“Petals for Armor” provides a beautiful glimpse into depression and mental health struggles

Hayley William's

Hayley William's "Petals for Armor" consists of 15 songs that are based on stories of broken relationships and her battle with depression.

Hayley Williams, the frontwoman of the acclaimed band Paramore released her invigorating solo debut record, “Petals for Armor,” a completely different body of work from anything by Paramore. Documenting her journey in just 15 songs compiled within three different disks, Williams beautifully litters this album with stories from broken relationships and her battle with depression. 

Williams begins “Petals For Armor” with a jarringly intricate song “Simmer.” Her vocals are played out as if she is almost whispering in your ear and the lyrics sucker-punch you. This opening track sets the tone for the rest of the album; a performance so unflinchingly tumultuous, turbulent and heartbreakingly vulnerable. Lyrically, it’s hard to categorize this album. It deals with more than just break-up songs or coming of age tales; it’s William’s narrative on life as she sees it. In “Leave It Alone” she tackles the hopelessness of grief and loss, writing “Cause now that I want to live / Everyone around me is dying.” In “Dead Horse” Williams writes about the betrayal and pain that carried through to her divorce to the member of the band New Found Glory, Chad Gilbert. Williams doesn’t shy away from referencing the shame she held within her for a long time. When Gilbert and Williams started dating, Gilbert was married to another woman. Here, she writes “And after all, it’s only fair / I got what I deserved, I was the other woman first.” 

Her vocals are very much given the chance to shine in this album. “Sudden Desire” features docile instrumentation paired with strong and striking vocals on the album. In “Watch Me While I Bloom” Williams grabs the audience by the ear and takes them on a tumultuous ride. A muted synth-pop backdrop and electric vocals allows for the listener to truly explore her abilities as a vocalist. In the empowering track  “Roses/Lotus/Violet/Iris” Williams is backed by the supergroup boygenius (featuring artists Lucy Dacus, Phoebe Bridgers and Julien Baker). And while it isn’t exactly a feature, the essence of boygenius still exists: powerfully intricate harmonies. 

With the lyrics and vocals being the driving force of the album, the instrumentation feels lackluster. It marks a sharp contrast to the complex and interesting instrumentals found in all of Paramore’s albums. Some of the songs sound very similar to each other and start to blend into each other. Although the instrumental is more poppy than her previous work, that is not the problem; instead, it is the continued repetition of the instrumental that is. 

Many songs contain a lot of repetition in the lyrics as well; “Cinnamon” and “Roses/Lotus/Violet/Iris” take the repetition to an egregious level through their continued repetition of one word. The repetition is not only found in the vocals, but also in the instrumentals of some songs. The choruses especially feel over-repetitive at times. “Sugar on the Rim” is a good example of this and helps highlight the repetition problem found through the entire album clearly, as the chorus features the words “you took me by surprise” repeated six times with seemingly no meaning at all, the song starts out with the title repeated six times and the entire instrumental of the song sounds the same with no variation. 

The best song on the album is definitely “Sudden Desire.” The song’s lyrics are the most vulnerable and mature on the album, as she is talking about learning to love again and regain her self-worth after her messy divorce and marriage: her strong vocals especially shine and the instrumental is unique as unlike other songs on the album, influenced by R&B.

While sonically the two albums are nothing alike, Paramore’s latest album “After Laughter” and “Petals for Armor” both juxtapose depressing lyrics to the more cheerful and upbeat background music. Williams beautifully talks about her battles with depression, mental health and entering therapy against a backdrop of cheerful upbeatness, which is a real-life parallel to how people who suffer from depression often put on a cheerful facade and pretend like everything’s okay when in actuality, it’s not.