“Idle Worship” is my #1 song from After Laughter because, just like “Mad” by Solange, I love its message. Throughout the song, Hayley Williams is constantly letting listeners and fans alike know that she isn’t a role model and doesn’t aspire to be one.
“Standing here like I’m supposed to say something
Don’t hold your breath, I never said I’d save you, honey
And I don’t want your money
If I was you, I’d run from me or rip me open
You’ll see you’re not the only one who’s hopeless
Be sure to put your faith in something more
I’m just a girl and you’re not alone as you feel
We all got problems, don’t we?
We all need heroes, don’t we?
But rest assured, there’s not a single person here who’s worthy”
Known for her [usually] orange hair, pop punk attitude, and fabulous voice, Williams wrote this song after realizing that a lot of her fans were idolizing her and she wasn’t too much a fond of that. I can admit that during my middle school Tumblr girl era, I loved Hayley Williams fiercely (just ask my parents lol) and I still do. However, back then it was an angry, “she’s the only person who understands how I feel” type of worship that had me feeling as though she was the only person in my corner and spending all of my money on Paramore albums and merch (and of course, the Twilight franchise was there too. Side note: can you imagine my happiness when they recorded not one, but TWO songs for their soundtrack?). Hayley Williams was truly my hero. Now, I appreciate the stories that Hayley tells in her music and am grateful that I have something and someone to relate to but I won’t let myself get back to that crazy era of fandom.
“Hey baby, I’m not your superhuman
And if that’s what you want
I hate to let you down”
A really neat thing about this song is that the title itself is a play on words. “Idle worship” refers to fans who worship their idols without any particular purpose. Although some of the celebrities of today actually have talent, fans (or “stans”) go crazy for their celebrity idols and will follow them blindly without holding them to standards that they would hold “normal people” to on a daily basis. Hayley is lowkey dragging stan culture but also letting her fans know that she isn’t perfect and doesn’t strive to be. She just wants to be an artist and speak her truth.
“Oh, it’s such a long and awful lonely fall
Down from this pedestal that you keep putting me own
What if I fall on my face? What if I make a mistake?
If it’s okay a little grace would be appreciated”
I can honestly relate to this song, and especially this verse, on so many levels. As the oldest of several siblings, I constantly feel pressured to be the perfect daughter, the perfect sister, the perfect student, but most of all, the perfect example for my siblings. Granted, I should be a positive role model for my younger siblings but it’s not like I asked to be. Growing up, I felt as if I was never allowed to make mistakes in fear that my brothers or sisters would follow in my footsteps but as I got older I had to realize that everyone makes their own mistakes and for their own reasons. Everything that happened was not necessarily my fault.
And to add to the pressure of being perfect, I chose to go to Howard University where judgment is what my peers do best. Howard is a tough school in terms of social circles and feeling as if you belong. During my first year, I didn’t feel as though I belonged at Howard because I didn’t fit in with the cookie cutter bad bitch aesthetic that literally every Howard woman embodies, no matter her affiliation or rank on the list of Fine Women that Attend Howard University. Although I’ve realized that a lot of the badassery that comes from Howard women is pure confidence, it’s still hard because Howard students as a whole are expected to be perfect in every aspect. From looks to GPA to extracurricular activities especially, Howard students have a reputation of doing the most and excelling at any and everything that they do and when you don’t you’re looked down upon whether you want to believe it or not. It’s tough and no matter if you think it’s great because it builds strong individuals and breeds black excellence or damaging due to the constant anxiety and stress we as Howard students feel, it’s the truth and it’s the culture we’ve built and continue to perpetrate on our campus. I’m honestly torn between both points of view because they’re both true but I will use the tiny influence that I have on my campus to help others so that they don’t go through the same wave of emotions I went through during my first semester at my beloved university.
“Oh, no, I ain’t your hero
You’re wasting all your faith on me
Oh, no, I know where this goes
Think it’s safe to say your savior doesn’t look a thing like me”
During the bridge before the end of the song, Hayley is telling her fans to refrain from calling her their hero and encouraging them to put their faith into something that really means something, like she originally stated in the first verse. She also alludes to her belief in Christianity and I like to believe that the last line from the bridge means that sis is #woke and knows that Jesus Christ isn’t a white man with long, slightly wavy brunette hair.
In an interview with Zane Lowe about her writing process while writing “Idle Worship”, Hayley stated this: “It forced me to try and understand the way we have to worship things. I don’t know why we do. And we kind of make up our own games, and just start to worship anything…ourselves, our friendships, someone else that we look up to, a hero, and none of it is bulletproof. It forced me to think about what’s the one thing in my life that’s been bulletproof for me? And it’s been faith.”