When the impeccably clinical, aesthetically detached opening notes of ‘Royals’ first rung out across the airwaves (and then again and again and again on dance-floors and headphones and record players), critics and punters alike knew that the pop music landscape had shifted irrevocably.
When Lorde released her full-length debut Pure Heroine in 2013, her status was cemented as not merely a one-hit wonder, but an all-out musical prodigy.
Pure Heroine was unassuming in its glory, and apathetic in its demeanour. It meandered its way through ten achingly sombre tracks that were beautiful in their anaesthetisation, and that catalogued a uniquely suburban tableau — of driving past white picket fences at dusk, of drunken antics in midnight streets, of the innate insecurities between youth and adulthood. It captured the teenage condition, rather than the human condition. And so it was that Pure Heroine soon found its way into the hearts and bedrooms of woe-ridden teenagers everywhere — teenagers obsessed with mundane tragedies that they were too apathetic to change.
In the four years since, the sixteen-year-olds who first heard Pure Heroine with closed eyes and rife imaginations have come of age. And so has Lorde. The newly released ‘Green Light’ is testament to this, dropping the subdued tone that once defined her work and replacing it with a call to arms for listeners to claim their independence and their agency.
At its crux, ‘Green Light’ is a track underpinned by heartbreak, by a rebellion against unfaithful ex-partners and unfulfilling sweet nothings. Lorde is simultaneously every jilted lover and every angsty adolescent. Yet instead of producing a song that wallows in self-pity, she reclaims her emotional turmoil and channels it into a piece that subversively captures her melancholy with a beat-driven instrumental and a chorus that is pure ecstasy.
Gone are her fixations on lethargic domestic woes. In their place is an unashamed maturity. On ‘Green Light’, she’s screaming the truth. She’s waking up in different bedrooms, and she’s moving on from her relationship. All of this is underscored by Jack Antonoff’s rushed piano chords — a frantic coming-of-age for Lorde, for whom independence is not found at the bottom of an onerous soul-searching process, but rather on a post-heartbreak dancefloor.
“I want it,” she repeats over relentless drums and handclaps that punctuate her desire to let go. None of the insecurities that plagued Pure Heroine are on display as she vocalises her most vulnerable self with the passion of a seasoned musician. She is aware of her own talent as a freshly minted twenty-year-old with a freshly carved niche, and she inspires us to perform the same ritual of individualism.
With millennials under siege, perhaps Lorde is our best defence. ‘Green Light’ is a track that doesn’t shy away from millennialism — it’s an embrace of youth, and a tribute to youth in revolt.