It’s no secret that I’ve always been a Paramore fan. Their music has described the difficulties of friendship and the hardships of growing up in a way that no other band has. Their newest album, After Laughter, succeeded at this again.
All of the songs on this album hit me in different ways, but “Idle Worship” feels particularly important. It describes how Hayley is different than the hero everyone makes her out to be. Everyone develops their own idea of her, and trusts her, and feels like they know her because her music has helped them so much. But the truth is, nobody really knows her. Everyone just knows the parts of her she chooses to show. (And if you don’t already see the similarities, this is a sequel to my previous post, Paper People, which is on how we develop ideas about people we don’t know.)
Hayley, just like every other celebrity/band member/actor/you-name-it out there, is a person. People hurt people. People get hurt. People feel alone. And people aren’t special. Hayley’s a person, so she’s just like everyone else. She’s not some glowing goddess who graces us with perfect music every few years (even if sometimes it feels that way). She. Is. A. Person. Just go blast Paramore’s earlier song, “Ignorance,” in your ears, and you’ll hear her say it herself.
Despite me always knowing that my heroes were just people who I didn’t actually know, it was hard to truly believe it. When I hear a song by Relient K or Aaron Gillespie or read something by Jamie Tworkowski, I feel like I could have created it. I feel like I know them. I feel understood for once, but they are just people. And me connecting with what they’ve created isn’t something particularly unique.
November was when I met my all-time favorite band, Relient K. Their songs contained the words I needed right when I needed them, and it seemed they saved my life. As I walked toward the band, still sorting out what to say, the lead singer looked at me and said, “Hi, I’m Matt. What’s your name?” And I can’t emphasize how important this moment was for me. Because it turned him from a glorious idea filled in with my imagination to a real, living person. Not just my hero.
I thought about how he didn’t know me, how I was one of many fans who had been majorly helped by the band’s music, and how he had a full life I didn’t know about. I felt like I knew him personally, but let’s be honest, I didn’t. It was strange at first to face the idea that I didn’t have this amazing connection with the band I imagined only I did. But realizing it was actually one of the greatest things that happened to me.
Meeting Relient K was great because they really cared about the people they met. But even better than that was realizing they were just people. It made me feel more like a person, more like I had the potential to create something that others could truly connect with. Sure, meeting them cemented in my mind the real-life distance between bands and people that is sometimes hard to face. But getting hit with reality didn’t make me like the band less than I had before, it just made me like them differently. It kind of gave me a healthy push toward loving them rather than idolizing them.
Tying this all together, bands and things can help us. We can feel an overwhelming connection to them. They can help us personally, but they’re not personal. They’re not perfect, and they’re not what’s ultimately going to save us.
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
-Hayley Williams, Idle Worship
And this brings us back to “Idle Worship.” Because although Paramore’s not a Christian band, they talked about something every Christian (and person for that matter) needs to get through their head.
Music (and all other things) do not save us. God does.
I struggle not to replace God with music. It’s stupid, I know. Because I hear something that helps me and automatically think, “Twenty One Pilots saved me!” or something of the like when in reality God was just using them to save me. Everything means nothing without God in the picture. Music might be beautiful, but it is also flawed. It might take away my pain, but behind it, God is taking away my pain. Music might make me feel better, but it has never gotten on a cross and taken on my sin. God has.
I’m so thankful that Paramore went somewhere most bands don’t go. As weird as it is for me to realize how imperfect the things and people we idolize are, it will save me a lot of heartache when they disappoint me. I’m lucky I don’t have to worry about being disappointed by my real savior.