The Only Exception

"The Only Exception" is a song by American rock band Paramore. It was released by Fueled by Ramen in February 2010 as the third single from the band's third studio album, Brand New Eyes. The song was written by band members Hayley Williams and Josh Farro; Paramore is also credited as being co-producers to the song. The song was generally well received by music critics; praise of the song was mainly about Williams' vocal performance. Music critics reviewing the song noted that "The Only Exception" was a different musical theme for the band.
"The Only Exception" was the most successful single from Brand New Eyes, having topped the United Kingdom Rock Chart and peaked at No. 13 and No. 17 in New Zealand and Australia respectively. The single has become the band's third of five top forty hits to date on the Billboard Hot 100. A music video for the song, directed by Brandon Chesbro, was released on February 17, 2010, via the band's official website. The song received a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals. It was the band's most successful single until the release of "Ain't It Fun".


"The Only Exception" was released as the third single from the band's 2009 studio album Brand New Eyes in February 2010. It was noticed by music critics that, Paramore, who usually write and record darker material, mainly of the alternative genre, had, musically, gone in a different direction with "The Only Exception". Rolling Stone described the song as "a subtle, Radiohead-esque ballad." The song's lyrics pertain to the protagonist not believing that love exists and trying to live without it, mainly to avoid rejection, but eventually realizing that it does exist, describing the person as being their "only exception". Many fans believe that the song was written as an ode to Chad Gilbert from New Found Glory. Incidentally, Williams has declined to comment directly on the issue, merely saying, "Read a couple blogs, and you'll figure it out."
Other themes include trying to pursue a relationship, as well as trying to make a relationship last, which can be seen in the lyrics, "I know you're leaving in the morning, when you wake up/Leave me with some kind of proof it's not a dream". According to the sheet music published on by Alfred Music Publishing, the single is written in the time signature of 12/8. The song is played in the key of B Mixolydian and is sung in the vocal range of F#3 to D#5. "The Only Exception" has a moderately slow tempo of forty eight beats per minute.

Critical reception

"The Only Exception" received generally positive reviews from contemporary music critics. Williams' vocal performance was mainly praised by music critics. Mikael Wood, a writer for Spin felt that "The Only Exception" was a "surprisingly soulful acoustic number" and compared its musical structure to Coldplay's Parachutes-era. Wood commented that the song was an "upgrade" that consisted of "focus and intensity". Leonie Cooper of NME noted in his review for Brand New Eyes that Paramore were able to "showcase their maturity" with multiple ballad songs, specifying "The Only Exception". Cooper commented that while the song's lyrics seemed to be a "nondescript love song" that does not "quite warrant the abrupt change of pace", he praised Williams' vocals. Cooper further stated,
Marc Hirsh of The Boston Globe listed "The Only Exception" as the highlight of Brand New Eyes, crediting the song as being an "essential". Hirsh said that "The Only Exception" is "probably the best place to start" with the album, describing Williams' vocals as "forging a connection" rather than "simply spitting out her feelings"; he also praised the other band members for locking in at a "sympathetic simmer". Channing Freeman of Sputnikmusic felt that "The Only Exception" had similarities to "The Boy Who Blocked His Own Shot" by Brand New. Freeman stated that on Paramore's All We Know Is Falling, "My Heart" was a "blunt and obvious song" that focused on a "climax to be emotional", but with "The Only Exception", Paramore have "figured out that it doesn't have to finish loud to incite a reaction in the listener". He also noted that the song shows that Williams' lyrics have "definitely improved". Jesse Catalodo of Slant felt that the lyrics to "The Only Exception" may be "irredeemably over-the-top" but its "vocal melodies are the stuff of perfect pop".

Commercial performance

It peaked at number 12 on the Billboard component chart for Pop Songs; the song remained on the chart for twenty weeks. However, on the week of June 12, 2010, the song debuted at number ninety on the Billboard Hot 100. It has since peaked at No. 24, becoming the most successful Paramore single overall. It was their third top forty hit in the US, preceding Still Into You and Ain't It Fun, which became their fourth and fifth top forty hits, respectively. "The Only Exception" also became the band's first foray onto Adult Contemporary stations, peaking at number 28 on the component Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. The track was more successful internationally, peaking generally within the top twenty on multiple countries' charts. On the New Zealand RIANZ singles chart, it debuted at number thirty-eight on February 22, 2010. The following week, the song moved up fifteen positions to number twenty-three. The song peaked at number thirteen. After four weeks on the chart, "The Only Exception" peaked at number two on the United Kingdom's Rock Chart on March 14, 2010, staying at that position for three weeks but moving up to number one on the chart's issue date of April 5, 2010. The song entered the UK Singles Chart at number eighty on March 28, 2010. It peaked at number thirty-one. The track peaked at number forty-seven in Austria on March 28, 2010. The single also debuted as its peak position, number eighty-four, on the Eurochart Hot 100 Singles chart on April 24, 2010. "The Only Exception" debuted at number fifty-nine in Brazilian Hot 100 Airplay chart in June 2010, becoming the group's first single to enter the Brazilian charts, achieving the following months the position at No. 32.

Music video


A music video for "The Only Exception" was directed by Brandon Chesbro, who had been working with Paramore for over two years. The song's music video was Chesbro's music video directorial debut. Prior to "The Only Exception" video, Chesbro had been approached to direct music videos for Brand New Eyes two previous singles, but decided against it due to creative opinions. In December 2009, he was asked to direct the music video for "The Only Exception". Although the story board process took a while, the video was filmed in four days. The music video premiered on February 17, 2010, on Paramore's website. Williams confirmed that as part of a Valentine's Day theme, the band selected cards that were sent to them by fans and featured them in the video. In an interview with MTV, Chesbro commented on filming the scene involving Williams lying on Valentine's Day's styled-cards during the music video, saying,


The music video opens with Williams waking up on a couch next to an unnamed sleeping male and writes a note that says "I'm sorry". From there, she walks to a room and hugs her father, who is mentioned in song. A conversation ensues with Williams taking a photo of someone presumed to be her mother.
The video continues with Williams in her room staring at the photo on a mirror, singing about how love, "does not exist." She moves through a costume closet, into a restaurant set, where a rotating cast of men pose as her date; then, into the next room where there is a wedding. Everyone at the wedding is wearing white, with the other band members in attendance, but Williams arrives dressed in black and she flees the scene from where the bride enters.
During the chorus of the song, the clip cuts to the scenes where Williams is lying down on a giant pile of Valentine-themed cards. Throughout the video, clips of Williams singing with the rest of Paramore in a dim-lighted background are shown.
In the video's final moments, Williams spots the same male she woke up to at the beginning of the video in the crowd at a rock show. After fantasizing of the two being together through all sets from the start of the video, she makes her way back through the various rooms to the original set in the beginning. When Williams sings "And I'm on my way to believing", she returns to the couch where the male is still asleep and hides the note she wrote in her pocket as she lies back down next to him.


The music video for "The Only Exception" was generally well received by music critics. Kyle Anderson, a writer for MTV, commented that the music video is "by far the most visually interesting and complex clip the group has ever produced." Anderson further stated that "despite the complexity of the video, the whole process was remarkably efficient". She remarked that based on the video's outcome that it was "a little bit surprising" to know that it was directed by a first-time director. Mike Sheffield of Spin viewed the music video as a "love story" and described it as being "Valentine's Day + epic Emo balladry = Paramore's brand new video for 'The Only Exception'". Chesbro said that he was happy with the final product of the music video and that directing the video made him become more interested in directing videos, saying, "I'd really like to do more videos now This video turned out so perfect that I'm worried nothing else will turn out as good. But if this is my only video, I was super-proud to be a part of it."

Live performances

The track has been performed by Paramore on many occasions. The band's first performance of the song was on November 1, 2009, in Nashville. Paramore performed a live version of "The Only Exception" for The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
The band performed the chorus and outro of the song on the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards on September 12, 2010.

''The Only Exception EP''

The Only Exception is Paramore's third EP, released exclusively to the iTunes Store on September 28, 2010.

Track listing


The following personnel contributed to "The Only Exception":


Weekly charts


Monthly charts

Year-end charts


In popular culture

Live performances

The song was performed in the Britney Spears-themed episode "Britney/Brittany" of the US television series Glee, which aired September 28, 2010. Lea Michele, in character as Rachel Berry, sang the song at the end of the episode as an apology to her boyfriend Finn Hudson, played by Cory Monteith. The performance was praised by most critics, with Rolling Stone Erica Futterman calling it "gorgeous and tender" and Entertainment Weekly Tim Stack praising it as the episode's "nice, emotional capper". Williams complimented Michele's vocals on the rendition through her Twitter account. The cover was released as a single and charted at number twenty-two in both Canada and Ireland, twenty-six in the US, and sixty in Australia, with sales of 89,000 copies in the US according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Rock Band music gaming platform

The song was made available for download on May 15, 2012 to play in Rock Band 3 Basic and PRO mode utilizing real guitar / bass guitar, and MIDI compatible electronic drum kits / keyboards plus vocal harmonies. It is also playable in Rock Band Blitz.