Paramore - 'Misery Business'
Without meaning to get all Daily Mail on you...the world of emo is, self-confessedly, misogynistic. Pete Wentz has mused openly about why girls would choose to sing his lyrics at Fall Out Boy shows when he acknowledges they are frequently derogatory to their gender. By-words for females in emo songs are, as a rule, the sort of thing your mother would not be proud to hear you say, and the bands are almost universally male. Enter, then, Paramore, with Hayley Williams centre-stage as a Girl In Emo...a Femo, if you like.
Paramore have been kicking around for ages (or well a year or so, which is what passes for 'ages' in these turbulent pop times) actually and I have never found them likeable. The music itself is really very good and Hayley's pair of lungs are perfectly adequate. Although it's not particularly ground-breaking in any way, it's pretty fun and shouty and definitely better than a lot of emo (Cute Is What We Aim For, I am looking at you) so what the hell, if I like Bright Eyes and Fall Out Boy, I might as well plunge headlong into this, then, surely?
Now, I am willing to entertain the possibility that I am just jealous: Hayley Williams is thinner than me, has better hair and her bandmates are cuter than most of my friends. She is successful and everyone fancies her. Messed-up-Britney without actually being Britney being messed up. It's cute. Maybe. I don't know, she just doesn't seem as attractive as she should, really and I know that shouldn't matter with regards to the music but she is dragged to the fore of the songs and there's no question they're very much about her and so you can't avoid her in discussing them. Such is the nature of that which we have come to call emo.
Aside from the fact there's a bit in this which keeps sounding like it ought to go into the "watch this, baby, watch me EAT MY OWN BRAIN!" bit from 'Zombie Girl' by The Spazzys, this song doesn't bother me overmuch, musically. I like the bit where it breaks down a bit in the middle eight and it's entertainingly goofy in an Avril-By-Ramen way. It could actually bear quite a strong comparison to Ms. Lavigne's last single, in that it has a bit of a cheerleady edge to it and a ridiculous high-school video of girls being horrible to girls and boys being fools for girls, but never mind that, because it's not overly interesting.
What bothers me is the lyrics. Now, girls and boys, we know that there are some words which are rude and we know that ladies of pop are not above referring to young amorous men in various derogatory ways and there is a lot of man-hating music out there (the aforementioned Spazzys song comes from a long line of what Ten Things I Hate About You accurately describes as 'Angry Girl Music' and R&B/pop is full of stories of cheating-no-good-boys) so perhaps I am exercising double-standards here but I do feel extremely uncomfortable with emo's characterisation of females as 'whores'. It's a nearly universal maxim that ex-girlfriends, ex-girlfriends' friends, girls you screwed once and just remembered, girls you screwed once and can't forget etc, are whores.
Girls cannot be trusted, they are shallow and will hook up with your best friends at the slightest provocation. They are dangerous and seductive and they are Out To Get You, man. And it's not just modern rock that thinks this, either. Look at all the magazine articles about how to two-time him, how to get him to take you shopping, how to flit round in the latest high heels, how to use your boyfriend for whatever you can get - the mags don't like girls either. In fact rarely do articles in female-oriented magazines OR lad mags consider anything but how to get more for you, you and you.
Confidence-boosting though this may be, it does draw a fictional line between the sexes as though they can never have a meaningful discourse. Thing is, those magazines are not and never have been anything approaching an accurate representation of what goes on between entire biological groups. And while I will admit the commercialisation and willing sexual objectification of my gender both frightens and appalls me, I don't like the way 'whore' trips just as lightly off Hayley's tongue as it might Adam Lazarra's.
You might think that Hayley's opportunity here was to be superior to the name-calling and just be a good musician. And this is what, really, honestly, bothers me about the song. No doubt there are girls who break hearts like the rest of us break eyeliner or book spines or whatever, but the way Hayley sings the song on behalf of her boyfriend (inherited from the heartbreaking girl, much to Hayley's delight) is actually kind of creepy, like he's a possession or status symbol and relationships are just plays in a grand game theory.
Inevitably, lines like "once a whore you're nothing more, I'm sorry that will never change" linked with "well there's a million other girls who do it just like you" get their way in there, and yet Hayley gets touted as a feminist icon in a male-dominated genre when in this song at least, she seems one of the worst offenders.
The band have potential to be very, very good indeed. They have potential to be intensely likeable and they have potential to be musically ace, however, as long as Hayley is playing the part of any other emo vocalist, I can't particularly love them. I know they have fans who border on the single-minded, their obsession has reached such heights and I'd rather it was Paramore than a lot of other bands but for me, there's just something weird and wrong and to be honest, half faked about the whole thing.
That and "she's got a body like an hourglass, it's ticking like a clock" is a REALLY awful lyric.