Waiting for it, that Green Light, we want it!
By Niy Birden
How many amazing things can you list about Lorde? Whether it is her perfectly-curated image, her hilariously opposite, bubbly personality in contrast to her dark music, or her very honest teenage narration of life, you have to admit, that girl is one of the most impressive music-making youth we have in today’s mainstream culture of pop. And speaking of pop, she seems to have embraced the inevitable American influence of it in her album. That was clearly obvious when she released her first single, ‘Green Light’, earlier this year. But take a close listen her long-awaited sophomore album, and it becomes more and more clear: there is no stopping this pop icon. And she may have just gotten much, much better.
The album bursts through your front door with the upbeat and exciting ‘Green Light’, giving an early insight as to what the album could possibly be based on. Detailing her “first major heartbreak’ it’s lyrics are brutally honest and her vocals are intense. Playing on her usual technique of upbeat songs with deeper meanings behind it, you’d immediately feel conflicted as to whether or not she is upset about this breakup or wildly excited. Either way, someone lied to her, which you immediately hear in the context of the ending first verse “She thinks you love the beach, you’re such a damn liar”, with the words ‘liar’ being echoed softly in the background.
The next track, ‘Sober’ is a quite impressive track because not only does it feature even more amazing play on relationship and teenage drama, but it makes quite the musical mark for her with the extensive use of brass horns. This is also another song where she uses the metaphor of dance being used in her lyrics, and goes on to ask an important question that many teens ask themselves but are too afraid to ask aloud “But what will we do when we’re sober?”. The brass horns come on strong, almost as if it is slapping you in the face and running away quicker than you can catch them each time. It gets to a playful and undoubtedly cool-girl moment when the lines “Jack and Jill get fucked up when it’s dark” as she nearly-raps it, without any music, and without any real break for air. And that dance beat-perfectly placed.
“Homemade Dynamite” comes up next, with at first a small moment of soundscape and Lorde’s polarizing voice, but then slams in with a beat so pop you would swear it was The PussyCat Dolls or even Britney Spears rather than our Hunger Games, soundtrack-curating, Pure Heroine. Even the chorus is completely pop, with the stuttering syllable from the word ‘dynamite’ and yet another drinking “our friends, our drinks, we get inspired” line.
The Louvre comes in with a nice 90’s rock n’ roll guitar riff and at this point it seems that she seems to like opening her songs with just her voice and minimal instruments, a technique that is also seeming to work very well. She plays around with the ‘who’s to blame?’ context with lines such as “but lover, you’re the one to blame” and “I’m just the sucker who let yo fill her mind”. It also features more soft vocals soaring in between her verses, and finally ends off with a lovely guitar riff that would almost make you think that the song is a lovey-dovey song (other lyrics in the song also state “But we’re the greatest/They’ll hang us in the Louvre/Down the back, but who cares—still the Louvre”, making you know for a fact that she’s probably okay with this particular heartbreak-sorta.
Liability surprisingly comes in right after, giving a confirmation to her feelings on both the ex-lover in question and to the people around her, in general. She said in a prior interview:
“I had this realization that because of my lifestyle and what I do for work there’s going to be a point with every single person around me where I’m gonna be a tax on them in some way.”
The song in composition is heartbreaking but still quite thoughtful, forcing the listener to realize just how sensitive our heroine is.
Hard Feelings/Loveless is up next, with a melody that almost sounds reminiscent of one of buddy Taylor Swift’s underestimated songs, but combined with a touch of possibly Ellie Goulding. The muffled drum beats and soundscape once again play into the Tumblr teen aesthetic, and lyrics such as “We’re L.O.V.E.L.E.S.S Generation/ L.O.V.E.L.E.S.S. (look out, lovers) Generation /All fuckin’ with our lover’s heads/Generation (look out, lovers)” gives you almost a wonder of whether or not Lorde is regretting her generation and how it has affected her relationship. The track however, is quite long, as Heartless was only a first part of it. At the end of Heartless, the song fades into a rumbling soundscape and then comes into the next part of the song, Loveless, which has an intro of two men speaking, about a tape. Loveless is quite a contrast to Heartless and doesn’t last very long, and probably rightfully so. It is really bubble-gum pop, with a hint of weird, as it fades out in the consistent refrain of the main lyric “L.OVE.L.E.S.S, turn the lights down”
Sober II (Melodrama) comes in next with another piano and vocal intro, but gradually grows into a Lana Del Rey-style of string orchestration paired with trap-like beats. The song isn’t actually very long at all, but what is presented is what could be such a great combination for her and Lana. It almost disappoints with the lack of length, but it is a lovely way to present her ever-evolving late teenage problems.
Writer In The Dark, with its usual classic piano and coal intro speeds in, but this time mentions her influence of her poet laureate mother with the chorus and even the pre-chorus “Bet you rue the day you kissed a writer in the dark”. At this point, she seems to be perfectly fine with this heartbreak, and almost seems to be rubbing it in his face. The influence of her time spent traveling in the New York City train stations seems to make a grand entrance when, at the end of the song, her vocals fade out with a tunnel- like effect and string instruments that once again make you wonder if she was really as critical of Lana Del Rey as she claimed she was.
Supercut comes in with another Green Light theme, but this time with more of an EDM/Techno feeling to it. There’s also a slight euro-rock feeling to it, which, by the way, she could probably master in a heartbeat.
The Liability (Reprise) was such an interesting addition to the album, not solely because it is essentially the same song, but because if you think about it, it’s actually quite not. The vocals, for starter, are nothing like the original, and instead take on a soft Imogen Heap-backing vocal. It also does not start off with the piano, but instead comes right in with her voice, which hasn’t happened in such a long time. The beats are muffled again and add the perfect addition to it. Definitely a great choice.
Finally, Perfect Places comes in, and you are brought back to the reminder that she is, essentially a young person looking forward but is still very much fearful of what life has for her. This song is very reminiscent of a prior hit “Team”, and even newcomer Alessia Cara’s hit “Wild Things”. The rousing, belted chorus is a perfect end to the album, as it gives the listener a “Hell yeah!” affirmation. And with that, Lorde ends the song with her sole voice and piano, making us feel as if the album ended too soon with its 11 tracks, but anticipating her even more than before. Clearly, synesthesia is not a liability for this crooner.