Midway through After Laughter, Hayley Williams quietly offers a much needed dose of wisdom on "26" - "hold onto hope if you got it/ don't let it go for nobody / and they say that dreaming is free/ but I wouldn't care what it cost me." Williams nearly whispers this chorus, her bandmates providing a sparse, clean backing of gorgeous rising strings that makes the declaration all the more powerful. In an album of continual empowerment and honesty, this line feels like a summation of After Laughter. Over 12-tracks, Paramore gives fans a reason to hope; a reminder that even in the midst of our darkest days, there's a beam of sunshine just waiting to be found. Perhaps, even more importantly, the album conveys that no matter how bad we're feeling we're not alone in these struggles.
After Laughter begins with the jubilant, vintage 80s pop sheen of "Hard Times", a pumping anthem that stands in stark contrast to the depression it discusses. The track is a neon sign beckoning in the darkness of night, with Williams opening about the perpetual dark rain cloud that seems to loom overhead and the rock bottom that awaits her fall. It's the first in a series of inspiring and relatable looks at the struggles of growing up and growing into yourself. The fun and tropical vibes continue on follow up "Rose Colored Boy" - a biting call to a perpetually positive person to just let Williams wallow for a bit and again on the shimmering "Pool" - a dark look at the all consuming emotions of love that can drown you much like the deep end of a pool. Even when the party subsides, like on the heartbreaking beginnings of "Fake Happy" that rapidly picks up to take on the conception of going out and going through life with a smile even when you're feeling under the weather, Paramore continually provides a much needed platform to discuss the highs and lows of life and how that affects us all. And while Williams may challenge fans not to idolize or look to the stage for their heroes on "Idle Worship", it's the frank, unwavering honesty that lingers throughout this record that makes her my hero.
On my darkest days, when the tears won't quit falling or I feel totally alone, After Laughter is an everlasting reminder that everyone has something they're dealing with. We can hide our fears and struggles and solider on as if we're fine, but maybe we'd be better off to admit that a rain cloud seems to be following us, that things didn't go our way and that our life isn't as perfect as our Instagram depicts.
The album ends with one final and instantly memorable line from Williams - "I can still believe." And as much as the world turns to darkness around us, and as bad as we may feel in this second, it's an unshakable reminder to never give up, to just try to believe.