“The opposite of love is fear.
I’m still trying to get used to how the former feels.
Because it feels so new.”
Musician Hayley Williams looks at human behavior in her new album, wondering what is necessary for growth. She began her music career as the lead singer of the Christian emo-rock band Paramore. She soon realized that facts, fear, and force did not have the power to change her life. Over the next decade, we have seen Hayley change into an introspective indie-pop solo artist tentatively exploring adulthood. Her debut solo album Petals for Armor shows that change is possible through courage, love, and vulnerability, a message especially relevant during the pandemic.
Hayley was never shy about showing her emotions while in Paramore, often using her defiant vocals to soar above the screaming guitars to express anger or sadness. What’s different about Petals for Armor is how Hayley carefully lingers with the nuances of these emotions. The album starts with the song “Simmer” and the words, “Rage is a quiet thing.” She isn’t afraid to ask difficult questions like, “Oh, how to draw the line between wrath and mercy?” Petal for Armor starts in an emotional place with which many Paramore fans are familiar but matures toward a more compassionate view of humanity.
Paramore began as an emo-rock band consisting of members ready to preach their Christian faith through music. Over the years, more spiritual questions were raised than were answered in the music and, slowly, spirituality no longer was mentioned. Yet many moments on Petal for Armor help listeners understand deep truths of faith in fresh ways. In the song “Pure Love,” Hayley confesses the realization that “The opposite of love is fear / I'm still trying to get / Used to how the former feels / 'Cause it feels so new.”
Her vulnerability around fear and love mirrors the mystery of 1 John 4:18, which proclaims, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.” Hailey courageously admits the transforming power of love is a new feeling for her and this feeling hard to understand when we are broken.
Hailey’s decision to go solo rather than release this album as Paramore showcases her courage to be vulnerable. First, she has to go back on her public statements that she would never go solo. She also no longer can share the responsibilities and scrutiny with others but must face them alone. In her Apple Music interview with Zane Lowe, Hayley said, “(I)t is so terrifying that at a certain age you have to start being a little more self-aware.” She recognizes that Petals for Armor must take risks lyrically and musically even if fans find these changes hard.
Christians must especially resist the temptation to stay safe and stagnate in our faith. We must be courageous. Much like the musical journey of Hayley Williams, this courage involves vulnerability rather than flashy displays of power. We will face difficult questions, sit in uncertainty, admit we need God and others, and listen more than we speak. It will be a courage that matures and goes from screaming electric guitars to a quiet lasting voice. (Atlantic)