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The Paramore frontwoman steps aside to bare all, literally.
Published: 28/01/2020   Author: Sydney Spraker
Photo: Hayley Williams, via YouTube
In the weeks leading up to Hayley Williams’s new single, “Simmer,” Paramore fans were excitedly scrambling to put together the puzzle that was Petals for Armor. Take it from me — I first stumbled across the project’s Instagram page back in November of last year. After making a Tweet about it that I expected to be intriguing to maybe five people, a storm began to swell. Dozens of people started to speculate, and I was refreshing my notifications every two minutes. The obscure Instagram account that I found with 18 followers soon gained hundreds, then thousands. Turns out, I and other Paramore fans were onto something. Come December, Hayley revealed with a screenshotted Notes entry and a flower emoji that new music would be coming soon. Not a Paramore album this time, but something of her own.

“Simmer” is the world’s first glimpse into the previously plant-shrouded mystery: Petals for Armor, Williams’s debut solo album. The song and video are an intimate view of Hayley unleashed. We’ve seen and heard her raw emotion through Paramore lyrics in the past, but this feels different somehow. Sharper.

The track begins with a pulsing tone, followed by vocal percussion and hums that layer and loop (think: Kimbra circa Vows). Then, we hear gasping breaths and a long exhale that meets a fuller instrumental ensemble. The first verse speaks to how anger can creep in; it’s one of those emotions that can explode from you, seemingly out of nowhere:

Rage is a quiet thing / Ooh, you think that you’ve tamed it / But it’s just lying in wait

The chorus breaks into a groovy search for a way to keep that rage at bay and repeats the word that gives the song its title:

Oh, how to draw the line between wrath and mercy? / Simmer, simmer, simmer, simmer, simmer down
The second verse, though, is where things get real. Really real. Here’s the full verse:

If I had seen my reflection as something more precious / He would’ve never… / And if my child needed protection / From a fucker like that man / I’d sooner gut him / ‘Cause nothing cuts like a mother (give in)

Paramore fans aren’t used to Williams swearing in songs, but most of us aren’t complaining. The line in the song is shocking, but that’s exactly what we’re here for—a new look into the Hayley that so many of us grew up with. Her acute honesty is part of what makes her such a talented lyricist. F-bombs aside, the verse creates a vivid scene: a mother killing a man to shield her child. A woman allowing herself to be angry to protect what she loves.

The imagery takes a sharp turn during the bridge, turning away from blood and fury and instead to flowers and strength. Echoey, rippling vocals repeat the lines:

Wrap yourself in petals / Petals for armor

Williams talked about these lyrics in her interview with BBC Radio 1 and explained that the image comes from a vision she had during a therapy session, where flowers were growing from her body. However, the vision wasn’t as lovely as it sounds. According to her, it was painful and grotesque. She found meaning in the vision, though, and wrote it into the song, saying that the words served as a reminder to “stay soft” and welcome painful experiences because vulnerability is where strength lives. And thus, an album name (and Instagram page) was born.

If “Simmer” is any indication of the music to come, I already know it will be a real, raw, emotional ride and nothing short of spectacular. Having grown up listening to Paramore and viewing Hayley Williams not only as an inspiration, but also as a friend I’ve never met, I’m ready for this new adventure, and other listeners are, too. And Hayley, if you’re reading this, I know I broke your cover for your secret project, but it’s turning out to be as beautiful as anyone could have hoped.

“Simmer” is available to stream now, and you can watch the video above. Petals for Armor comes out May 8, 2020.

Sydney is a writer and editor from Washington, DC. She loves singing, making people laugh, speaking French, and hanging out with her dog. When she’s not doing any of those things, you can probably find her baking pastries or laughing at Twitter memes.



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