Amidst all of the disasters and problems that keep stacking in 2020, we are treated with some of the best music we have seen in a while. Apart from the extensively hyped releases we already saw there is one phenomenal solo debut that is confidently taking the spotlight.

Hayley Williams (Paramore) has confirmed a full-length solo album bearing the artistic title Petals For Armor schedule for the 8th of May. In preparation of what we have reasons to believe will be the best album of the year, we were also gifted a 5-track EP teasing what we can expect and shattering all expectations for Hayley’s debut.

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Listen to Petals For Armor I

In 2017 we saw one of the best comebacks in music history. Paramore reunited and put their emotions and experience for the past few years into a soul-touching collection of songs letting us get closer than we have ever been to them. It explored different themes in detail touching on pain, past mistakes, regret, and mental headspace. The band was reborn.

The trio has rightfully decided to take a well-deserved break after this emotional rollercoaster. A break that unexpectedly gave an opportunity for Hayley Williams to face her own demons and finally make the solo debut fans have been fantasizing about for so many years.

 

The likelihood of the solo project allowing the artist to experiment with sounds and themes freely proved right. The first few singles gave Petals For Armor a rapid start and introduced the diverse sonic and vocal motives as well as some very intimate topics hinting this will be the most personal songwriting we have seen from Hayley so far.

As if the joy of witnessing conceptually firm first tracks wasn’t enough Hayley blew us away with another form of preparation for what is to come on the 8th of May. Petals For Armor I – a 5-track EP unveiling a mini-concept of battling various emotions, dealing with post-depression, and realizing individual power and self-sufficiency surprisingly emerged at the start of February.

I consider this not only a tasty gift making us even hungrier for what is to come but a well-calculated move. The EP definitely helps digest part of the immense emotional content the full-length will undoubtedly hold. And it gives us time to process the important takeaways the tracks give us.

 

I’m so ready and so incredibly humbled to get to share this project. Making it was a scary, empowering experience. Some of my proudest moments as a lyricist happened while writing Petals For Armor… I’m excited to let people in to experience a different side of myself that I’ve only very recently become familiar with.

Hayley has always been transparent and honest in her songwriting. Maybe the new level of intimacy comes from the personal experience she had to go through recent years – the stunning metaphors and accurate emotional impact in the five tracks seem like the most honest and personal reflection she could have expressed.

The amount of thought put into the production and arrangement of the songs for the EP is praiseworthy. Each track tells an intimate story displaying highs and lows eventually leading to learned lessons and empowerment. And if the expressive lyrics, wordplay, and small personal references were not enough (let’s not forget those are delivered with highest quality sound), the videos accompanying the songs compliment the already impactful concept incredibly well giving even more closure and illustrative symbolism to think about.

Fun fact – the first song ever where Hayley uses the word “fu*k”

The first track of the EP is also the first single we got the pleasure of hearing. Simmer presents a stunning video narrative and an astonishing kickstart of Hayley’s debut.

Groovy dark instrumentals with orgasmic progression take us through bottled up emotions including anger, anxiety, and depressions to show us how to come out of them refreshed, empowered, and stronger than before. The symbolism and meaning behind the chosen title for the project – Petals For Armor also become clear during the introductory track.

The whole project seems to represent acceptance of true self and ode to feminity – something that shines strong at the end of the Simmer video and matches perfectly with the artist’s experience that led to coming up with the idea.

All aspects of the song display that Williams is in her element – insane instrumental build-up, rapid shift of emotions and moods, incredible singing containing the emotion and passion that went into writing the song. Hayley’s voice goes from tender and cautions to agitated and angry before it finally reaches contempt and liberation from the bottled-up feelings eating away peace and happiness.

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Hayley also did an interesting interview with l-odet – worth the read. The photo belongs to l-odet, taken by Lindsey Byrnes

Simmer starts things in quite the powerful way. The second gift we received – Leave It Alone continues the video narrative from the first single but takes the tone down in a more controlled expression of feelings, visuals, and sound.

Nevertheless, the emotions are still strong and accurate – the battle with demons and negativity continues and shifts towards grieving, fear of love and loss. Very delicate and intimidating feelings Hayley manages to do justice to.

If you know love
You best prepare to grieve
Let it enter your open heart and
Then prepare to let it leave

The whole Petals For Armor seems to be looking into relevant human being worries and breaking taboos of what we should and should not talk about in terms of personal struggles. Leave It Alone definitely hits the hardest, at least for me, and puts very important thought-food on the table.

 

Cinnamon literally takes us to Hayley’s home and bombards us with personal touches. The track itself is minimalistic but this doesn’t stop it from being utterly powerful – we are witnessing a conceptual display of how vulnerability, insecurities, fear, and loneliness turn into confidence, self-acceptance, and empowerment.

Cinnamon also touches on the topic of feminity and displays Hayley finally embracing this side of her personality breaking away from fear and trapping worries. Instead, she shows pride and power that feel incredibly inspiring.

Witness the battle between loneliness and self-sufficiency

In terms of sound, Petals For Armor features a lot of great shifts between soft and mellow approaches to aggressive and sharp elements. This is strongly emphasized in Creepin – a song unveiling a well-constructed metaphor about negative, toxic people and the dangers of relationships with them.

It always starts as something so simple and innocent but
Too much of anything, you’ll never know how to quit, ah

All of this is talked about with haunting honesty and accuracy and the track gets a scary tone at one point. Regardless, Hayley also pays the necessary attention to how tricky but important it is to deal with those situations accordingly.

The last song on Petals For Armor I puts the focus on temptation and lust – other dangerous emotions that need to be approached with caution.

The soft-heavy switches are once again present and Hayley displays admirable vocal qualities in this heartfelt confession. If you have been there – feeling the friction and desire towards someone you know you should not engage with because it will result in long-term pain and hardship (for both people) you know how tricky these urges are. The feelings unavoidably come rushing back on waves and test your control making it hard to resist.

Hayley definitely manages to make listeners tense with Sudden Desire and the accurate depiction of the situation. Combined with the well-timed instrumentals and mood changes it makes this one of the best songs so far (for me at least).

 

It is impressive how much this short 5-track record makes you feel and think about. It makes the expectations for the full-length reach high levels but I am confident Hayley will live up to them anyway.

After the brutal honesty and transparency of After Laughter, we are lucky to see Paramore’s frontwoman personally opening up to the public. When you approach music with the goal to express genuine emotions and overcome traumas it is unavoidable to connect with listeners and touch their hearts in a powerful way. Hayley Williams proved it once again and she also made something very important crystal clear – hardships and struggle are a necessary part of life not existing to bring us down but to help us elevate ourselves and reach a better state of mind.


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