracks like the lead-off disco-tinged "Hard Times" and crisply attenuated "Told You So" are earworms rife with DayGlo marimba and icy adult-contempo synths. Elsewhere, Williams weaves in the arpeggiated warmth of the Cure's "Friday I'm in Love", on "Grudges", and evinces Diva-era Annie Lennox on "Forgiveness"."[35] Jon Caramanica from The New York Times noted that Paramore are "single-minded again, but not of the same mind as it once was. Ms. Williams and her bandmates, Zac Farro and Taylor York have remade themselves into a 1980s pop-rock outfit: tinny digital percussion, synthesizers and mostly constrained, saccharine singing from Ms. Williams."[61] In a positive review, The Guardian said the album is "candy-coated bitterness at its best – may steer them away from the Kerrang! crowd, but one thing remains consistent to Paramore’s emo roots – the theatrical mellifluence of internal angst."[43] Newsday praised the album, stating that "the closer Paramore gets to breaking up, the better it gets at finding reasons to stick together," adding that the album "is packed with potential pop hits that only Paramore could deliver. And that’s the perfect reason for the group to keep going."[39]

Iiana Kaplan of Paste said After Laughter is "an undeniably hooky record that strays from its grunge-rock roots and finds the band in a place where they've found the fun in their craft once again." Kaplan also stated that the Williams people love is still around, while noting "Once immersed in the pop-heavy album that is After Laughter, it becomes clear that the less angsty outlook of Paramore is something only surface-level. If you look beneath, it shows Williams battling with herself to make amends ("Forgiveness", "Caught In The Middle") and put on a front to the public ("Fake Happy")."[37] NME wrote: "Catharsis is never usually this joyous, but sometimes smiling through the pain works better than crying."[42] Sputnikmusic said "After Laughter is the first post-2010 Paramore record to truly break form," mentioning "No Friend" and "26" as discography highlights.[54] Pitchfork writer Ryan Dombal described it as the band's most "fizzy" album, adding that it "highlights Williams' most existentially despondent musings to date."[40] The Observer and The Line of Best Fit both said After Laughter is one of the best pop albums of its released year.[41][62]

Accolades[edit]

Publication Accolade Rank Ref.
AllMusic AllMusic's Best Albums of 2017 N/A
Billboard 50 Best Albums of 2017
15
Consequence of Sound Top 50 Albums of 2017
45
Drowned in Sound Favourite Albums of 2017
13
NME Albums of the Year 2017
20
Noisey The 100 Best Albums of 2017
33
NPR The 50 Best Albums of 2017
50
PopMatters The 60 Best Albums of 2017
52
Rolling Stone 50 Best Albums of 2017
25
The Skinny Top 50 Albums of 2017
14
Stereogum The 50 Best Albums of 2017
37
Time Out New York The Best Albums of 2017
8

Commercial performance[edit]

After Laughter debuted at number six on the US Billboard 200, making it their third top 10 on the chart, with 67,000 album-equivalent units, of which 53,000 were pure album sales.[75] It also debuted within the top 10 of seven other countries including Australia, Austria, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, Scotland and the UK. As of November 2017, the album has sold 117,000 copies in the US according to Nielsen Soundscan.

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by Hayley Williams and Taylor York, except where noted.

No.TitleWriter(s)Length
1."Hard Times" 3:02
2."Rose-Colored Boy"
3:32
3."Told You So" 3:08
4."Forgiveness" 3:39
5."Fake Happy" 3:55
6."26" 3:41
7."Pool"
  • Williams
  • York
  • Farro
3:52
8."Grudges"
  • Williams
  • York
  • Farro
3:07
9."Caught in the Middle" 3:34
10."Idle Worship" 3:18
11."No Friend"
3:23
12."Tell Me How" 4:20
Total length:42:31

Personnel[edit]

Credits adapted from AllMusic.[35]

Paramore

  • Hayley Williams – lead and backing vocals, keyboards, percussion, composition
  • Taylor York – guitar, keyboards, percussion, marimba, production, engineering, mixing, programming, composition, backing vocals
  • Zac Farro – drums, keyboards, percussion, bells, composition, backing vocals

Additional personnel

  • Justin Meldal-Johnsen – bass guitar, keyboards, production, engineering, programming
  • Aaron Weiss – vocals, composition (track 11)
  • Zelly Boo Meldal-Johnsen – backing vocals (track 2)
  • David Davidson – violin (track 6)
  • Benjamin Kaufman – violin (track 6)
  • Betsy Lamb – viola (track 6)
  • Claire Indie – cello (track 6)
  • Daniel James – string arrangements (track 6)
  • Carlos de la Garza – engineering, mixing
  • Mike Schuppan – engineering, mixing
  • Kevin Boettger – assistant engineering
  • Dave Cooley – mastering
  • Ken Tisuthiwongse – photo art
  • Scott Cleary – art direction, design
  • Anne Declemente – A&R
  • Steve Robertson – A&R
  • Brian Ranney – packaging
  • Lindsey Byrnes – band photo

Charts[edit]

Chart (2017) Peak
position
Australian Albums (ARIA)[76] 3
Austrian Albums (Ö3 Austria)[77] 10
Belgian Albums (Ultratop Flanders)[78] 24
Belgian Albums (Ultratop Wallonia)[79] 65
Canadian Albums (Billboard)[80] 9
Czech Albums (ČNS IFPI)[81] 57
Dutch Albums (MegaCharts)[82] 17
Finnish Albums (Suomen virallinen lista)[83] 14
French Albums (SNEP)[84] 75
German Albums (Offizielle Top 100)[85] 18
Hungarian Albums (MAHASZ)[86] 36
Irish Albums (IRMA)[87] 4
Italian Albums (FIMI)[88] 14
Mexican Albums (AMPROFON)[89] 10
New Zealand Albums (RMNZ)[90] 7
Norwegian Albums (VG-lista)[91] 24
Portuguese Albums (AFP)[92] 18
Scottish Albums (OCC)[93] 4
Spanish Albums (PROMUSICAE)[94] 15
Swedish Albums (Sverigetopplistan)[95] 19
Swiss Albums (Schweizer Hitparade)[96] 29
UK Albums (OCC)[97] 4
US Vinyl Albums (Billboard)[98] 5
US Digital Albums (Billboard)[99] 4
US Billboard 200[100] 6
US Top Alternative Albums (Billboard)[101] 1
US Top Rock Albums (Billboard)[102] 1

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/Sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[103] Silver 60,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone

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