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At the outset of Lorde’s comeback breakup jam “Green Light,” she threatens an ex: “I know about what you did and I wanna scream the truth,” she sings, her droll voice flaring with rage. But she doesn’t scream—she doesn’t need to. Instead, she reckons with her power as a writer and a protagonist in her own story, dialing back the complex imagery of debut Pure Heroine to flex in a new way. That record explored the anxious teenage mindset that files experiences into memory while they’re happening in real time. Here, she understands that songwriting for the masses is now part of her emotional processing (“I whisper things, the city sings ‘em back to you”) but wields her trademark nuance to bury this guy, betraying intimacy in every line. “She thinks you love the beach—you’re such a damn liar,” she snarls, spotlighting how tiny pretensions can feel as treacherous as full-blown betrayal, then multiplies her voice into a skittish falsetto chorus that mocks her ex’s fear of intensity: “Did it frighten you/How we kissed when we danced on the light-up floor?”
The fear is not one she shares; instead, this rupture only enhances Lorde’s openness to possibility. “I hear sounds in my mind/Brand new sounds in my mind,” she sings coolly, as rapturous house piano soundtracks her search for the green light that’ll help her get over this relationship. To Lorde, raging synesthete, green equals transcendence. (She once explained that her early single “Tennis Court” was initially “the worst textured tan color” until a shift made it change to “all these incredible greens overnight!!!”) Different hues ripple through her catalog, but the euphoria of “Green Light” is a new look for this 20-year-old who first appeared as a shadowy teenaged mystic. She doles it out carefully, true to her inability to find closure. But when it hits, she’s radiant.Share