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Essay: Paramore's Influence on Cultural Communication in Music

Note: This essay was written for Prof. Natalie Dollar's Grateful Dead & Cultural Communication class.

From Nashville, Tennessee, three-piece rock band Paramore has been taking the stage since 2005. The current members are Taylor York (guitar), Hayley Williams (vocals), and Zac Farro (drums), but previous members include Josh Farro (guitar) and Jeremy Davis (bass) (Forums). Paramore had their coming of age as a band right around the time that the internet began to become of use, and also around the same time many other 2000s emo and pop-punk bands were coming into the spotlight. At the beginning of their journey, their music was the definition of teenage angst. Their emergence was marked by their first album in 2005 titled “All We Know Is Falling.” Previous to the actual creation of the album, Atlantic Records had tried to sign a 14-year-old Hayley Williams to be a solo pop artist, but she insisted that she wanted her work to be in a band. From there, Paramore released their first album, which according to their wiki page, was influenced by Jeremy Davis’ sudden departure due to unknown reasons and the divorce of Williams’ parents (Wiki). The band did not get much traction until they released their second album in 2007, titled “Riot!”

In my opinion, “Riot!” is the most important era and album because it’s what put them in the emo scene, specifically with the track Misery Business, and being in an alternative subculture is inherently political. Sam De Boise used this definition of emo in his essay ''Cheer Up The Emo Kid” “... short for ‘emocore’, a strain of hardcore punk that was notable for its obsession with feelings (as opposed to politics, anger and smashing stuff up). Then it started to be applied to bands that weren’t punk, to fashion trends, to sad-eyed kids in the back of class. It’s always been mildly derisive . . . [and] every generation that loves emo bands simultaneously rejects the term while claiming ownership of it” (De Boise). A lot of people found refuge in this scene.

To understand emocore, one needs to know that emo is used to describe many things, the music, the clothes, the hairstyles, and certainly the attitude. An article on the importance of zines says that they “trace the personal life and many hairstyles of Paramore lead singer Hayley Williams” (Watson). The image does matter, people care enough to make zines about it! I like the definition of emo in the last paragraph because it explains that emo was a later product of punk. Punk is political, so that means by nature, emo is too. The two most important ways that emocore is political are one, the general opposition to things that have power over a person (the government, emotions, unaccepting family/friends, etc), and two, it embraces counterculture and does the opposite of what society wants from a young person, very similar to punk.

While they weren’t entirely vocal about their opinions on this culture that had embraced them as their own back during the “Riot!” era, they have always been accepting of their fans. But, over the years, Paramore’s sound has evolved into something less punk-rock and emocore to more indie-rock. This is an interesting segue to me because it happens with a lot of rock bands when they begin to get older, their sound tames. To me, this just reflects growing up and not needing the intensity and angst that emo demands all the time, and their 2023 release “This Is Why” is along those lines. While visually they no longer sport the traditional emocore haircuts and clothing choices, the moral foundations of the subculture are certainly still a big part of them.

“This Is Why” is a major landmark in their career because all of their previous albums have been centered around major moments in their lives, while this most recent album seems to more so address the issues in the world and of adulthood. It is the most political album that they’ve released, with tracks such as The News and Big Man, Little Dignity poking directly at politics. The music has been vocal about many issues, such as the debilitating feeling of not being able to help when people in our country or other countries are suffering, the amount of ignorant men who run the government, and the people who have karma coming for them. Their natural progression and change in maturity is what has led them to begin releasing music with a deeper message to the world.

Williams herself has become a hero to many young girls. To see such an incredibly strong woman up on stage singing her heart out has been so inspiring for me and many other women. The emo scene back in the mid-2000s was a predominantly male culture. Men were the singers, the guitarists, drummers, crew, managers, sound techs, pretty much all of it. In her essay about the importance of Hayley Williams winning the Billboard Women In Music Award, Monica Fitirana says “The uniqueness of women in punk music is the continuity to produce” (Fitriana). This quote strikes itself as very real to me because true power comes from consistency. Williams has been able to remain relevant in the music industry for almost twenty years now and never backed down when she was bullied by men in the scene. She has proved herself to be talented with a “powerhouse voice”, strong, and resilient, which is why women look up to her and men tremble in intimidation (Kennedy). This choice is political because traditionally, women don’t get the opportunity to have power over men, and Williams shows that both showing strength and showing softness are the most powerful weapons a person can have.

Back in 2008, Paramore released a live album of their tour “The Final RIOT!” I listened through this and found one track particularly interesting. They sang an acoustic version of their song My Heart from their first album, but Williams introduced it by saying “We weren’t originally going to put it in the setlist, but because of a few of our friends on the Livejournal community, we’ve decided to put it back in the set” (Chesbro). This reminded me of what someone commented on Reddit when I’d posted about what fans used most to communicate with each other and with the band in the early days. User laurakazam responded to me and recommended Livejournal as a “great place to start researching.” From what I’ve read and researched, Livejournal was the biggest platform that Paramore fans used to communicate, so hearing Hayley specifically mention this back in 2008 was very cool, especially since the band was willing to take suggestions from their fans.

I was fascinated to learn that in the band’s early days, the majority of fan interaction along with artist interaction happened on Livejournal. That platform is no longer used, it has certainly died out, but Paramore is too big now to be able to keep up with their fans like that anyway. Fan communication still primarily happens online though, and it seems most of that is on Reddit, TikTok, or Instagram. People can create Paramore fan accounts on Instagram or TikTok which gives them the ability to post pictures and videos to share with other fans. These interactions are essentially the new Livejournal, fan accounts are able to become friends with each other on the internet and even meet up at concerts or talk online. Reddit is more discussion-based and not necessarily one-on-one.

Paramore has been a very active band throughout most of their career, and their fans have kept up with that, supporting them no matter what kind of music they release. The connection is strong between fan and artist, and truly I think that keeps both sides sane. The artist needs the support of the fans just as much as the fans need the support of the artist. Fans find solace in the community that Paramore creates, whether that be similar politics, inspiration, or simply the feeling of being understood by the music. It all matters, and Paramore understands that much deeper than a lot of current artists. People use these things they learn about the band, their political opinions, their place in the industry, their style, lyrics, ideas, and everything about them, to decide whether or not they want to be a fan. Those things are common ground for fans to discuss and debate. Many people think that the personal lives of these artists should not, or don’t, matter, but believe me, they do. When I find an artist I like with the same morals or that’s maybe gone through a similar situation as me, I latch onto them and their music, and that’s exactly how Paramore’s community came to be.

As I mentioned earlier, Paramore came up right at the dawn of the internet. Back in those days, websites looked much different and fanbases revolved around them. Here, I’d like to examine two pieces of data relating to how the internet has and still does, influence how Paramore’s fan base communicates. The first piece will be from their fan club, which was a sub-page on their website from 2007-2013. This site allowed fans to interact with each other and with the band in a chat room, have exclusive access to drawings and prizes, get special merchandise related to the fan club, and more. This promoted many different types of membering, Paramore fans that were subscribed to the club had a common interest. If one fan saw another wearing an exclusive fan club t-shirt, they'd know that they’re a committed fan since it costs money to be in the club. This memorabilia is especially rare because the fan club no longer exists, and those who have archived their collection are now able to share it with the people who couldn’t be a part of it.

It was widely accessible because most people by that time had internet access and $30 to join, and on top of that, there were no restrictions as to who could join. What you got out of the fan club was what you put into it, meaning everything up there had to be commonly intelligible for people to be able to respond however they choose (in relation to signing up for drawings or purchasing merchandise.) Through the use of this site, Paramore was able to connect deeply with their fans. They spoke to people in the chat and opened opportunities to meet them in person, which are memories that last a lifetime for any fan (Reddit, deleted Profile.)

Hymes Speaking Framework

Setting & Scene: The setting was the official website that hosted all of the

parts of the fan club. If you had $30 and internet access, then you could be part of the scene. There were no specific guidelines that I could find about the people themselves, anyone could participate.

Participants: The site was hosted by the band/the band’s management, so they were the ones posting all of the opportunities available to members as well as moderating the page. However, the members were responsible for actually entering their information to qualify for certain contests. Same for purchasing products, most items weren’t just sent out randomly, you had to give the site your information. So, the members of the club and Paramore themselves both had responsibilities in keeping the fan club alive.

End Goal: The end goal was for fans who wanted a deeper connection to the artist and/or more opportunities to interact with Paramore to have a place to do so. This allowed the band to share information, products, and even contests exclusively with people who were interested in receiving it.

Act Sequence: Paramore introduced the fan club to the internet and invited their fans to join if they were able to, the people paid a fee and were sent promo materials (such as a membership card, memorabilia, and even a signed thank you letter), they then had access to exclusive content at any time they wanted it, and from there were able to enter drawings and interact with the band.

Key: Unfortunately, the page that the fan club was up on no longer exists on Paramore’s website so I couldn’t find any specific examples of the language both the band and the members used. Though, in the welcome/thank you letter, the band sounded thankful and inviting towards whoever the new member was. From what I could find online of people talking about the fan club, it was all positive experiences, which leads me to believe the promises of prizes and interactions were all kept and that they were professional.

Instrumentalities: The instrumentalities included pictures, instructions, opportunities to talk in the exclusive chat room, and promo materials promised when you sign up.

Norms: Again, I couldn’t find any specific rules, but my guess was that (especially in the chat) if someone said anything bordering on rude, racist, inappropriate, sexist, homophobic, etc, whoever moderated the website would remove the comment on the discussion page of the fan club. Other than that, there didn’t seem to be many other opportunities to speak in the fan club, therefore rules were not as necessary. Though, again, there probably was some but I couldn’t find proof of this anywhere.

Genre: Musical fan club on a fandom platform.

A screenshot of what their website and fan club tab looked like.

For my second piece of data, I chose to use a specific thread, or discussion, within Paramore’s Reddit Page. It is titled “Top 3 fave Paramore songs?” posted by user LandofOz39. Through Reddit, fans and members of the page have access to different actions: You can upvote or downvote a post if you like it or don’t, and users can add tags to their posts (for instance, this one is tagged “Good Vibes”) and under their profiles too, which is where you might see album titles located (such as “Brand New Eyes” in the second screenshot.)

I chose this discussion specifically because I feel that it is a beautiful way to member and call upon Paramore fans from all over the world to share their favorite songs and give them a chance to bond over commonalities. Anyone can be a part of Reddit if they have internet access. Many of the responses to this post didn’t include explanations, mostly just the song titles, so even if a user doesn’t speak English (the most common language on Reddit) but they’re still a fan, they can recognize what someone is talking about when they say Misery Business is their favorite song. In the third screenshot, you can see that user ‘varga1988’ has a connection with Paramore’s track Caught In The Middle, meaning that their music is deeply felt, and the Reddit discussion is the means by which connection is expressed.

Hymes Speaking Framework

Setting & Scene: Reddit is the setting and the scene is a thread on Paramore’s page where participants can share their top three.

Participants: Anyone who comments, votes, posts, or moderates. Out of the 68.5k people who have joined Paramore's page, 52 people voted and 82 people commented.

End goal: The end goal of this thread is to allow people to share their top three Paramore songs and discuss their answers and opinions.

Act Sequence: The act sequence begins with who is asking the question or posting a thought, so in this specific case it would be user ‘LandofOz39’ asking “Top 3 fave Paramore songs?” This user used the question as the title of their post, and in the subheading put “No hate, just love. I also love R&B/Soul, just saying” followed by sharing their own top 3 favorites. By the use of the question in the title, users who were either interested in answering themselves or interested in responding entered the thread.

Key: The key the original poster used was one of an inviting nature saying, “No hate, just love I also love R&B/Soul, just saying” and tagging it “Good Vibes”. This user seems to want the other users on that page to know that they are free to possibly share controversial opinions and that they’re in a safe space to post their opinions.

Instrumentalities: The instrumentalities of this thread are the use of tagging, like how the original author tagged their post with “Good Vibes”. User ‘spidersandroses’ has the album “Brand New Eyes” tagged next to their name. As for pictures, users can choose their avatars and profile photos, and personalize their username too. Typed English.

Norms: The norms follow the rules of Paramore’s full Reddit page which are as follows: No being rude, no low-effort posts, no racist/homophobic/sexist/transphobic comments or posts, no piracy, no pornography, no posting personal information, no shipping the band members, and no self-promotion.

Genre: The genre of this is that it’s a thread within a Reddit community to share personal opinions and thoughts.

My research has opened my eyes to the true scope of not only the wide range of support for Paramore, but the things that the band does for their fans, and that’s equally as important as the fans supporting the artist. Every fan community has its faults, but I’ve found that this one is welcoming and always ready to discuss what parts of the band resonate the most with them, and that’s how their legacy stays alive. Through the use of pictures, song titles, tattoos, collections of CDs or vinyls, merchandise, and more these fans can communicate with each other, both verbally and nonverbally. Paramore isn’t just a band, they’re a refuge for the people who never knew how to express themselves, myself included. Using music as a means to communicate identity is crucial to cultural development, especially at a young age. Sharing a specific song with another fan might reveal something about yourself to them, certainly so if you allude to having a connection to it, and that’s exactly what I found on the Paramore Reddit Page. Their impact will forever be a part of music history and cultural history within a fan base.

Fan Sources

  1. Wiki, Contributors to Paramore. “All We Know Is Falling.” Paramore Wiki, Fandom, Inc., Accessed 16 Feb. 2024.

  2. Chesbro, Brandon, director. Paramore: The Final Riot! 25 Nov. 2008.

  3. Deleted profile, Unknown. “To Anyone Who Was in the Paramore Fan Club, What Was It Like?” Reddit, Dec. 2023,

  4. LandofOz39. “Top 3 Fave Paramore Songs?” Reddit, Mar. 2024,

  5. Wiki, Contributors to Paramore. “Paramore Fan Club.” Paramore Wiki, Fandom, Inc.,

  6. “Forums.” Paramore Fans, Accessed 18 Mar. 2024.

  7. “Paramore Reddit Page.” Reddit, Accessed 18 Mar. 2024.

  8. “Paramore.” Fan Forum, Accessed 18 Mar. 2024.

Scholarly Sources

  1. Watson, Ash. “Youth, Zines, and Music Scenes.” Bloomsbury Academic, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2023.

  2. . De Boise, Sam. “Cheer up emo kid: Rethinking the ‘crisis of masculinity’ in emo.” Popular Music, vol. 33/2, 2014.

  3. Fitriana, Monika. “The Constructive Image of Hayley Williams as the Winner of Billboard Women in Music Award: Studying the Supportive Comments of Audiences on Twitter.” Universitas Sebelas Maret, 2018.

  4. Kennedy, Deborah. “Afterword: From Patti Smith to Paramore.” Saint Mary’s University, 2012.


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