Lorde doesn’t hide in her music. She may subvert and distract, but she’s never in hiding. Fans of the New Zealand pop star might disagree since four years have passed since her career-launching and pop-inverting 2013’s Pure Heroine dropped. Though Lorde maintained a pop presence by lending her anesthetized-yet-earnest wailing in a Disclosure collaboration and executive producing The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 soundtrack, she had yet to release a proper follow-up to her debut album.
What enticed listeners Lorde’s direction revolved around the multiplicity within her expression—on the inescapable “Royals,” her mood flips between seditious then somber then back again. She often utilizes her ample range to produce this effect. “Ribs,” Pure Heroine’s secret gem, displays a throaty, grumbling growl drenched in moody vibrato in its verses. “It drives you crazy getting old,” she sings. The ethereal ambience of the song’s opening leads into a manic, desperate chorus where Lorde reaches into a sweeter falsetto. Between verse and chorus, the lyrics repeat, but how she sings them changes their meaning, casting aside flippancy and opting for vulnerability.
If you’re looking for any correlation in the pop singer’s gestating evolution, it’s in that record. Lorde’s new single “Green Light” explodes her talents and tensions in every direction. The blasé teen has transformed into a bitter 20-something, weary and world-worn from first heartbreak and fame. “She thinks you love the beach, you’re such a damn liar,” she snarls, capturing the tiny white lies of former lovers that lead to massive irritations.
The millennial angst of “Royals” is now confused anguish. “Did it frighten you / How we kissed when we danced on the light up floor?” Lorde whispers in a menacing staccato.
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But the massive success of this single lies in the ensuing key change. A dancing piano and thumping kick drum instills forward momentum in the spirit; the record lifts. Lorde strips away any usual effects and wink-smiling moodiness she’s leaned on in the past, and belts out a giant beast of a hook. It’s the most exposed her voice has ever sounded and it’s wildly powerful. Whereas she projected apathy previously, the opposite is true—she’s apathetic toward your feelings and your reactions while she ruptures externally everything that was once just internal.
We see this too in the “Green Light” music video. Her dancing is erratic, yet carefree, appearing as if she’s wearing no makeup at all. Everything is out in the open. Even though she’s had love and lost, she’s still relentless in her pursuit of that Gatsby-esque green light. As Lorde revealed to Zane Lowe upon the record’s release, “I realized this is that drunk girl at the party dancing around crying about her ex-boyfriend who everyone thinks is a mess. That’s her tonight and tomorrow she starts to rebuild.”
This is just the first single off Lorde’s second LP Melodrama. If “Green Light” is just her tonight, we want it to be tomorrow already.