By Shannon Carlin
Hayley Williams wrote Paramore‘s “Ain’t It Fun” as a tongue in cheek way of telling herself to grow up already. It ended up being a symbol of not only Williams’ own maturity but also her band’s, earning them their fourth GRAMMY nomination.
It’s a big accomplishment for Williams and her two bandmates—bassist Jeremy Davis and guitarist Taylor York—who only a few years ago were contemplating whether they would ever record again.
In 2010, original members, Zac and Josh Farro, left the band, with Josh claiming that they were forced out because Paramore was “a manufactured product of a major-label.” He accused Williams of being manipulated by her management and claimed she was treating them as if they were her back-up band, saying he and the rest of the band were simply “riding on the coattails of her dream.”
This war of words soon became the band’s narrative, and left Williams, Davis and York wondering how they move on. Some of the moving on they did was emotional. Some of it was more literal—Williams and her bandmates moved from their homebase of Tennessee to L.A. to work on the follow-up to their 2009 album, Brand New Eyes.
“The whole idea behind our new album was that we’re getting a second chance to start over,” she told Radio.com in 2013, “to really rediscover what we want to be and what we already are. The real message was, ‘You don’t have to give up, just because the odds are against you.'”
The band’s 2013 self-titled album sounds like a musical rebirth. Williams sings about growing up, falling in love and no longer being a crazy girl, all while expanding Paramore’s pop punk sound to include a little soul, blues-driven rock and a lot of ukulele.
But moving out of her comfort zone wasn’t easy.
“It was my first time spending a lot of time away from home, away from family and my close friends,” Williams explained. “When you get outside your bubble, you realize just how big the world is and that you kind of have to fend for yourself.”
It was this realization that helped Williams write “Ain’t It Fun,” the fourth single off the band’s fourth album, which earned the band a GRAMMY nomination for Best Rock Song.
Williams says it was Davis who initially started working on the song, which was inspired by the British pop band Dutch Uncles, who later remixed the track. Davis began working on the song in an L.A. hotel, setting up his own makeshift studio using Fiji water bottles for speakers.
“It was the most ghetto rig,” Williams said laughing, explaining that she was coming by to meet him for dinner, but ended up skipping the meal to finish the song instead.
On it Williams sings about the transition from childhood to adulthood, “Don’t go crying to your mama/ Now you’re on you’re own.” Even taunting herself a bit with the snarky chorus: “Ain’t it fun?/ Living in the real world.”
“The lyrics were my sarcastic way of realizing you can’t be the king of the hill all the time,” she says. “It was a really good exercise for me as a human being—as a 23-year-old person at the time—understanding that life is so much bigger than your own perspective.
“It’s a really fun song to record,” she added, “but it was sort of me telling myself off.”
In hindsight, Williams says the song was just what she needed to get out of her funk. “I felt like I was going kicking and screaming on my own. But it’s funny, because I needed that,” she said. “I needed a change of perspective to know I could do a lot of things on my own.”
The song, which peaked at No. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100, also had Williams revisiting her gospel roots. Williams and Davis actually first played together in a late ’70s R&B cover band where they tackled songs by Chaka Khan and Stevie Wonder.
“I grew up on gospel, I love gospel and I think I never thought it would mesh at all with what Paramore would ever do,” she said. “But luckily on this album, we were a lot more openminded.”
Three months after recording the original version of “Ain’t It Fun,” Paramore headed back into the studio with a six-person gospel choir in tow.
“They put so much soul and so much feeling into their sound that makes it real and raw,” Williams said. “I actually cried like three times just hearing these people sing our sing. It was so cool.”
Paramore will go up against Jack White, The Black Keys, Beck and Ryan Adams for Best Rock Song at the 57th Annual GRAMMY Awards, airing Sunday, Feb. 8 at 8 pm EST on CBS.
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