Hayley Williams has fed us delicious chunks of her solo debut for the past three months and it has been an incredible process. However, nothing could prepare us enough for experiencing the full-length Petals For Armor with all of its wisdom, growth, personal stories, and brilliant symbolism.
I think this is one of the albums that need to be heard in their full glory despite the clever thematic separation into smaller EPs – playing it from start to end unveils an overwhelming amount of personal growth and learned lessons we can all take something away from. And since all of this is supported by a mix of familiar musical influences and uncharted territories I believe Petals For Armor needs to be talked about.
Listen toPetals For Armor
Hayley Williams’ debut is one of those albums that take time and several replays to fully comprehend. Grasping the incredible amount of detail, references, wordplay, metaphors, and symbolism packed in the fifteen tracks is not an easy task but it is incredibly satisfying.
Perhaps this is the reason Hayley decided to release the project in small digestible chunks. The full-length was distributed in three 5-track EPs starting with the first instalment on the 6th of February.
Separating the album tracklist certainly makes sense as each of the 5-track EPs looks at a different stage of a journey of personal growth and dissects different emotions. However, I truly believe the album is stronger heard as a whole – the coherent and clear path of self-exploration Hayley has taken and allowed us to observe is really astonishing and it is garnished with noteworthy musical influences and experimentations.
The start of it all. A beautiful one.
There is the familiar scent of Paramore’s After Laughter during the course of the album. A lot of the songs have the same energy and topics understandably overlap. The signature synth-wave, electronic touches, and alt-pop sound can easily be felt together with the dancy beats and uplifting tones.
This doesn’t mean the two records are the same – exactly the opposite, the differences and progress are evident. All of the After Laughter elements are well merged with Hayley’s experimental side leading to a bold entrance into new realms of music for the artist.
The solo full-length is a transitional record that explores one of the hardest stages of individual development. It is a whole phase of the artist’s life and contains a lot of emotionally heavy elements that lead to a heartwarming conclusion – overcoming fear and accepting vulnerability by taking risks. It is a process of going through the darkest paths to reach the brightest places serving as an empowering reminder for all of us struggling with various personal setbacks.
Listen and remember
The tracklist is diverse and truly fascinating. Contrasting dark elements take turns with light and uplifting motives, often intertwining in one song to create a beautiful fusion which is present in real life as well. The record as a whole manages to capture the process of overcoming depression and negativity in all its hardship, struggle, glory, and beauty.
A lot of it is dedicated to the challenges of dealing with hurtful past experiences. Simmer, Leave It Alone, Dead Horse, and Why We Ever all accent on the past that has left scars and reoccurring thought torturing the artist.
Despite including some very dark elements, the record is far from saddening or emotionally overwhelming (okay, maybe at times it is). Actually, there is a great balance with uplifting and empowering tracks which remind of individual strength and call for more self-love, tolerance, and appreciation – Cinnamon, Roses/Lotus/Violet/Iris, Pure Love, Watch Me As I Bloom, and Crystal Clear all have soul-nurturing ingredients that derive inspiration from the darker tracks.
For example, Roses/Lotus/Violet/Iris – one of the most beautiful songs on the record – uses clever metaphors and striking symbolism to convey the message of appreciating personal growth and respecting individual journeys (it also discards toxic comparison and constant competition for “happiness”).
And I will not compare
Other beauty to mine
And I will not become
A thorn in my own side
And I will not return
To where I once was
The symbolism and metaphors are a big part of Petals For Armor and have a crucial role in grasping the messages of the record.
Some symbols that appeared in After Laughter are further expanded on to bring the closing chapters of the themes revolving around past relationships. Dead Horse, Sudden Desire, Crystal Clear, and Leave it Alone are such tracks bringing back water as a symbol of a relationship and all the side-effects it can create.
The catchiest song on the record with one of the best videos I have seen
New symbols are also taking important roles – gardens and flowers are a core element in the whole Petals For Armor. Visible in songs like Roses/Lotus/Violet/Iris and Watch Me As I Bloom they represent growth and development in an accurate way.
The album is diverse – it is not limited to the necessity of darkness to bring out the brightest light. It also involves relationships concerning Hayley’s friends as well as her own personal traits drawing her back from happiness. I find this impressive as usually the more elements an album tries to fit in, the harder it is to make it work. Petals For Armor makes this look easy.
My Friend and Why We Ever are both dedicated to important people in the artist’s live – My Friend a touching tribute to Brian O’Connor (her best friend) and Why We Ever an emotional ballad expressing the longing to reconnect with someone who you no longer have the same relationship with.
Fear and past traumas fuse with a very important aspect of personal growth in the final part of Petals For Armor. It highlights the process of letting go of burdens and overthinking, living in the past, and holding on to painful memories. It represents getting out of the depressive state by blooming in an inspirational explosion.
Even though this is rightfully saved for the closing acts of the record (Pure Love, Taken, Sugar On The Rim, Watch Me As I Bloom, Crystal Clear) the hints appear in other songs as well. It starts with Cinnamon sending the message of the liberation with self-sufficiency and continues with Over Yet – an explosive electro-punk-pop track stating that a depressive episode is not the end of the story.
The last five tracks (EP III) cement the purpose of Petals For Armor and complete the metamorphosis it represents. Starting with Pure Love – admitting the need to open up and trust in others again despite the past experiences and smoothly following with Taken and Sugar On The Rim – bringing back the strong metaphors, this time to illustrate overcoming traumas and accepting risks in the name of happiness.
The last two songs on the tracklist are my personal favourites and the ones I think are most inspiring and relevant for the concept. They signal Hayley’s improvement after all the struggle and hardship and if this is not enough to bring the mood up the final acts of the journey use uplifting build-up and lyrical content to send a message of accepting the past as a necessary part of the present and future and using it as a source of growth instead of a setback.
Petals For Armor is a very intense but worthwhile journey. A great solo debut and a promising hint about the future of both Hayley and Paramore as a band. I keep replaying the record and finding new details and interesting elements I missed in my previous sessions – if this is not a sign of a masterpiece I don’t know what is.
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