“All the double-edged people and schemes, they make a mess then go home and get clean. You're my best friend, and we're dancing in a world alone. We’re all alone.” —Lorde, “A World Alone”
Ella Yelich-O’Connor, more famously known as Lorde, couldn’t have known when she was 16 that her 2013 debut album “Pure Heroine” would metamorphosize into a snapshot of the American mindset seven years later.
And in 2017 when she released her sophomore work “Melodrama,” a record disguised as a breakup album that actually chronicles the everlasting task of finding yourself, she couldn’t have known that it would inherit a new layer of urgency when suddenly, a global pandemic forced everyone into solitude.
Or maybe her stage name wasn’t chosen merely because it sounded cool, but in fact because she truly is some all-knowing prophet.
Regardless, Lorde’s discography was a gift in these past few months of pandemic, protest and screaming into the void. “Pure Heroine” was the perfect quarantine album, its track list tilting back and forth between embracing the hyperreality of going about your life when the world is unraveling around you and acknowledging the pain that comes with it. Songs like “400 Lux” encapsulate the monotony of living in the suburbs that makes your brain fog blissfully over, while “Ribs” digs into the achy side effects of longing for when everything was more simple.
“Buzzcut Season” is a particularly striking reflection of what the summer would look like years after it was written. Lorde masterfully weighs the importance of fighting for what’s right against the realistic desensitization experienced by most people as a result of distance from the injustices we care about ending.
“The men up on the news, they try to tell us all that we will lose, but it's so easy in this blue, where everything is good,” she sings. “I live in a hologram with you.”
As we all experienced in the last third of the year, it’s truthfully quite difficult to focus your attention constantly on the misfortunes of people miles away when the false reality constructed around you looks so different. The song isn’t a resignation to ignore what’s happening though, but rather a call to do the opposite in spite of the constraints of your too-comfortable environment.
While “Pure Heroine” feels more like an examination of her relationship to the rest of the world, her second album dissects her relationship with herself. In “Hard Feelings/Loveless” and “Writer In The Dark,” Lorde explores how the little things, such as buying yourself flowers and riding the subway alone, add up to being okay with being alone.
For many, quarantine was the first test of learning how to live with yourself away from the constant bustle of society. “Melodrama” shows us how much strength there is in that.
“I light all the candles, got flowers for all my rooms,” she sings. “I care for myself the way I used to care about you.”
But as the autumn leaves warn us that this atrocious year is finally coming to an end, it feels increasingly wrong to leave it without a new Lorde record. The music we received this year was incredible, but her albums possess a quality achieved by no other mainstream artists. They neither pretend to understand the tribulations happening in the world nor ignore them altogether, instead resolving to capture the common individual’s disjointed relationship to the chaos and to themselves.
Through Lorde’s perspective, we are better able to make sense of our own. This is why, now more than ever, we need her stark honesty. We need her realism and her poise, we need her music that’s free of artificial activism and performative judgment. We need her to untangle our brains, mangled from spinning around in the 2020 washing machine of despair.
So Lorde, wherever you are, be it on another planet or in the skies above, hear my prayer: Come back to us. Amen.
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