Previously published on my Tumblr page, http://a-woman-apart.tumblr.com/
I scraped my knees while I was praying
And found a demon in my safest haven
It seems like it’s getting harder to believe in anything
Than just to get lost
In all my selfish thoughts
I want to know what it’d be like
To find perfection in my pride
To see nothing in the light
I’ll turn it off
In all my spite
In all my spite
I’ll turn it off
-Hayley Williams of Paramore singing “Turn it Off” on their album, “Brand New Eyes”
Most people who know me know that I’m totally obsessed with the band, Paramore, but specifically with their album “Brand New Eyes” that was released in 2009. Hayley is said to have pretty much isolated herself in a dark room with a notepad and writing in it some of her deepest and most painful experiences and ideas.
The results were so controversial, that two members of the band, brothers Zac and Josh Farro actually left the band completely shortly following its release. They claimed that Hayley had started “writing negative lyrics” and “denouncing everything they believed in”. They made special mention of the album’s opening song, “Careful” where Hayley belts out these lyrics,
The truth never set me free (x3)
So I did it myself
In an interview, Hayley defended herself by saying that when she said “the truth” she meant “your truth, Josh” and not by definition “the truth we all believe in.” Even knowing that she said this, I still struggled with the lyrics and whether or not the song conflicted with my religious convictions (when I had religious convictions).
This is not Hayley’s last religious reference on the album. On the album’s second track, “Ignorance” she sings out,
It’s not a war
It’s not a rapture
I’m just a person but you can’t take this
Hayley pointed out in that same interview that because of her background “religious lingo finds its way into the songs”. She continues her theme in the song “Playing God”,
if God’s the game that you’re playing
Well we must get more acquainted
Because it has to be so lonely
To be the only one who’s holy
Obviously Hayley was having some serious issues with her [probably Christian] understanding of God, because she continues to spit telling lines in the fourth track, “Brick by Boring Brick”.
If it’s not real you can’t hold it in your hands
You can’t feel it with your heart
And I won’t believe it
But if it’s true you can see it with your eyes
Oh even in the dark
And that’s where I want to be
Finally, we make it to the song that I opened the post with, the album’s fifth, “Turn it Off”. I overlooked the song for the longest time because I didn’t really understand what it was trying to say, but now I think I really do. She sings about “finding a demon in my place of prayer” which can be related to feelings of futility, frustration, or emptiness when trying to speak to God. She talks about “wanting to find perfection in her pride” which shows that she possibly felt conflicted about the Biblical ideal of being humble and self-sacrificing. “To see nothing in the light” possibly speaks about maybe not having to look outside of herself all the time for guidance, and instead just being able to trust her own instincts.
I struggled with all of these things and more, and that is why this album is so precious to me. In fact when I watched the music video for “Brick by Boring Brick” I cried uncontrollably and had a sort of mental breakdown. I know that doesn’t sound like a positive thing to say about a song, but in my case, it really needed to happen. I actually didn’t break down specifically because of the lyrics I quoted above, but because of these ones earlier on in the song,
So build your home brick by boring brick
Or the wolf’s going to blow it down
Keep your feet on the ground
With your head in the clouds…
Go get your shovel
And we’ll dig a deep hole
To bury the castle
Bury the castle…
It finishes off beautifully in the second verse by saying,
You built up a world of magic
Because your real life is tragic
Yeah you built up a world of magic
I could relate to that so much. I felt like my only choice in life was to build a boring house (the title of one of my other posts “Build Your Home” was actually directly quoting the song in case you’re wondering) and just live in it for the rest of my life. I daydreamed often and was obsessed with fantasy literature. The idea of “burying the castle” appealed to me more than words could ever express. It meant putting the past behind me and living a life for real.
Back then, though, I didn’t really understand my feelings, I just knew that I kept listening to the album over and over again and feeling all of these intense feelings. I will forever be grateful to Hayley for being true to herself and writing all of those things out, probably never realizing how much those words would mean to someone. She shows how yes, you can go from a Christian-inspired anthem like “Hallelujah” or “We Are Broken” to songs like “Careful” and “Playing God”.
Did Hayley “lose” her faith though? I don’t think so, because in “Part II” (the second part to “Let the Flames Begin”) she has a short ending that goes,
Like the moon we borrow light
I am nothing but the shadow in the night
But if you light me I will catch fire
So let your glory and mercy shine
If you were wondering, she’s definitely talking to God/Jesus because on the deluxe version of the self-titled album there’s a track that was recorded at a live concert where she follows those ending lyrics with,
Or something roughly like that. In some funny way that gives me hope, that even if my faith changes I won’t have to lose it completely. Maybe I won’t pray to Jesus, even, but maybe, just maybe, I’ll still have something left to me.
And that, my friends, is what a post about Paramore is doing on a deconversion blog. Read it and weep, fellas.