Paramore frontwoman Hayley Williams is back in the spotlight. Along with the announcements that her band will be playing during this year's Austin City Limits and the While We Were Young Festival (as well as the fact Paramore is prepping a new album), Williams herself has made headlines with the launch of her new emo music history podcast and of course, that awesome Coachella performance with Billie Eilish.
During that Coachella set, not only did Williams perform "Misery Business" for fans, she also joined Eilish during the song "Happier Than Ever." She didn't sing much of the song compared to Billie. But the stuff she did sing? Boy, did it sound perfect on her voice! It got us thinking about Williams' astounding vocal ability, and the various covers she's given fans throughout the years.
That's the thing about Williams: no song is too challenging for her. No matter the genre or speed, Williams is easily able to sprinkle beloved songs into her repertoire. Whether she throws a cover right in the middle of a Paramore live show (like she did with Blondie's "Heart of Glass" during "Hard Times") or dedicating a social media post to performing a specific tune, all of her renditions sound fabulous. We think its due to a mix of talent, passion, and hard work.
We've been keeping our eyes on Williams since her early days in the biz, so today, we're giving you a Top 10 list of her best covers! We'll be covering songs she's performed solo, as well as songs with Paramore or other instrumentalists backing her up. Turn your sound up and get ready to listen as we roll along.
10. "Someday" - The Strokes
Hayley occasionally performed this cover with Paramore during the group's After Laughter tour around 2017. We're so used to Hayley belting high-pitched notes with ease, but this cover shows off her chops when it comes to singing in a lower register. She doesn't save her signature vocal embellishments until the very end, thus turning the spotlight over to the band behind her during the cover's first half.
The Strokes released the grunge-filled "Someday" back in 2002 as part of their album Is This It. It peaked at #17 on the U.S. Alternative Songs chart and at #27 on the U.K. Singles Chart. We hope Paramore covers some more Strokes tunes whenever they go back on tour!
9. "My Hero" - Foo Fighters
There's something so magical about Paramore's acoustic versions of songs. This cover of "My Hero" could have easily been a pop-punk romp with guitars and amplifiers blazing. Instead, Paramore pulled back with gentle strings and emotional vocals from Hayley, and the song sounds all the better for it.
This version of "My Hero" was released for the 2006 superhero film Superman Returns. Like Paramore's contributions to the Twilight soundtrack, this song stands out on the Superman Returns soundtrack as one of the best inclusions. Dave Grohl's vocal performance on the original 1998 track had a toughness-yet-edge to it, and Williams is able to perfectly capture that tone in her singing while making the track her own.
8. "Drew Barrymore" - SZA
Hayley performed an acoustic version of this SZA classic for social media. She took the key up a bit and added some spunk in her voice and facial expressions. With how cozy and quaint it feels, it's definitely "warm enough" for us.
SZA released "Drew Barrymore" in 2015, and fans take it as a somber tune that unveils SZA's low self-esteem. Hayley has been openly supportive of SZA, and has even claimed Ctrl is one of the albums that helped her get through 2017, according to Billboard. Hayley also interwove the lyrics of SZA's "20 Something" into her performances of "Grow Up" during Paramore's After Laughter tour.
Williams performed this tune live from her home in isolation during 2020 and posted it to social media alongside the caption “self-serenades/amateur hour.” Later in the post, she admits the cover was one of many performances filmed back in April she had “saved up.” It was a time in the year when the thought of apocalypse was very real. Therefore, there’s a vulnerability to the performance that is hard to miss. Depite Williams claiming in the caption that COVID-19 allowed her to "mess up" all her favorite songs, this cover is nowhere near messy.
7. "Fake Plastic Trees" - Radiohead
Hayley caved to fans' requests and finally did a cover of a Radiohead song. Williams stated "Fake Plastic Trees" was “the top requested song throughout my brief career in self-serenadism” as part of her COVID-19 lockdown covers series.
“Seemed sacrilegious at first until I realised that the band themselves have never once regarded what they do as precious or never-to-be-toyed with,” Williams wrote. “They are never beholden to any one version of their expression and public affections don’t seem to sway them."
She continued: “So many times people thought they were at their best only for them to bloom more beautifully into something unexpected and unequivocally better.” “For a time I pretended to be over Radiohead, but good things always find you and welcome you back.”
We love this cover because it proves Hayley has a knack for making her voice sound gentler although she's more known for her usual bold belting. Hayley's "Fake Plastic Trees" is quiet, pretty, and wonderfully contemplative.
6. "Passionfruit" - Drake
We think Drizzy would be proud of this sensual rendition of "Passionfruit," which Hayley performed alongside Paramore during their 2017 BBC Live Lounge performance. It has that New Age sound present throughout After Laughter while featuring moody, chill vocals from Hayley.
"Passionfruit" is a song about the difficulty of maintaining trust in a long-distance relationship, and the passion Hayley puts into her vocal riffs helps make that story clearer. Drake's original "Passionfruit" is the kind of song you'd play during a late-night car ride, but Paramore's "Passionfruit" is something you can cry at 3AM to.
5. "Everywhere" - Fleetwood Mac
The best cover Paramore performed during their 2017/2018 Parahoy and After Laughter tour performances. Its Hayley's dazzling vocal riffs and infectious energy that helped make this cover a fan favorite in Paramore's repertoire.
Hayley explained during a Parahoy show that "Everywhere" was a song the band constantly listened to. "This next song is one we put on a lot...around the AirBnB...this is a song we listened to a lot in the car and we still listen to all the time," she said. You can visibly see the band's love for the song as they play it - dancing up a storm and even incorporating some added voices from a special drum kit.
Turning back to Hayley's performance, there's just something about the way she performs the chorus that adds a special buzz, romanticism, and wimsy feel to the otherwise airy 80s tune. It originally featured vocals from Christine McVie and reached #4 on U.K. charts in 1988. In the United States, "Everywhere" reached number 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and went to #1 on the U.S. Adult Contemporary Chart, remaining there for three weeks.
4. "You Ain't Woman Enough" - Loretta Lynn
Another Paramore fan favorite - this time a country tune that pays homage to Loretta Lynn. Hayley performed this cover between 2009-2010 with Josh Farro backing her up on acoustic guitar. Hayley stated back in 2009 that while Paramore didn't listen to much country music, the genre helped the band feel more at home due to their Tennessee roots. They played more country music, and Hayley settled in to Loretta Lynn's tough lady anthem "You Ain't Woman Enough."
Hayley takes Loretta's cutesy recording and adds a charming punk grit to it. It's fun, fascinating, and oh-so catchy. Hayley was also able to sing the song clearly to audiences without a microphone: an impressive feat for any singer in a crowded space. It shows just how much vocal control she has.
We get to see flecks of Hayley's authentic country upbringing in this cover, and its something we still marvel over despite how much time has gone by.
3. "Use Somebody" - Kings of Leon
Perhaps the most memorable cover song Paramore has done as a group, their 2009 performance of "Use Somebody" in the BBC Live Lounge is something we can't help but come back to from time to time. Why the key of this cover and Hayley's opening vocals give us Chvrches "The Mother We Share" vibes, we're not sure. But Hayley's singing choices in this cover definitely "make you notice."
"Use Somebody" was originally released in 2008 by Kings of Leon. It was written by Caleb Followill after he was feeling blue on alcohol and medication following a surgical procedure. Hayley's building vocal strength within the cover helps make Followill's struggle feel more palpable: it's the struggle of someone trying to impress someone else while fighting inner turmoil.
Every time Hayley croons on the chorus, we get chills. This cover has all the elements of an early-days Paramore song while still retaining the cool aspects of the original recording.
2. "Don't Start Now" - Dua Lipa
One of Hayley's more recent covers in the BBC Live Lounge. This extraordinary rendition of Dua Lipa's "Don't Start Now" was performed in February 2020, just before COVID-19 brutally hit the United States. It was around the same time Hayley was promoting her solo project, Petals For Armor.
We previously talked about the genius of this cover within our Top 10 Dua Lipa Songs list. Williams proves within this rendition that there are two sides to pop-disco hit "Don't Start Now": a happy, danceable side, and a somber, moody side. Lipa has stated she wrote a few tracks on Future Nostalgia as "dance crying" tracks, and Williams brings out the crying aspect of the album more in this performance.
As one YouTube commenter describes it, "Dua Lipa is OVER the guy - 'screw you, I'm out!' Hayley is still hurting and not over him yet. Dua Lipa is going out to have a good time and didn't think about him until he called. Hayley going out is about getting over him. Drinking and dancing to have a good night knowing you'll still cry thinking about him later."
The complexity in Hayley's interpretation makes for an interesting performance you become invested in. We watch her struggle while falling in love with her notes. Her perfectly placed, stellar riffs tug even more at our heartstrings. Honestly, we just want to give her a hug while she's singing this.
1. "Bad Romance" - Lady Gaga
One could say Hayley unveiled this cover of Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" during the height of her and Gaga's careers in 2010. The rendition is only a minute and forty-four seconds in length and doesn't even feature the best picture or sound quality...but it still shakes us to our core.
This is another popular, originally upbeat song Hayley twists into a moody ballad. Not only does it show off her vocal chops, but this version of "Bad Romance" also displays her impressive piano skills. Something about the way she plays the instrument gives off a subtle vaudeville vibe.
Hayley's performance starts off cheeky and calm as she sings through the first verse. And then...that chorus. That gravity-defying, heart-stopping, belting chorus. We love Gaga. She is our queen. But there's something about the way Hayley takes the note higher on the line "lover's revenge" that makes us wonder if "Bad Romance" should have been a Paramore song instead.
Coming toe-to-toe with Gaga's abilities is a seemingly impossible feat, but Hayley makes it look easy while giving the song her own flair. To this cover, we say "Gaga ooh-la-la." We want this "Bad Romance!"
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