Review: Petals for Armor lets Hayley Williams bloom

Hayley Williams comes into her own with Petals for Armor.

The cover art for Hayley Williams solo debut Petals for Armor.

Photo Atlantic Records

The cover art for Hayley Williams’ solo debut Petals for Armor.

Amelia Foster, A&E Editor, Multimedia Editor

Hayley William’s debut album is not what I expected to save my sanity this year, but is now the only thing helping me cling on. Williams, frontwoman for the band Paramore, recently released her solo debut Petals for Armor, a refreshing take on identity in the face of trauma.

If you’re listening to Petals for Armor and notice how the album has three distinct sounds, that’s because it was initially released as three separate EPs. Despite the clear differences, Williams’ identity and struggle for it runs through each song, whether it’s the retro pop of “Pure Love” or the mournful “Leave it Alone.”

The driving concept of the album is in the name itself, where Williams wraps herself in petals for armor, meaning she uses kindness and vulnerability as her protection against the world. Combined with her ability to be both a powerhouse belter and a gentle crooner, those themes are enforced throughout the entire album.

If you’re a fan of Paramore, don’t go into this album expecting anything like what you’re used to. The leading single “Simmer” could easily fit into any horror soundtrack with its eerie gasps and skipping beat, making Williams sound like a woman running for her life. Considering that the subject of the song is her anger at her ex-husband’s numerous misdeeds, let it be known that with Petals for Armor Williams is no longer prey.

The sound and lyrics may be different, but Williams uses clear callbacks to her past in Paramore throughout her debut. The singer has evolved past hiding her discontent behind a happy face, and “Dead Horse” makes that clear. The song starts with a voicemail with beach-pop on top, similar to Paramore’s After Laughter. The lyrics are gut-wrenchingly honest and they parallels 2013’s “Still Into You”, asserting that she “Stayed with you too long” and that she “Sang along / To a silly little song.”

Williams starts the album immersed in the swamp of her negative feelings and still manages to emerge at the end “Crystal Clear.” Petals for Armor is not afraid to cover brutal topics without glamorization, a skill many songwriters have yet to master. Williams’ lyrics are quick to cut deep and quicker to heal, ensuring that Petals for Armor will leave you breathless.