Hayley Williams’ “Petals For Armor” Reveals Vulnerability, Femininity, and Rage
Hayley Williams was always a performer who put their all on stage but, this album displays a newer and more vulnerable side to the performer that was never shown before. This album addresses the hurt she experienced from her divorce, her own trauma growing up, and embracing her femininity and the unity that comes with it.
The album is broken down in every aspect. Williams initially meant to break the album in three EPs before releasing the album as a whole, but not only that, she also broke the album down by her emotions and the various meshed genres.
A huge aspect of the album is centered by her rage and her process of healing. She was dealing with the loss of her marriage, generational angst, and reviewing her own traumas growing up. Rage and anger are the openings of the album, but we see a subtle shift to self-love and forgiveness. It is a journey and we hear Williams take this stride by herself.
“Simmer” and “Leave it Alone” fully encompass’ that rage and angst in Williams which stemmed from her feeling as if she’s out of control. She described that rage and anger in an interview with Pitchfork, “I have spent a lot of time yelling at a wall. Sometimes the wall was a person in some position of authority in my life. Sometimes the wall was me. I’ve just spent a lot of energy screaming, but it didn’t really ever change anything. What changed things was being able to speak my truth with conviction. But I think anger brought me there.”
“I realized I had so much more to learn about myself and my family story. I think a lot of my rage is born out of a generational trauma. It’s been a pattern for a lot of women in my family, where it’s almost as if they sought out different types of abuse. I’m older now, and my mom is more willing to talk about her experiences and her mother’s experiences, and I’m realizing I come from a long line of women who are survivors. I’ve never experienced anything all that violent. But I ended up causing myself a lot of pain and choosing people that cause me pain. So rage is about at once feeling helpless and then simultaneously having this realization that my anger can be a catalyst for change.”Hayley Williams to Pitchfork
Another huge aspect of the album is Williams accepting her own femininity and using it as a means of healing. Williams previously felt the need to shove her feminine side to the back burner due to working in a male-dominated genre, but now she’s accepting it and being empowered by it.
“A lot of us grew up with the duality of masculinity and femininity—there’s so much within them but also beyond them, and any of us can tap into any of that at any point. But I think there is femininity in everything. There’s a song by Big Thief where Adrianne sings, “There’s a woman inside of me/There’s one inside of you, too/And she don’t always do pretty things.” That song was a beautiful eye opener for me to understand that there’s feminine value to so many living things. I feel more tapped into it than I did before.”Hayley Williams to Pitchfork
Overall, the album is fulled of meshed genres. There’s a natural chemistry between every song that makes it flow organically. They don’t feel disjointed and as it plays through we can see Williams journey as she heals.
The Anger and Angst
“The opening song “Simmer” demonstrates some of that anger with the verse, ‘If my child needed protection from a fuxker like that man // I’d sooner gut him, ’cause nothing cuts like a mother.’ She emphasizes the word “fuxker” with a slightly raised voice. It’s sharp and harsh in its delivery and deviates from the relaxed whispering throughout the whole song. The overall song is haunting, yet soulful with pop undertones.”
“Leave it alone” is one on the two most vulnerable songs out of the album. We get an inside into Williams’ uncertainty, loneliness, and anxieties. She speaks on her losses and how she’s dealt with death. It is easily the most personal song on the album. Despite the seriousness of the topic, it is accompanied by her lovely soft vocals and an enjoyable melody. “Leave it alone” is painfully and beautifully vulnerable.” It is a tender and delicate ode to her grandmother.
“Creepin‘” and “Cinnamon” are vastly different from the rest. “Cinnamon” is a light-hearted, skittering song. It is very rich with its instrumental and is the beginning turn to femininity. It is very playful and has a funk and blues tone, while “Creepin‘” is more avant-garde in its sound.” The song focuses on people who drain you of your energy which can explain why the song is much more stuttered with its baseline and crafty guitar work.
“The most reminiscent to Paramore is “Sudden Desire.” She’s speaking on what she expects and wants of a man, and she is not being shy. It is very raw and sensual, but also very punk rock in its delivery. This song demonstrates why people love Williams. She hits those high notes with that booming voice.“
“Over Yet,” “Taken,” and “Pure Love” are dance-pop meets ’80 synths centered around Williams’ flawless vocals. It is what we’ve learned to love with Williams in Paramore but this time she’s doing it on her own.
Petals of Healing
“Dead Horse” describes how depression and a bad mental state can stifle your creative ability. Despite the overall idea sounding dark, Williams approaches this song very lightheartedly. It’s one of the most straightforward pop songs and it is incredibly catchy.
“Roses/ Loutus/ Violet, Iris” sets the acceptance to her feminine side ablaze with lyrics such as, “Think of all the wilted women/ Who crane their necks to reach a window/ Ripping all their petals off just ’cause /He loves me now, he loves me not.” She is now emboldened by her femininity and no longer wants to partake in the former misogyny she once partook in with songs such as “Misery Business.”
This is a beautiful album of a journey through self-acceptance, self-care, and self-love. Every song is perfectly placed and just a sign of every emotion and turn to get to that “right place.”