The last five months have been interesting for all of us, in a time of anxiety and unknown. In Hayley Williams, we have witnessed the growth and change seemingly first hand as she released new music and discussed what her new world has become in the midst of isolation and being bound at home. Hayley released this album to promote awareness of focusing on mental health, and to share her own journey overcoming depression and anxiety.

While sharing her growth through anxiety, depression, and creating as a woman in the music industry, Hayley is unashamed of her vulnerability, especially in her newest album release. And since her album has hit top rock charts, Hayley has officially become the first woman to do so as a soloist and as a part of her band, Paramore.

Since before the album’s concept was fully-fledged, the intention was always to release it in three parts. She took her time and had fun with it and didn’t let herself fall to any restrictions. And even still, each song she released into the world as her solo project was slowly trickled out; made to be taken in and slowly digested. She stated in an interview that her reasoning behind this was to give her fans time to digest and tear it apart to find all the little meanings behind it.

pt.i: Petals for Armor

Released earlier in the year, part one of the album showed the exciting new beginnings of the concept Hayley Williams had in store for us. Funky, emotional, and vulnerable, the tracks all showed the fear, the anxieties, and the insecurities of starting on a new journey and leaving the old behind.

The first three songs of the album feature a music video trilogy, uncovering the struggles through mental health without fear or shame. These videos contain a lot of depth and heavy experiences for Hayley personally, but their raw vulnerability makes the visuals with the music all the more easy to relate to during personal struggles with mental health.

Simmer hit the charts shortly after release. The video creates a beautiful visual behind the emotions of moving on from the old, and beginning anew. A figure runs through the dark, a struggle to find light and hope in the middle of the dark.

In this video, Hayley shows us the start of finding beauty in the ugliness of our own emotions, and growing beyond our innermost dark thoughts to find happiness. “Wrap yourself in petals of armor,” she sings as she cocoons herself in clay. And the song’s meaning becomes all the more clear: finding calm in the dark to begin to grow; become aware of your surroundings, and carefully peeling back the veil into finding yourself, the beautiful and the ugliness within.

As each new single was released, Hayley also teased fans with interludes to transition her concept and to show them a little of what the next new song had to offer. In the first interlude, a figure carries her into a room, where she is nurtured and becomes a full cocoon, then awakens. The visuals overall are beautiful concept of how to move on in life in the process of rebirth, transition, and growth.

When we are hurt, we hide from our pains and stow them away in the dark corners of our mind. “Leave it Alone” describes this feeling beautifully, of how we can become complacent in our warmth of being in limbo– a break while in the process of growing– but comfortable with where we are before having to work more toward our inner growth.

In the video she released with the single, there are strong visuals of this process of transition, where Hayley lays in her cocoon, slowly pulling out the infections in her; and it describes that even though getting rid of the infections of the mind, dark thoughts, dark emotions, and bad behavioral patterns, she cannot leave it alone, otherwise it’ll rot and further spread throughout her body and mind. Finding the truths of our flaws are painful, but leaving it alone and staying inside the comforts of the cocoon would be worse than facing it and fixing the problem.

The second interlude video shows the character Hayley portrays bursting from the cocoon, naked and vulnerable, but new and fresh. She grabs at the pieces that once contained her, old parts of her as a covering to protect herself from her vulnerability and nakedness, then opens a new door of the house.

In “Cinnamon,” the concept of being re-birthed continues. A catchy beat, the song expresses the first feelings you get when you overcome the dark feelings within; the elation and joy and happiness, where you realize that even though this darkness is in your life, it can never be a part of you. “I am free, finally,” a gasp and breath of fresh air after feeling nothing but numb or like you want to die. Later in the video, Hayley is depicted dancing with her inner demons (choreography by Tovaris Wilson), showing that first expression of freedom, when you are free from darkness but embracing your past as a part of that journey in growth but finally grasping the first rays of light after feeling nothing but numb for so long.

Even though the album’s “trilogy” ended after Cinnamon, the album’s overall concept has only just completed its introduction. In the song “Creeping,” we are shown that Hayley’s inner journey through mental health has only begun. The first breakthrough in one’s mental health journey sometimes opens up old wounds and can make you vulnerable to old enemies. This song beautifully depicts that feeling; when you’re taking your first steps forward in growth but can still feel the darkness creeping in and trying to come back in. Maybe this journey hits another plateau…maybe numbness is creeping in, and you fall a little behind and welcome those old enemies, knowingly or unknowingly as you try to fight your way on your own to find freedom. No matter how far you feel you’ve gone, the initial first steps in finding inner freedom are the hardest, because it’s when you are finding a new normal, and not too far away from the lingering enemies and bad habits you’re trying to break. Sometimes you wonder if it’s better to be depressed than numb and vulnerable. Depression is familiar, and vulnerability is painful and scary. But as it creeps and lingers, these feelings are no longer as comforting as they once were, and it’s like a relapse when you’re trying to get yourself clean…

“Sudden Desire,” expresses this feeling of relapse— a sick satisfaction in filling the desire of feeding old habits. A bad relationship can stifle that growth you’ve been fighting so hard to fight. The lyrics in this song are painfully beautiful and raw as Hayley Williams discusses this. “It’s cruel to tame a thing that doesn’t know its strength.” Relapsing back into a toxic pattern or relationship feels like fingerprints imprinting and never fully leaving the body; sticking close, those memories, the good things you find in a bad thing that tamed you and didn’t let you be who you really are. And once that hunger is fed, you feel like you’ve only taken steps backward in your journey.

pt.ii. Roses/Lotus/Violet/Iris

Still releasing one by one, Hayley confessed to her fans over social media that although the music is coming out, “I’m still going through the sh*t I sing about. Writing songs helps but doesn’t magically fix the exhaustive patterns or hurts.” In part two of the album, you can feel this inner battle most of all. Though in part one of the album, we see the beginning of the process and the first breakthroughs, there is much more work to be done in order to keep growing. “It’s a reminder for me to be kinder to myself,” she continued.

With the video of “Dead Horse” released within the same week the album’s drop, the song creates a great visual introduction to part two of the album, which was released a couple of months before. The song start’s off with Hayley commenting, “I’m sorry, I was in a depression, but I’m trying to come out of it now,” then continues with the process of breaking off toxic attachments to continue to grow and overcome darkness. “My Friend,” the next song, talks about finding a healthy community that help nurture growth and healing to find happiness.

Haley created an album in a time of isolation, where many people are struggling with their mental health more than ever. As an artist she must feel as certain obligation to help other people through overcoming mental health issues as someone who has done so herself and is working through it herself. “Over Yet” is an anthem you and hoping for in the floor feeling down with an 80 feel so music video is a fitting aerobic dance numbers. Through every dark part of me. Get out of your head and break a sweat need to get over this together. With this music video release just as isolation laws were being put in place, Hayley’s timing could never be more perfect, Because everyone is going through a hard time right now I’m struggling on with their mental health more than ever.

“For the first time in years, I’ve been home a lot. It’s causing me to reminisce a lot. Maybe I’m just nostalgic. I have been on and off touring or making music for work since I started with Paramore. This has given me so much free time to create just for me.”

One of my personal favorites from the album, “Roses/Lotus/Violet/Iris” creates an extremely visual metaphor, encouraging others to let yourself bloom and wear your petals for armor; embracing our inner uniqueness and journeys and making them strengths to help others bloom, too. “I myself was a wilted woman, drowsy in a dark room, forgot my roots, now watch me bloom.” We are in a process of growth. In our thorns, scarring, and wilting, we are all in different processes of growth. All the wilted women, who rip off their petals over men or other women who don’t appreciate them for who they are.

In our scars we are beautiful, unique in our stories as we push on to find our own ways of happiness through struggle and one day we can bloom and grow when we nurture and care for ourselves the way we should. We are flowers, women. Strong. We can break through the earth and bloom rather than compare ourselves to others, and nurture ourselves the way we need to properly tend to needs and bloom. In breaking off the wilting parts, we can cultivate new growth.

pt. iii Petals for Armor

Released with the full album on May 8th, Hayley dropped the remainder of the album all at once, giving her fans snippets of each song to ease anticipations. In isolation, Hayley Williams has been extremely productive. She has looked back at her memories with Paramore fondly but also in ways that show her growth in overcoming depression, anxiety, and growing in her mental health journey. In part three of the album, only here can you see the true fruits from her labor. In this, you can really see the process of her growth from part one to part three, where part three is much happier than part one.

With a catchy bass and beat, “Pure Love,” fills the atmosphere with positive feeling and groove; a breath of fresh air and sign of breakthrough in the album. In order to be confident and embrace love, there should be no fear in expressing emotion to the ones you care about. Another catchy tune, “Taken,” shows the happiness in expressing the joys in finding love. “I am taken, and he is too.” Though she is putting in the work to pick up the pieces of herself, Hayley sings that he makes her want to give love another shot.

“Sugar on the Rim,” blasts the ears with synth, electronic vibes that you cannot help but groove along to. A seemingly simple love song, the song digs a little deeper into how finding love, a true and deep connection, helps you grow even further.

Soulful and upbeat, “Watch Me while I Bloom,” digs deeper into what it feels like to feel like yourself again, fully and freely; that excitement in blooming and growing, and overjoyed to feel in your own skin after pulling up all the roots of darkness and leaving it behind. In this song, you can feel Hayley Williams express this joy.

“Crystal Clear” finishes off the album strong with a conclusion of the concept of overcoming darkness and growing. Though this process never ends, of growth, Hayley has become strong enough to not give into fear, and she can handle it with a much more clear perspective, and a story to help others bloom past their pain as well. Though the pain we experience in fear, anxiety, and darkness, we are strong and don’t have to give in or let it rule us. Our pasts can only add to the stories written on our skin, a part of us, but not a part of our identity.

Witnessing Hayley Williams grow as she released each track makes this album all the more special to listen to. Not only did we feel like we could witness a little bit of her process, but in being so open to share her journey, I am sure she has already helped others find a way to nurture themselves and grow from their own pain and pasts. Petals for Armor is overall a beautiful album, and I cannot wait to see what she has to offer the world next as she continues to express herself and create.

Stream/download Petals for Armor here:

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