Top 10 best Paramore songs of all time

Top 10 best Paramore songs of all time
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Photo credit: Pooneh Ghana

As one of the most defining bands of the century thus far, it’s hard to find someone born between the mid-90s and early 2000s who hasn’t been shaped, at least in some way, by Paramore. The band continues to go from strength to strength as they evolve with the times; riding the emo wave of the early 2000s as a staple on everyone’s high school iPod playlists, to brandishing more outwardly 80s pop nostalgia tones in their latest releases. One of the keys to Paramore’s unwavering success to date is lead singer Hayley Williams: a cultural icon not just as one of the most notable females in a male-dominated genre, but for her relatively unmatched talent and vocal versatility (remember her feature on ‘Airplanes’ by B.o.B.?!).

As I lay on my bed this morning thinking of fresh new ways to ruffle feathers, it hit me: why not embark upon the impossible task of narrowing down my top 10 favourite Paramore tracks of all time? It’s been really difficult to confine the list to a mere 10 for a band with 16 years behind them and a seemingly flawless discography, so let me just caveat this with a declaration of it being purely subjective (i.e. don’t kill me for where I’ve placed ‘Decode’). But without further ado, here are the songs that have kept me coming back, even after all these year:

Number 10: Decode

I had to include this one due to its appeal to the emo fringe-in-your-eye-as-you’re-singing-to-the-Edward-Cullen-poster-on-your-wall-wearing-3-studded-belts-that-serve-no-purpose masses. I don’t think there’s anything left to say about ‘Decode’ that hasn’t been said already, but the very fact that it’s been immortalised as a classic Paramore track purely because of its use in the Twilight film is also what’s always slightly tainted it for me, reducing it to a bit of a novelty single. It’s still a great song, with a hauntingly shrill guitar solo and an unrestrained vocal range, but part of Paramore’s appeal has always derived from witty lyricism around personal experiences and, as this serves solely to support a film plot, the lack of intimacy in the lyrics is why it sits firmly at number 10. 

Number 9: Playing God

‘Brand New Eyes’ is probably still the best Paramore album to date and every track contributes to that in its own right, so it’s no surprise that ‘Playing God’ is still a go-to Paramore favourite for me. Despite the slower opening, the pop punk powerhouse of a song is a strong contender for the ultimate break-up single of all time, with a sing-along chorus and strong heaping of teen angst as Hayley venomously spits out, “next time you point a finger, I might have to bend it back and break it, break it off.” The band has Christian roots, and the track is said to be based around the constraint put on Hayley and former Paramore lead guitarist Jack Farro’s relationship due to their differing ideas on faith. It’s a call out of hypocrisy and this, coupled with the song title, makes it a declaration of self-empowerment wrapped in infectious lyricism.

Number 8: Fences

On a personal note, this song was one of the only sources of solace I found on god awful school bus rides home, but on a general note, ‘Fences’ is extremely of its time – forever enshrined in the heart of the 2007 emo scene. Seemingly upbeat on the surface with smiled-through staccato vocals and a rockabilly tempo, the lyrics weave a more sinister story: “and it’s obvious that you’re dying, dying. It’s living proof that the camera’s lying.” I used to skip over this track until I fully listened and realised it’s an account of life in the limelight and the illusion of being fake happy. The instrumentals almost have a rollercoaster-like effect to them which conveys this anxiety-inducing façade well.

Number 7: Rose-Colored Boy 

Find me someone, anyone, who doesn’t enjoy this song. The band’s pop undertones had already started to seep through before their ‘After Laughter’ era, but ‘Rose-Colored Boy’ is all-encompassing unbridled pop at its best. The track forces pep in your step, and is yet another example of Paramore’s ability to sugarcoat darker lyricism with pretty and digestible synth beats. Tackling the stigma around depression and mental health issues, Hayley proclaims “just let me cry a little bit longer!” in sweet-like-candy vocals. It’s easy to see how Paramore have maintained their longevity and relevance in music when they continue to bring substance to addictive melodies.

Number 6: For a Pessimist, I’m Pretty Optimistic

Nothing embodies the aggro spirit of 2007 music more than vengeful bitter lyrics and fast-paced pit-ready guitar riffs. As the opening track to their album ‘Riot!’, it incites just that, and nicely sets the tone for the rest of the track list. For a song about betrayal, the instrumentals do a good job of mirroring the spectrum of emotions that come with this, breaking up the narrative with a sort of in-disbelief-spoken-word pre-chorus.

Number 5: crushcrushcrush

There was once a time when I couldn’t stand the infantile whisper of ‘crush crush crush’, but now it’s as though its playful nature serves to perfectly set up the full-on air-punching two-stepping chorus. The one thing I’ve always appreciated most about this song, however, is how it’s always felt like the melody is carried and led purely by the guitars taking front and centre stage, as opposed to the vocals. 

Number 4: Now

Adrenalising from the first guitar lick and only further intensifying as it progresses, ‘Now’ has an abrupt-pace and war-like call-to-arms to it. Despite having the same energy and commanding-nature as some of their most popular titles, ‘Now’ marked a slight deviation from the typical Paramore sound up until that point, owed to the change in band members of their 2013 self-titled album upon which the track was featured. The magnitude of the vocals make it an instant stadium-filler in my opinion, with any smaller venue performances only serving to stifle its scale. 

Number 3: Ignorance

3 minutes and 39 seconds of pure unrelentless exhilaration, ‘Ignorance’ is to Paramore what ‘Break Stuff’ is to Limp Bizkit: a demand to lash out and let loose. Anger is Paramore’s stronghold, and this embodies just that with a cacophony of frenzied guitars, explosive riffs, and accusatory yelling. The menacing vocals are a testament to Hayley’s ability to match the heightened instrumentals without being drowned out, making the attitude-heavy message all the more powerful. 

Number 2: Careful

It’s probably the un-hottest take of the decade to have ‘Careful’ as my number 2 all time favourite track by Paramore, but it’s not going anywhere any time soon. It’s still got the emo lyrics and catchy hooks that skyrocketed the band to fame initially, but demonstrates Paramore’s progression from their ‘Riot!’ era with fully-controlled vocals and a ‘heed my warning’-esque tinge to the lyrics: “You can’t be too careful anymore when all that is waiting for you, won’t come any closer, you’ve got to reach out.”

Number 1: Misery Business

I know, I know! But it’s their most popular song for a reason, right? I’m aware that Hayley herself is no longer a fan of the internalised misogynistic nature of the song, but learning curve aside, it’s a timeless classic that I truly believe has the potential to unify people of all backgrounds. I can’t think of a single occasion that would not make me want to sing along when I hear it. And just how many red hair phases do you think are owed to Hayley Williams’ infamous fiery locks?! Add to that the fact that the song has aged like fine wine – which is hard to do in a rapidly-changing music scene – and ‘Misery Business’ remains their best song to date. Paramore have always been great at disguising pop songs as rock, making them digestible for both mainstream and niche audiences, and this is the song that trailblazed it all.

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Lucinda