Monday, October 26, 2009

#70. 'Nothing compares to a quiet evening alone'

Paramore “Crushcrushcrush”

It would have been so easy to dismiss Paramore. So many things about the band just stand out as red flags as far as my ability to enjoy them would go; the fact that they’re basic pop-punk, the fact that they appeared on the Twilight soundtrack, the fact that they’re teenagers or at least only a couple of years removed from high school, the fact that “Misery Business” fell on the wrong side of the catchy-annoying divide. None of it seemed to point towards the fact that with two singles they’d become almost the gold standard for 00s post-Avril teen-punk in my eyes, and yet it happened. It’s a bit humbling to witness a band I’d all but written off manage to completely knock me off my feet in as little as three exceptional minutes. Humbling but also pretty rewarding. The fact is that between “That’s What You Get” and “Crushcrushcrush” they somehow managed to not only undo the negative image I’d given them in light of “Misery Business” but put out two of the finest examples of pop-punk that the 00s had to offer.

Choosing between the two of those singles was hard, but the edge to “Crushcrushcrush” shouldn’t be seen as a slight on “That’s What You Get.” If I were going about this like my albums list I’d do a dual post on both songs and go into detail about their respective strengths and weaknesses, but as it stands “Crush” just has that slight leg up on its competitor. It’s another instance of a song that doesn’t strike me as a logical choice for a single, and given that those usually stand out for their otherness it’s no real surprise that I’d give it the nod over the more traditional “That’s What You Get.” But it also shows how just a few small tweaks to a band’s sound can make all the difference between the mediocre and the transcendent.

The biggest change between “Crushcrushcrush” and “Misery Business” is the addition of dynamics to the band’s sound. It’s a small change in the grand scheme of things, but the way its applied here is sufficiently interesting to make it seem much more novel than it would otherwise. I’m talking mainly about that recurring bridge between the verses and the chorus where the building, crystalline guitar riff just peters out in favor of that one, massive chord and singer Hayley Williams whispering the title of the song before the chorus explodes. That small section is probably where my opinion on Paramore shifted from ‘mediocre pop-punk’ to ‘really well-crafted pop-punk’; any band that takes advantage of that sort of quiet-loud dynamic without having it sound either clichéd or awkward knows full well what they’re doing.

It also helped that on a lyrical level there was a lot more maturity on display here than the band had shown previously. Sure the concept of a crush is inherently adolescent, but that’s not really what the song’s about as far as I’m concerned. It may use it as a starting point, but the real meat of the song is about overcoming the hurdles attendant to acting out on those feelings. The whispered ‘Crush…crush…crush’ comes across as mocking as opposed to reveling in the sentiment, the chorus culminating on Williams somewhat exasperatedly saying ‘Let’s be more than this’, the bridge where she implores the other party in the song to ‘give me something to sing about’…what it really does is remind me of a couple I know who did the whole dance around actually dating for a good six months before the guy made his move and the girl’s reaction was ‘what took you so long?’ It’s the rare song about a crush that gets the sort of insecurities that you might feel in actually acting on it, or at least obliquely calls attention to them, even in the case where the other person clearly reciprocates your feelings. That kinda puts it in the weird middle ground of being a mature look at some juvenile emotions, but in this case it works because that sort of distance is so rare in pop music these days. Any other songs about a crush that I can remember have simply reveled in the uncomplicatedness of there not being any real emotional connection outside of the singer’s head, so to hear a song, and one by a band so young no less, tackle the more adult look at it is welcome and appreciated.

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