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The song marked a new sonic chapter for Paramore, the Tennessee-born group that cut its teeth playing big-riffed pop-rock songs on Warped Tour stages before largely embracing ‘80s-fueled New Wave on 2017 album After Laughter. For the band’s sixth studio effort—also called This Is Why and released in early 2023—Paramore drew inspiration from indie-rock band Bloc Party, post-punk favorites Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and the post-hardcore outfit Glassjaw.
The end result? A collection of guitar-and-drum rock songs that again redefines what a Paramore album can be. And arguably no song captures This Is Why like the sprawling, self-aware title track.
Making “This Is Why”
Cut in Los Angeles with tenured California producer Carlos de la Garza (known for working with M83 and Jimmy Eat World amongst others), the title track and lead single for This Is Why almost didn’t happen. It was the last song cut for the album, at the urging of Paramore guitarist Taylor York.
“To be honest, I was so tired of writing lyrics, but Taylor convinced [drummer] Zac [Farro] and I both that we should work on this last idea,” singer Hayley Williams said when the song debuted. “What came out of it was the title track for the whole album.”
Between York’s progressive alt-rock riffs and Farro’s eccentric rhythms, Williams dove head-first into a story of exhaustion, paranoia, and frustration inspired by a perpetually-online generation. The song doesn’t directly address the emotional wear-and-tear many felt after 2020—a year that included a heated presidential election, the COVID-19 pandemic, and a summer of protests for racial equality—but it captures “the plethora of ridiculous emotions, the rollercoaster of being alive in 2022, having survived even just the last three or four years,” Williams said.
“You’d think after a global pandemic of fucking biblical proportions and the impending doom of a dying planet, that humans would have found it deep within themselves to be kinder or more empathetic or something,” she said.
In the first verse and chorus to “This Is Why,” Williams sings:
If you have an opinion
Maybe you should shove it
Or maybe you could scream it
Might be best to keep it
To yourself (to yourself)
This is why I don’t leave the house
You say the coast is clear
But you won’t catch me out
Oh, why? This is why
In 2022, Williams likened digesting the news online to being in the psychologically straining novel Lord of the Flies, she told The Guardian.
“When I was writing the lyrics, I was like, this social experiment—the Internet—has been going wrong since day one,” Williams said at the time. “It exposes and exploits the general population’s blatant disregard for nuance.”
Music Video and Grammy Award Nominations
The message resonated with listeners. Paramore took “This Is Why” on the road in 2023, playing arguably the band’s biggest tour to date, with buzzed-about appearances at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival and Boston Calling, plus multiple nights at the Kia Forum in Los Angeles and Madison Square Garden in New York City.
“This Is Why” reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Alternative Airplay chart, marking the first chart-topping entry on alt-rock radio in the band’s career (Paramore song “Ain’t It Fun” reached No. 1 on Adult Pop Airplay in 2014, according to Billboard). The song included a campy, off-kilter music video directed by Brandon Yates of hardcore heavyweight Turnstile and received an MTV VMA nomination in 2023.
And Grammy Award voters appreciated what Paramore achieved with “This Is Why,” as well. The song earned a 2024 nomination for Best Alternative Music Performance, a category that includes entries from worthy peers boygenius, Alvvays, Arctic Monkeys, and Lana Del Rey. Additionally, the entire This Is Why release received a nod in the Best Rock Album category.
“We threw caution to the wind,” Farro told NME about making “This Is Why.” He added, “With the other songs, we knew what we wanted, but with this one, we were following the song.”
Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for The New Yorker