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How Paramore’s After Laughter Got Me Through the Hardest Year of My Life

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 fascinating to wonder what it is that brought them back to reality. So, that’s what After Laughter  is.” – Hayley Williams

The night before After Laughter’s  release, I stayed up late, eagerly waiting for the album to drop at midnight. When it did, I jumped right in and started sampling all the songs. I glanced over the song titles and considered their meanings as I listened closely to the lyrics. The main thing that stood out to me about this album was the stark contrast between the dark lyrics and the upbeat tunes.

I was expecting this album to pick up where their last one left off—on a hopeful, optimistic note. Instead, After Laughter  focuses on the perils of life, with a heavy emphasis on the way they affect us. Quite understandably, the production of this was a dark time for Paramore, both as a band and for its individual members, which is reflected in their music.

At that point, I was also going through some dark times. Since the beginning of that year, I’d slowly watched my dad lose his possessions in an effort to pay his rent.

He struggled to keep up and only fell behind more and more as the months went by and the debt piled up. All the while I was living away at school, a two-hour drive away from home. I felt helpless because I couldn’t help my dad pay rent, nor could I be there for him in person. I also felt intensely lonely—I didn’t want to trouble my friends or roommates with my problems, as I knew they all had plenty on their own plates to deal with. I kept it all to myself, suffering in silence, and hanging onto the small hopes that we, as a family, would get through it.

And so I coped by listening to music. After Laughter  became something of my musical therapy during these trying times. “Hard Times” and “Told You So” were two songs that I listened to repeatedly in the few months leading up to the album’s full release. I remember “Hard Times” being the initial shocker for me, with its somber lyrics against a dance-y pop melody. “Told You So” was released soon after and elaborated on themes of suffering, being sad, and losing hope.

Around that time, my dad had just sold many of his belongings, and the prospect of losing our home became a serious possibility. The timing of each song’s release couldn’t have been more perfect; “Hard Times” got straight to the point with its poignant opening lines, “All that I want is to wake up fine/Tell me that I’m alright, that I ain’t gonna die.” These words captured exactly how I felt all throughout 2017—how I’d wake up every morning dreading to face the day and feeling defeated before the day had even begun. Its overall message was that hard times are just what we call them—hard. They will make you feel like giving up is the only way to escape them.

The song “Told You So” also opened with some dreadful lyrics: “For all I know/The best is over and the worst is yet to come.” These words haunted me from the time the song was released to the end of July; my dad’s situation had worsened, and we had to pack up and leave the house before the landlord evicted us by the end of summer.

It was incredibly stressful for my family, and I didn’t feel as if I had enough time to fully process what was happening. We were about to lose the house we’d lived in for most of my life. It wasn’t just a house to me—it was home, a rare source of stability. All summer long, I reflected on the memories my family had created in that house, and I thought how none of us ever imagined it would end this way.

I truly believed that things would never get better, that everything good was over and done with.

Another song with depressing opening lyrics is “Caught In the Middle.” It starts out with a set of lines similar to those at the beginning of The Cure’s “In Between Days”: “I can’t think of getting old/It only makes me want to die/And I can’t think of who I was/’cause it just makes me want to cry, cry, cry.” These lines share the same initial sentiment as “Told You So”—that the present times are rough and I should’ve appreciated the past better than I had instead of taking it for granted.

The song reinforces this idea and states, “nostalgia’s cool, but it won’t help me now,” and these particular words hit me hard. Since I knew we were going to lose our home soon, I constantly reminisced about the times my family had there. The memories never cheered me up—instead, they made the current situation more upsetting. I didn’t want to think about the future because it seemed incredibly bleak, nor did I want to look to the past because it only reminded me of better times that had passed by. All the while, the present didn’t look great either—I felt that I was stuck between past and future, trapped in a hellish reality.

Because of this, I became very bitter as the months went by. I couldn’t help but feel like I was constantly being forced to create a façade of happiness, when in reality I was falling apart. I had a crush—who’d also been my best friend at school at the time—who I’d talk to about my problems. However, I grew frustrated because he never seemed to understand where I was coming from. I’d often feel unheard and dismissed, as he’d divert the conversation to something else entirely when I told him about my issues. He also didn’t like it when I wasn’t available because I was busy packing and preparing to move out of my home with my family.

He seemed to expect me to be happy whenever I interacted with him. There was one day in particular where I had “Rose-Colored Boy” playing on repeat for these very reasons. The song’s chorus perfectly captured how I felt about him in that moment: “Just let me cry a little bit longer/I ain’t gon’ smile if I don’t want to/Hey man we all can’t be like you/I wish we were all rose-colored too.”

At that point in time, I was bitter and mad at the world for what my family was going through. Although I had come to accept my miserable state, I was frustrated because I felt like he didn’t seem to care about what I was going through.

I felt like I had to put on a happy face for my crush. I started to feel guilty if I was sad around him, so I tried not to let it show. “Fake Happy” was the song that helped me cope with my guilt as I did this as well as when I put on a fake smile around others, though they had no idea what I was going through. Ever since I first heard the lines, “And I bet everybody here/Is just as insincere/We’re all so fake happy,” It made me think about how everyone’s most likely going through something at any given time, and how we’d never know others’ troubles unless they decided to open up and tell. I thought of how sad it is that we all insist we’re doing well if asked how we are, when on the inside we want to say that we’re not.

By the end of the summer, we lost our house, and soon after, things ended badly between my crush and me. While I knew we were losing our home, the breakup was something I never thought could happen. Although I was the one who chose to end things, it still destroyed me because I’d invested so much into making it work with someone who didn’t truly love or care about me. I’d known him for almost a year and it was difficult to not have him in my life anymore.

Near the end of “Fake Happy” there’s a line that says, “I should’ve known when things were going good, that’s when I’d get knocked down”; all that time I convinced myself that things between us were good, but when I was slapped into reality, everything quickly went downhill. A conversation I’d had with a loved one opened my eyes to the harsh truth; she asked me if there were things he insisted that I change about myself. There were a lot. Then, she asked if there was anything I’d change about him—when I said no in a heartbeat, I knew I had my answer.

Two other songs from After Laughter also helped me cope with the breakup: “Forgiveness” and “Pool.” In “Forgiveness” Hayley Williams sings, “How I thought I could love someone/I hadn’t even begun,” a line that resonated with me whenever I’d think back on time spent with him. In hindsight, it was all an illusion, and we hadn’t even scratched the surface of true love.

“Pool” further elaborates on this theme of illusory love; it’s a song about giving someone you love second chances even when they mess up and hurt you. The first verse opens with, “As if the first cut wasn’t deep enough/I dove in again ’cause I’m not into giving up”; the second verse then mirrors the first with, “As if the first blood didn’t thrill enough/I went further out to see what else was left of us.”

These lyrics helped me deal with the frustration of having held onto something that ultimately caused more harm the harder I clung to this false reality. I’d always make excuses for things he’d say or do, and overlook every red flag in the name of love. I insisted he really cared about me even though he would always attempt to turn my nos into yeses, and I convinced myself that he liked the person I already was even when he’d ask me to change the way I acted or looked, when I had never asked that of him.

The lines, “drain the fantasy of you/headfirst into shallow pools” captured how I constantly felt during the brief time we were trying to form a relationship. When stripped of all emotion and excitement of starting something new with someone, our budding relationship wasn’t actually all that good or healthy.

At the end of the year I was still dealing with the aftermath of the worst summer I’d ever had—all while listening to After Laughter  on repeat and thinking about the relatively new experiences of profound loss. The song that most exemplifies how I felt after everything transpired is “26,” specifically the lines: “Reality will break your heart/Survival will not be the hardest part/It’s keeping all your hopes alive/When all the rest of you has died/So let it break your heart.”

I lost a best friend, a home, and two beloved pets that we had to relocate as a result of the move. In the end, I learned that nothing is permanent and that we should embrace the present so that we can say we did, when the good times are over. As Hayley Williams put it so eloquently, “After Laughter is about the look on people’s faces when they’re done laughing.” For me, this moment after the laughter is over is exactly how I felt for the entirety of 2017. At the very least, I had this album to lean on in a time when my world was falling apart.

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ENGAGE IN THE CONVERSATION

How Paramore’s After Laughter Got Me Through the Hardest Year of My Life

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 fascinating to wonder what it is that brought them back to reality. So, that’s what After Laughter  is.” – Hayley Williams

The night before After Laughter’s  release, I stayed up late, eagerly waiting for the album to drop at midnight. When it did, I jumped right in and started sampling all the songs. I glanced over the song titles and considered their meanings as I listened closely to the lyrics. The main thing that stood out to me about this album was the stark contrast between the dark lyrics and the upbeat tunes.

I was expecting this album to pick up where their last one left off—on a hopeful, optimistic note. Instead, After Laughter  focuses on the perils of life, with a heavy emphasis on the way they affect us. Quite understandably, the production of this was a dark time for Paramore, both as a band and for its individual members, which is reflected in their music.

At that point, I was also going through some dark times. Since the beginning of that year, I’d slowly watched my dad lose his possessions in an effort to pay his rent.

He struggled to keep up and only fell behind more and more as the months went by and the debt piled up. All the while I was living away at school, a two-hour drive away from home. I felt helpless because I couldn’t help my dad pay rent, nor could I be there for him in person. I also felt intensely lonely—I didn’t want to trouble my friends or roommates with my problems, as I knew they all had plenty on their own plates to deal with. I kept it all to myself, suffering in silence, and hanging onto the small hopes that we, as a family, would get through it.

And so I coped by listening to music. After Laughter  became something of my musical therapy during these trying times. “Hard Times” and “Told You So” were two songs that I listened to repeatedly in the few months leading up to the album’s full release. I remember “Hard Times” being the initial shocker for me, with its somber lyrics against a dance-y pop melody. “Told You So” was released soon after and elaborated on themes of suffering, being sad, and losing hope.

Around that time, my dad had just sold many of his belongings, and the prospect of losing our home became a serious possibility. The timing of each song’s release couldn’t have been more perfect; “Hard Times” got straight to the point with its poignant opening lines, “All that I want is to wake up fine/Tell me that I’m alright, that I ain’t gonna die.” These words captured exactly how I felt all throughout 2017—how I’d wake up every morning dreading to face the day and feeling defeated before the day had even begun. Its overall message was that hard times are just what we call them—hard. They will make you feel like giving up is the only way to escape them.

The song “Told You So” also opened with some dreadful lyrics: “For all I know/The best is over and the worst is yet to come.” These words haunted me from the time the song was released to the end of July; my dad’s situation had worsened, and we had to pack up and leave the house before the landlord evicted us by the end of summer.

It was incredibly stressful for my family, and I didn’t feel as if I had enough time to fully process what was happening. We were about to lose the house we’d lived in for most of my life. It wasn’t just a house to me—it was home, a rare source of stability. All summer long, I reflected on the memories my family had created in that house, and I thought how none of us ever imagined it would end this way.

I truly believed that things would never get better, that everything good was over and done with.

Another song with depressing opening lyrics is “Caught In the Middle.” It starts out with a set of lines similar to those at the beginning of The Cure’s “In Between Days”: “I can’t think of getting old/It only makes me want to die/And I can’t think of who I was/’cause it just makes me want to cry, cry, cry.” These lines share the same initial sentiment as “Told You So”—that the present times are rough and I should’ve appreciated the past better than I had instead of taking it for granted.

The song reinforces this idea and states, “nostalgia’s cool, but it won’t help me now,” and these particular words hit me hard. Since I knew we were going to lose our home soon, I constantly reminisced about the times my family had there. The memories never cheered me up—instead, they made the current situation more upsetting. I didn’t want to think about the future because it seemed incredibly bleak, nor did I want to look to the past because it only reminded me of better times that had passed by. All the while, the present didn’t look great either—I felt that I was stuck between past and future, trapped in a hellish reality.

Because of this, I became very bitter as the months went by. I couldn’t help but feel like I was constantly being forced to create a façade of happiness, when in reality I was falling apart. I had a crush—who’d also been my best friend at school at the time—who I’d talk to about my problems. However, I grew frustrated because he never seemed to understand where I was coming from. I’d often feel unheard and dismissed, as he’d divert the conversation to something else entirely when I told him about my issues. He also didn’t like it when I wasn’t available because I was busy packing and preparing to move out of my home with my family.

He seemed to expect me to be happy whenever I interacted with him. There was one day in particular where I had “Rose-Colored Boy” playing on repeat for these very reasons. The song’s chorus perfectly captured how I felt about him in that moment: “Just let me cry a little bit longer/I ain’t gon’ smile if I don’t want to/Hey man we all can’t be like you/I wish we were all rose-colored too.”

At that point in time, I was bitter and mad at the world for what my family was going through. Although I had come to accept my miserable state, I was frustrated because I felt like he didn’t seem to care about what I was going through.

I felt like I had to put on a happy face for my crush. I started to feel guilty if I was sad around him, so I tried not to let it show. “Fake Happy” was the song that helped me cope with my guilt as I did this as well as when I put on a fake smile around others, though they had no idea what I was going through. Ever since I first heard the lines, “And I bet everybody here/Is just as insincere/We’re all so fake happy,” It made me think about how everyone’s most likely going through something at any given time, and how we’d never know others’ troubles unless they decided to open up and tell. I thought of how sad it is that we all insist we’re doing well if asked how we are, when on the inside we want to say that we’re not.

By the end of the summer, we lost our house, and soon after, things ended badly between my crush and me. While I knew we were losing our home, the breakup was something I never thought could happen. Although I was the one who chose to end things, it still destroyed me because I’d invested so much into making it work with someone who didn’t truly love or care about me. I’d known him for almost a year and it was difficult to not have him in my life anymore.

Near the end of “Fake Happy” there’s a line that says, “I should’ve known when things were going good, that’s when I’d get knocked down”; all that time I convinced myself that things between us were good, but when I was slapped into reality, everything quickly went downhill. A conversation I’d had with a loved one opened my eyes to the harsh truth; she asked me if there were things he insisted that I change about myself. There were a lot. Then, she asked if there was anything I’d change about him—when I said no in a heartbeat, I knew I had my answer.

Two other songs from After Laughter also helped me cope with the breakup: “Forgiveness” and “Pool.” In “Forgiveness” Hayley Williams sings, “How I thought I could love someone/I hadn’t even begun,” a line that resonated with me whenever I’d think back on time spent with him. In hindsight, it was all an illusion, and we hadn’t even scratched the surface of true love.

“Pool” further elaborates on this theme of illusory love; it’s a song about giving someone you love second chances even when they mess up and hurt you. The first verse opens with, “As if the first cut wasn’t deep enough/I dove in again ’cause I’m not into giving up”; the second verse then mirrors the first with, “As if the first blood didn’t thrill enough/I went further out to see what else was left of us.”

These lyrics helped me deal with the frustration of having held onto something that ultimately caused more harm the harder I clung to this false reality. I’d always make excuses for things he’d say or do, and overlook every red flag in the name of love. I insisted he really cared about me even though he would always attempt to turn my nos into yeses, and I convinced myself that he liked the person I already was even when he’d ask me to change the way I acted or looked, when I had never asked that of him.

The lines, “drain the fantasy of you/headfirst into shallow pools” captured how I constantly felt during the brief time we were trying to form a relationship. When stripped of all emotion and excitement of starting something new with someone, our budding relationship wasn’t actually all that good or healthy.

At the end of the year I was still dealing with the aftermath of the worst summer I’d ever had—all while listening to After Laughter  on repeat and thinking about the relatively new experiences of profound loss. The song that most exemplifies how I felt after everything transpired is “26,” specifically the lines: “Reality will break your heart/Survival will not be the hardest part/It’s keeping all your hopes alive/When all the rest of you has died/So let it break your heart.”

I lost a best friend, a home, and two beloved pets that we had to relocate as a result of the move. In the end, I learned that nothing is permanent and that we should embrace the present so that we can say we did, when the good times are over. As Hayley Williams put it so eloquently, “After Laughter is about the look on people’s faces when they’re done laughing.” For me, this moment after the laughter is over is exactly how I felt for the entirety of 2017. At the very least, I had this album to lean on in a time when my world was falling apart.

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