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‘Green Light': The Neon-Hued Heartbreak of Lorde (Review)

Lorde Green Light
Universal Music

Lorde‘s been dying to tell you a story nearly four years in the making.

Today (Mar. 2), at last, the New Zealand-bred singer-songwriter reveals the first chapter of a nearly universal tale, experienced through a lens few will ever feel for themselves.

“Green Light” is the lead track from Lorde’s forthcoming sophomore record Melodrama out this summer, the follow-up to her staggeringly mature, masterful 2013 debut Pure Heroine, which spawned global hits like “Royals,” “Tennis Court” and “Team,” propelling the then 16-year-old singer to dizzying new heights of stardom.

A curation gig for 2014’s Hunger Games soundtrack, which featured an original track (“Yellow Flicker Beat”) and a brief foray onto the dance floor (Disclosure’s “Magnet”) aside, she’s largely kept her pen to herself, tracking the experience of the whirlwind for what would be her next record.

When she provided an album update in November the day before turning 20 (note: she’s still not even old enough to legally order a drink in America), Lorde revealed a taste of what she’s learned in the past few years, which dictated the direction of this upcoming record.

My heart broke. I moved out of home and into the city and I made new friends and started to realize that no-one is just good or bad, that everyone is both. I started to discover in a profound, scary, blood-aching way who I was when I was alone, what I did when I did things only for myself. I was reckless and graceless and terrifying and tender. I threw sprawling parties and sat in restaurants until the early hours, learning what it’s like to be an adult, even talking like one sometimes, until I caught myself. All I wanted to do was dance. I whispered into ears and let my eyes blaze on high and for the first time I felt this intimate, empire-sized inner power. And then I wrote a record about it, all of it, so much more than what I’ve written down here, and I’m in new york getting it done.

“Green Light” is the launching point for this new project; a complex sprawl of emotions and sounds. It’s joyous, depressed, eager, bitter, worldly and wild all at once.

The break-up anthem was co-crafted with Canadian producer Frank Dukes and Jack Antonoff — who also worked on her friend Taylor Swift‘s 1989 — which is why its jaunty, if jarring piano melody in the pre-chorus recalls Antonoff’s solo work as Bleachers. There’s an element of pristine Swedish sad-disco escapism in the production too, a la Robyn and Niki & The Dove (“DJ, Ease My Mind”), especially in that euphoric, heartbroken-but-working-through-this chorus: “Honey, I’ll come get my things, but I can’t let go / I’m waiting for it, that green light / I want it!”

It’s no accident, either: “met ella years ago at a grimes show. we talked about robyn and drum ideas. today i feel very proud of everyday with her since,” Antonoff wrote immediately after the song’s premiere.

There are some lyrical references that are the now-signature stuff of the “White Teeth Teens” singer too — yes, more teeth. Only this time around, they hurt. (See: “Those great whites, they have big teeth.” And: “Those rumors, they have big teeth / Oh, they bite you…“)

She’s certainly supplying enough of her own bite, too: “She thinks you love the beach, you’re such a damn liar.

Most remarkable of all is that it’s Lorde singing a song like this, bursting with a newfound vibrance and electricity. This is the same “Buzzcut Season” singer who sounded so, so worldweary and disillusioned before even turning 18 years old, after all.

“i truly believe in the necessity of cathartic pop records in times like these – i love the big sprawling projects too, but there’s something about the falls & lifts of meticulous pop, moments designed for u to feel what u need to, that’s more important than ever. you’re probably guessing what kind of record i’ve made based on these tweets,” she warned on Twitter.

“Green Light” is the sound of a young woman dealing with heartbreak, moving away from home and transitioning into adulthood while moving at breakneck speed through a blur of lights and crowds and cars and hotels; a completely relatable scenario under unbelievably strange and likely maddening circumstances.

Let it all the way out, girl: we’re waiting for it just as much as you are.

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