Review: Hayley Williams – Simmer

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Hayley Williams' 'Simmer' takes you on a journey through her own personal traumas to a groovy and dark Paramore-esque tune, marking the start of a very successful solo career.

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As Hayley Williams left frustratingly vague hints of new music on her Instagram, @petalsforarmour, fans were left in a frenzy wondering what this new solo career could entail, and most importantly how far it would stray from her Paramore roots. However, Hayley quickly alleviated all fears with the release of her debut single ‘Simmer’ – a song that addresses “specific kinds of abuse and revenge” in the tune of After Laughter. Although Williams continued to tell Apple Music that these associations may not be for everyone, I doubt anyone can dislike ‘Simmer’ and the path it suggests Hayley’s solo career will take.

‘Simmer’ takes listeners on a musical journey that is somehow both Paramore and uniquely Hayley Williams. Though, with Taylor York (guitarist of Paramore) co-writing and producing the song, this comes as no shock. As the track begins, it sounds extremely similar to ‘Tell Me How’ from Paramore’s 2017 album After Laughter, to the point where it’s hard to know which tune is the one stuck in your head. Both songs feature long musical build ups, but fitting with her insta-teasing over the past month, the wait for Hayley’s voice to begin is far longer in ‘Simmer’. The songs also differ in their vibes; ‘Tell Me How’ taking a stripped back, ballad approach, and ‘Simmer’ encouraging listeners to get their groove on. As Williams wished to use ‘Simmer’ as a means of releasing her rage and anger, this difference makes complete sense. Throughout the song, this theme is prevalent even in Williams’ frequent intense exhales; finally releasing a rage within her that has dictated her life for so long.

Vocally, I don’t think we can thank Hayley enough for how much she has blessed us. Her voice takes a raspy, sensual, and edgy-emo tone all at once, which, paired with creative mixing makes ‘Simmer’ an extremely beautiful song. With the songs themes mentioned above, the title ‘Simmer’ adds to this battle of “how to draw the line between wrath and mercy”, as Williams sings in the chorus. She then continues with a mantra, telling herself to “simmer down”, which is a phrase often exclaimed to those dealing with anger who need to calm down. These lyrics mark the story throughout ‘Simmer’, in which Hayley identifies the rage and anger within, taking a journey filled with hatred, anxiety and compassion, that ends with wrapping herself in petals. The theme of control is often referred to, with lyrics such as “eyes closed / another way to make it to ten” and “rage, is a quiet thing / ooh, you think that you’ve tamed it, but it’s just lying in wait”. However, this self-awareness and hope of cooling off is later juxtaposed with the lines “if my child needed protection / from a fucker like that man / I’d sooner gut him / ’cause nothing cuts like a mother”. Linking back to Williams’ earlier statements of this song tapping in to “specific kinds” of abuse, these lines indicate that she is seeking to overcome abuse in adolescence that has haunted her for years. The passion behind the word “fucker” also indicates some remaining pain still surrounding this “man”, and fans have obviously commented on the emotional use of this word – struggling to control their love for Hayley and her voice.

‘Simmer’ marks a new era for Hayley Williams, and what a way to begin! This song is vocally, lyrically and musically all that we could have hoped for and more of her solo career. The song serves as a therapeutic device for Williams’ to come to terms with the hatred wrapped up in her abuse, and will definitely resonate with many fans despite her doubts. With her upcoming album Petals For Armour taking its name from the self-love and acceptance at the end of ‘Simmer’, I’m sure it will continue to showcase Williams great mind and many talents. She herself stated that putting this news out there meant she could “finally exhale”, and noted that she’s “excited to let people in to experience a different side of myself that I’ve only recently become familiar with”. All that’s left to be said is, I hope we don’t have to become detectives again, inspecting every little hint she drops in order to know when this release will be!

Hayley Williams’ ‘Simmer’ is out now via Atlantic Recording Corporation.

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