Paramore's Relevancy To Mental Health Awareness Month

Paramore's Relevancy To Mental Health Awareness Month

Why you need to hear the pop-rock trio's most recent album.

Activism has become rather convoluted in its connotations; from blocking traffic on highways to screaming Bible verses on street corners, many would assume the "A" word should always be synonymous with extreme, heavy-handed tactics. It may seem to some that to demand change, a large, noisy crowd of people is required, ready with giant picket signs to tower over the masses that demand change and reform.

Over the course of this year, there have been many well-executed examples of activism, including the Woman's March and the March for Science. The amount of healthy sociopolitical discourse they have and continue to create is fantastic and much needed, considering our current political climate. But with that said, not all activism occurs through the genre of the march: enter Paramore's fifth and most recent studio album, "After Laughter."

Released May 12th, 2017, "After Laughter" comes nearly halfway through Mental Health Awareness Month. While some fans appear to be apprehensive to accepting the band's new 80s pop-influenced musical style, it has collected quite the acclaim among critics, with Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, and Sputnikmusic noting its catchy melodies and danceable rhythms. But listening more attentively to the project brings to focus the true star of the show: Hayley Williams and Taylor York's honest, open lyrical content.

The contrast between the dark, seemingly defeated narration and the upbeat, synth-pop production is apparent right from the start.The bouncing beat and sweet guitar licks on the opening track "Hard Times" are interrupted by Williams hopelessly begging that "all that [she] wants is to wake up fine / tell [her] that it's all right / that [she] ain't gonna die." Right off the bat, the audience is hit with nothing but an honest statement that truly cuts through the seemingly happy tone the album contains. It is this point forward on my first listen through the project that a realization set in: Hayley Williams is using her own musical platform to explain her personal struggles with depression, and is refusing to apologize for it.

This very lyrical moment is brought up in the band's Beats 1 interview with Zane Lowe, with Williams answer keeping in line with the album's imminent honesty. When asked if depression was something she struggled with, she had this to say: "Now? Yeah. Three years ago? No... I don't know what happened, but now? Yeah, for sure... I think it gave me empathy for friends who struggle." Further on in her answer, she mentions the struggle to verbalize the emotional roller coaster of it all, but thankfully for everyone who is interested in what depression does indeed feel like, the album offers unapologetic, hard-hitting lyrics, perfectly capturing the inner struggle battling mental illness can become.

The second track, "Rose-Colored Boy," sees Hayley confronting an easily recognizable character among those who also struggle with mental health issues: the painfully persistent optimist who cannot sympathize with a narrator who is suffering from depression. The song is bookended by the chant "low key / no pressure / just hang with me and my weather," and features one of the LP's smoothest bridges, with the lyric "you say my eyes are getting too dark now / but boy, you ain't ever seen my mind." Not only is Hayley singing about her struggle with mental illness, she is encouraging the opposition (and indirectly, the audience) to see things from her perspective, and to recognize the real yet often ignored struggle of depression. Even the chorus acknowledges the plenty of others that are in her place mentally, exclaiming to the optimist that "we can't all be like you." This is only the second track, and the unapologetic honesty in exploring mental illness is consistently present.

Among the other songs in the track listing, "26," "Caught In the Middle," and "Tell Me How" are the most explicit with their tone toward mental health. But potentially my favorite of these deep cuts is "Fake Happy," an electro-pop anthem encouraging its listeners to toss aside their happy, joyful exterior and recognize that people consistently fake happiness just to get by. Sure, life is easier when we pretend nothing is wrong, but nothing can be more emotionally taxing, and therefore more dangerous, than not being honest about your mental state. "I know I said that I was doing good and that I'm happy now / I shoulda known that when things were going good that's when I'd get knocked down." Hayley's observance is well put: life is not an exponentially steady progression. Life will get in your way, cause emotional turmoil, and even lead to mental health struggles. But at the same time, here she is, singing about that very pain, proving that even if you are hurting beyond belief, life can still be held onto. No matter the mental rain clouds and past harm, there is hope and help to be found.

Paramore's new album fits perfectly in with National Mental Health Awareness Month; the band's album is a pop-rock display of activism. While it might not be yelling on a street corner, the trio lyrically make the demand for a world that empathizes and understands those struggling with depression. If you have not given the album a listen, I would highly recommend it. Besides being a stellar body of work, its message is perfect for this month's focus on those who struggle with mental illness. And to those who are struggling, myself included, I hope you feel as encouraged by the band's work as I am.

For more information on National Mental Health Month, visit Mental Health America.

If you or someone you love is struggling with depression or any form of mental illness and/or any emotional hardship in general, please consider calling the National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255.

Cover Image Credit: Lindsey Byrnes

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The Top 5 Most Adorable TV Characters

They Have Ruled Our Hearts, Gave us Tears of Joy, as well as Hysterical Fits of Laughter with their Charming Screen Presence

Well, they have ruled our hearts, gave us tears of joy and hysterical laughter with their wit and charm, so let's take a look at some of the most lovable TV characters.

1.) Stewie Griffin ("Family Guy"):

He's a baby, everybody loves babies, you might think that but it's not that simple. He's got the IQ of a rocket scientist, devilish designs, and his heartiest wish is to kill his mother, so he's nothing like a baby. He shares a beautiful bond with his dog which is heartwarming to watch. There are so many interesting angles to his personality which makes it worth it to root for him despite his primal instinct - kill his mother and world domination.

2.) Jake Harper ("Two and a Half Men"):

We have another kid, but he's completely from another dimension. This one can win a contest for the dumbest yet cutest kid. He was the half man from the title but had an equal share in making this show what it was - watchable. He was the butt of many jokes in the show due to his general lack of smarts, understanding of words, and self-confidence, as well as being oblivious to the fact he was being made fun of.

3.) Sheldon Cooper ("The Big Bang Theory"):

You have to give it to the 22-year-old theoretical physicist who played this character to perfection. He is freakishly genius and he knows it, but most importantly he doesn't mind letting others know even if its a cop, a judge, or his friends who suffer the most by his quirky mannerisms including his love for "his spot", details, and trains. His devotion to science is so deep that he is oblivious to social cues, women, and even sarcasm. Although these traits make him intolerable for his friends, strangers or even anyone who crosses paths with him, the same faults make him the reason to watch this show.

4.) Barney Stinson ("How I Met Your Mother"):

We have the man himself - Barney Stinson, the guy who eases "awesomeness" and "legendary" into his character and the show like butter onto bread. He's not just a man- he's a religion, he has his own set of rules, codes, costumes, and theories... about getting laid. He's a God to every loser who sees himself dominating/ pretending to be an Alpha male of society- the man that every girl desires to be with. He is immune to disease, fashion disasters, and even a bad photograph. He has crazy theories that he backs up with fake history tales lied to perfection. His concept of lie is something which defines how awesome he is- "A lie is just a great story ruined by truth."

5.) Joey Tribbiani ("F.R.I.E.N.D.S"):

It wouldn't serve justice to this listicle or to the word adorable if I didn't include Joey Tribbiani- the man who made " How you doin'?" what it is. He is the only person who can be dumb, cute, and funny all at the same time. He was the only character out of the six who had a smile on his face no matter what the situation was. He also senses the emotional needs of his friends and does everything possible to fulfill that need. He is the best character to be with when the chips are down, he can cheer up even Droopie. Joey is funny and he doesn't have to put in any effort to be just that. Maybe the fact that he owns an array of expressions which spill out humor and pour directly into our hearts, is the reason he doesn't have to try to be our favorite.

Cover Image Credit: Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

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Everything To Love About "Love, Simon"

"Everyone deserves a great love story."

Love, Simon, a film based on the book, “Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda” by Becky Albertalli came out on March 16th. Since then, it has received an overwhelming amount of positive reviews from movie goers. I went to see the movie last week and was extremely impressed. This movie is exactly what our society needs.

Years ago, the concept of being gay was a taboo and anything involving homosexuality carried a strong stigma. Many creative closeted individuals did not have the freedom to write stories or screenplays with queer characters. After members of the LGBT community became more normalized in society, we started to see the slow rise of films with characters reflecting different sexualities. I have watched multiple movies with queer characters, and ALL of the other ones I’ve seen have been tragedies.

While it is true that the process of coming out and living an authentic life can be difficult for queer people, it is not always tragic. Watching these movies makes people feel like non-heterosexual people cannot have happy endings. Imagine being a 14 year old kid in the closet and watching all these films that end with suicide, depression, or murder. It is easy to see why someone would not want to come out after being exposed to such horrific things. LGBT movies have also always been highly sexualized. Most of them center around the sexual relationships and lack substance. I feel like the writers think that the only appeal LGBT movies can have has to be sex.

The beauty in Love, Simon comes from the fact that none of the things I mentioned above were in the movie. Instead, it was hilarious, emotional and real. The story was raw and relatable for so many people. Simon was a normal high schooler, with best friends, a loving family, and homework to do. He did not fit the “gay” stereotype at all. His clothes were masculine, his voice was deep, and he didn’t love shopping. Simon was not the “Gay best friend” he was just the best friend. Simon was fortunate enough to have all these positive things in his life, which not everyone has. I think that this presentation of his life shows people that their coming out does not have to be tragic.

Simon’s coming out could not have been more realistic. He was outed to his school on an online platform, something that can happen easily in our technological age. He was very affected by this and knew he had to come clean to his family. His sister asked him if he wanted to deny it and he said he was tired of hiding.

His announcement shifted his family for a bit, something completely normal. Some movies have kids come out and show the parents instantly start a pride parade. This is usually not the case, especially when loved ones do not suspect anything. Love, Simon showed his parents trying to adjust to the news. They did not love him any less, but they needed some time to process the information, so that they could do their best for their son. There were days of silence in the family, but the silence was broken in memorable ways.

Simon’s talk with his mom had me in tears. His mom told him that for the past few years, she had felt like he was holding his breath, and tells him, “You can exhale now, Simon.” He could finally breathe and she was letting him know that she wants him to be happy and himself. His father apologized to him for making a lot of gay jokes before his coming out. He did not realize that his words may have been hurting his son, and he tears himself down for not realizing his son was gay. Simon tells him that he has nothing to be sorry about, because his coming out was something that could not be assumed.

Simon’s friends did not treat him any differently after his coming out, meaning that they did not give him any special treatment. They were upset with him for things, and worked it out later. His sexuality was not the issue.

At school, he was bullied by idiots, but he stood up for himself. I think that is something so important for the youth to see. Movies typically show gay kids cowering in a corner while being made fun of. Simon and the other out gay kid (a black character) in his school both stood up for themselves repeatedly, throwing out witty remarks and comments on occasion.

Simon’s online relationship with the other closeted kid in his school exemplified many relationships today. Kids will go online to search for people who they can relate to. With the touch of a button, they can connect with millions going through the same things they are. When Simon meets the person behind the screen, everyone is overjoyed.

The entire film was a masterpiece. Two LGBT characters were people of color. The rest of the cast was diverse as well. The movie did not feature an array of white people, like most movies do. Although there were many serious scenes that had me in tears, there was plenty of levity. The humor was current and made the entire theater laugh.

The representation for queer people in this movie is superb. Multiple members actually came out during the filming of this movie. If that doesn’t show you how positive and powerful this movie is, I don’t know what will. This movie is exactly what LGBT kids needed and I applaud the talented cast, the writers, and everyone else who had anything to do with the creation of this life changing movie.

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