The journey started with a choppy conference call. It ends with a stirring three-video cinematic narrative that loads the world with expectations for Hayley Williams’s debut solo studio album, Petals for Armor.
Warren Fu, the acclaimed director with more than 20 years in the industry, has collaborated with everyone from Haim and The 1975 to Daft Punk and The Weeknd. He had previously worked with Williams’s band Paramore for their goofy, endearing 2018 video “Rose-Colored Boy,” and when the singer was ready to launch her own solo adventure, she knew who to hit up.
“We were all very happy with how ‘Rose-Colored Boy’ turned out and we had talked about doing more in the future,” Fu tells MTV News via email. “So when Hayley and her creative director, Lindsey Byrnes, reached out to me with new solo songs, I jumped at the opportunity to work with her again.” After hearing coarse versions of the tunes through a low-quality call, Fu was all in.
In just over two weeks at the top of this year, Williams shared three full Fu-directed videos, as well as two “interludes,” for intense and emotional songs that doubled as personal experiences. First came “Simmer,” a ballad about twisting your finger in someone’s most painful spot and holding on to marinating rage. “Leave It Alone” followed soon after, somberly chuckling about the cosmic irony of losing everything just when you want to keep it. The final piece was “Cinnamon,” changing the pace to talk about the sanctity of one’s home and Williams’s eventual liberation.
The visuals are full of slightly horrifying splendor; Williams is haunted by her own hooded doppelgänger in one, a butterfly-like beast in another, and living, dancing extensions of her house in the third. Inspired by the songs, these clips are also something different entirely. Fu’s videos let the songs speak for themselves while placing Williams’s two characters, whom he refers to as “Mercy” and “Wrath,” in a three-video journey about the internal battle to accept each other as one.
“These are very personal songs for her,” Fu says. “She had a collection of ideas that came from visions that she had. Some were loose, some were specific.”
After getting some initial notes about the ideas and direction in which Williams wanted to go, Fu went to work on establi