By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Paramore lead singer Hayley Williams needn't wonder if she's having an impact on her audience. Odds are good that every time she looks into the crowd at a concert, she'll see a veritable ocean of tween and teen girls wearing her hair color of the moment and their best approximation of her latest fashion style.
"It's weird," she concedes with a laugh, noting that the effect is comparable to the sort of mimicry she's seen in her 13-year-old sister, "except you have no idea who these people are, and there's millions of them. It's definitely a strange feeling. It goes from being kind of cool at first to a little freaky."
She'd better get used to it. Today, Paramore is among the few groups still capable of selling seven figures' worth of albums (Riot!, released in 2007, has gone platinum), and the lion's share of attention generated by its success has fallen on her. This fact has reportedly caused tension among the boys in the band, and though Williams is careful to credit them early and often, she's the one who has to deal with her own clone army, not to mention the pressure of being seen as a role model. (Sound familiar? Surely, Williams will learn what she can from Gwen Stefani as her band spends the summer as the recently reunited No Doubt's main tour support.)
"There's things that I'm sure any of us might do in our lives that people might see and not get or not understand why and think it's wrong," Williams acknowledges. "But I'm 20, and I'm growing up and learning just like some other 20-year-old, or like some 16-year-old, or some 30-year-old. Growing up is a process, and it's hard to have people watch you go through it. We have to understand that people are watching. But at the same time, I'm not going to stop myself from being what I am just to make other people happy."
Indeed, one recent decision is apt to upset the multitudes. Paramore landed a song called "Decode" in the end credits of a little movie called Twilight, and even though it's only heard for half a minute or so, the cut was chosen as the soundtrack's lead single, memorialized in a music video filled with film clips. This double coup lifted the act to a new level, yet Williams says the feat won't be repeated.
"I feel like Twilight, as much as we fought for it, was kind of a fluke for us," she notes. "It did blow up and do what it did, and we weren't expecting that at all. But I don't want to be known as the Twilight house band, so I think it'd be better if we leave it."
That noise you just heard was the sound of all the mini-Hayleys out there wailing in grief.