Album Review: Petals For Armor by Hayley Williams

Carissa Marques, Creative Services Director

Paramore frontwoman, Hayley Williams, released her debut solo album, Petals For Armor, on May 8, 2020. Williams had been making music with Paramore since 2004, but over the last couple of years decided to write pieces for a solo album. The album was released as a series of three EPs, but is now one collective of 15 songs. It showcases Williams’ unrestricted approach to music where she does not care about fitting into a particular genre. With flowers for imagery and themes of femininity, this album covers everything from anxiety to growth as well as loss and romance. 


Track by Track Review 

  1. Simmer – The first track on the album starts without missing a beat, diving right into deep lyrics discussing dealing with anger, anxiety, and other complicated emotions. Williams sings, “Oh, how to draw a line between wrath and mercy? Simmer, simmer, simmer, simmer down,” ( Sometimes it’s difficult to find balance in life, and she does a good job at singing about rage without sounding angry, quite perfectly exemplifying the lyric, “rage is a quiet thing.” 
  2. Leave It Alone – Honestly, this song hurts so much, and not because it’s bad, but because the lyrics are so raw. Williams sings of loss and the fear of losing those that are close to you. The instrumentals are smooth and raspy, and match Williams’ soft voice in this song. One of the verses says, “If you know love you best prepare to grieve,” where Williams sings of a time where her family went through particularly challenging times ( I would say this song best matches the “anger” stage of grief. 
  3. Cinnamon – This song is where the funky and experimental sounds can first be heard in the album. The message is really sweet, and Williams is singing about her literal home. Life as a performer on the road taught her to appreciate the groundingness of being home. She sings, “Home is where I’m feminine… I’m not lonely, baby, I am free,” ( Being in touch with her femininity was one of Williams’ main inspirations for the album. 
  4. Creepin’ – This song has some more edge to it. Williams’ voice is still delicate and soft, but sometimes is modified with an electronic-like filter. She uses the metaphor of a vampire for someone that sucks the energy and positivity out of her. I think we’ve all experienced having someone in our lives that we can’t seem to shake off. I get pop-punk vibes from this song with a touch of funk. 
  5. Sudden Desire – The fifth track is amplified with lyrics filled with longing and a subtle bassline. The chorus is louder as Williams sings about desiring someone that probably isn’t best for her. In an Instagram live video she stated, “I just knew, at that point, that I wanted to write about something uncomfortable or that might be embarrassing… don’t listen to it with your parents in the car,” ( 
  6. Dead Horse – “Dead Horse” is the first song in the second section of Petals For Armor. It opens with a voicemail-type recording of Williams saying she’s trying to get out of a depression. I would describe the sound of this song as pretty groovy, and it seems to have Caribbean meets sad-girl pop vibes. Although the music is upbeat, it’s actually about Williams’ divorce. 
  7. My Friend – A song dedicated to friendship, this song is about Williams’ friend and business partner, Brian O’Conner. In a world where so much music is about romantic relationships, it’s nice to be able to listen to a song about friendship. I’m not sure if this makes sense, but this song sounds like a woodsy smell, as if the mahogany teakwood candle had a song. 
  8. Over Yet – This song starts with a fun beat, and morphs into a sound that vaguely reminds me of Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” synths and drums, except this is a little more modern and edgy. This song talks about getting out of a mental funk and encouraging people that they have the power to get out of a bad headspace. 
  9. Roses/Lotus/Violet/Iris – The ninth track is my favorite on the album, partially because of the use of flowers in imagery, and partially because it features the wonderful women that make up boygenius, Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus. It has a really pretty string part that plays in the background over soft cymbals and drums. I love that the song talks about not comparing one’s own growth to that of others’, but rather appreciating the beauty in diversity and everyone else’s unique struggles. 
  10. Why We Ever – This song dives into learning about one’s own struggles when it comes to love. There is a lovely piano intermission in the middle of the song. On Instagram, Hayley Williams posted, “i’ve let myself down a lot in love. this was the start of recognizing my bad patterns and acknowledging that i’m ready to grow out of them,” in regards to this song ( I think it’s very mature to write lyrics like this, and is admirably vulnerable to put an apology into a song. 
  11. Pure Love – “Pure Love” is the first song in the third installment of Petals For Armor. I think this song really shows that Hayley Williams’ music is genreless. It’s difficult to decide whether it’s taking a soulful turn, some niche branch of pop, or indie. I think it takes back the full word for “indie” as in “independent”. This song is bright, but the lyrics hit home when discussing growing up and the truths of love. I love the part of the chorus that goes, “I give a little, you give a little, we get a little sentimental.” In an interview with Pitchfork, Williams answers a question about “Pure Love” saying, “It’s time for me to try what it feels like to communicate on a real adult level,” ( 
  12. Taken – This song sort of seems like a filler in the album. It’s got a nice jazzy instrumental in it as well as Williams doing a little bit of “scatting” (I’ll save you the Google trip, that’s the “ba-ba uh-uh’s” in the song aka wordless vocals). 
  13. Sugar On The Rim – This song is reminiscent of 90s dance music with electronic beats in the background. Williams sings of the delights of new love, and how sometimes people’s small acts are simply the “sugar on the rim”. 
  14. Watch Me While I Bloom – Going along with the imagery of plants throughout the album, this song talks about growing out of one’s previous troubles. It sounds like Williams is coming out of a long period of anxiety and finally ready for a fresh start. This song also holds the retro groove that can be heard on several other tracks in the album. 
  15. Crystal Clear – A fitting title for the final track, “Crystal Clear” talks about how Williams finally has a clear vision for what she wants out of love. Pitchfork interviewer, Jenn Pelly, was asking Williams what emotions she wanted to evoke for the end of the album to which she replied, “Falling in love. Emphasis on the falling—because despite my fear, my toughness, or any resistance to vulnerability, I couldn’t help falling in love,” ( I think “Crystal Clear” goes perfectly with this because clear waters means there’s nothing to hide and everything is out in the open.  

This album is a career milestone for Hayley Williams since it’s her first independent album. It shows lots of growth and tackles a multitude of subjects for adulthood, definitely a step up from “Ain’t It Fun” era Hayley. I admire the lyricism in this album, but it’s not my particular favorite as far as sound goes, so I would have to rate it three out of five Spinnaker Sails. 

Standout Tracks: “Simmer”, “Cinnamon”, “Dead Horse”, “Roses/Lotus/Violet/Iris”, and “Pure Love”.


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