6 Mar 2017

Has Green Light got what it takes to win over these Lorde sceptics?

12:22 pm on 6 March 2017

Let’s find out.


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Photo: Unknown

Unless you have been deep sea diving for precious treasures for the last 72 hours, you will almost certainly be aware that Ella Yelich-O’Connor emerged from musical hibernation on Friday to finally release her long-awaited new single, Green Light.

As you are most likely also aware, everyone is thrilled. As New Zealanders we hardly have a choice - with anti-Lorde sentiment tantamount to treason and a liberal media intent on keeping it that way, those of us still harbouring doubts have long whispered in the shadows, eyes darting wildly beneath furrowed brows.

Praise for Green Light has been near unanimous, but in this climate of fear what does that really mean?

Yes the Lorde sceptics are out there: and, in the interests of fairness and balance, we’ve asked two of them to come out of hiding to digest, dissect and deliberate over Green Light.


Katie: I am and always have been a Lorde sceptic. Not only has her music never really done it for me: her precocious persona has always rubbed me up the wrong way; I resent the intense nationalism that seems bar critique of her; and I’ve just never seen the romance in the ‘rich kids feeling sad in the suburbs’ narrative that some people do.

Pelt me with kiwifruit all you like, but that’s just how I feel.

Which is why it is with great surprise and confusion that I say Green Light really appeals to me.

Hussein: I’m sceptical of most things, Lorde included, but it wasn’t hard to see this coming. The reluctant popstar phase was already over by the time we got Yellow Flicker Beat, and going full-on stadium pop was always going to be the next logical step for her. It’s that pent-up pre-chorus that makes it tick. Seriously, when was the last time a piano-driven pop song sounded so ... bearable? Throw in some relatable lines about a bad break-up and it all clicks right into place. Everything about Green Light is meant to feel cathartic, from the production, to the lyrics, right down to her dance moves in the video. All in all, it’s the most complete thing she’s ever released.

Katie: I completely agree, which is why it’s interesting that some people are saying that this is too mainstream for her. To my mind, Lorde’s old stuff felt bloated and insubstantial, in spite of being outwardly and self-consciously cerebral. This is much easier to listen to and, even though it's more straightforward and pop song-y, I think it's more nuanced.

Like I said here, releasing a break-up track for her comeback is a great idea. While most of her early songs spoke with a kind of collective voice (“We’ll never be royals”; “We live in cities you'll never see onscreen”), she finally seems to have produced something personal and singular which weirdly makes it more universal and relatable.

And you’re so right about the piano - not since Vanessa Carlton can I remember hearing piano pop, and even though it sounds suspiciously similar to the Peanuts theme music, I’m OK with it.

Hussein: So we’ve established that the song is good, but what was it about the rollout that felt so off? It wasn’t just me, right? The TV campaign, which saw her drop the announcement across New Zealand channels at 7.15pm last Monday, seemed totally off-brand. Then there was the anti-climactic scavenger hunt thing in Auckland a couple of nights later. By 8am Friday, when the song dropped, we were all treated to an interview with The Edge’s Jay-Jay, Dom and Randell. Lucky us.

I should say that a lot of this is likely pressure from her record label. You gotta do something. (Some media big-wigs were driven around the block in “a covert car ride” so they could preview the single.) Plus, in a weird and inadvertent way, it kind of worked out. A common trend on my timeline seems to be people screencapping tweets from their parents asking what they think of the new Lorde song. Because who else is actually out there watching TV at 7:15pm on a weeknight but your mum and dad?

Katie: Man, when I saw that she was doing her first Green Light promo interview (apart from the pre-recorded one she did with Zane Lowe on Beats 1) on The Edge, I thought it was a hoax.

It was all really strange, huh? That scavenger hunt thing seemed super corny, and it all felt like it might backfire.

But somehow it didn’t. Maybe it just broadened her appeal? For New Zealand consumers she means something completely different to her overseas market, and the fact that all the hype was so locally focused reflects that.

Hussein: I guess I just feel like she probably didn’t need it. Everything she does already generates an embarrassing amount of press coverage, and that hasn’t changed even in the downtime between album cycles. Green Light speaks for itself; not only was her first run at things definitely not a fluke, she’s now comfortably up there with every pop heavyweight you can name: Adele, Bieber, Rihanna, and yes, “the Beckiest” of all, Taylor Swift. (Beyoncé is in her own lane, sorry.) Who else is she competing with at this very moment? Ed Sheeran? Waiting it out until now, while her rivals are kicking back, totally makes sense.

Katie: Every stop has clearly been pulled to put her on par with those guys, too. If you look at the previous credits of the video’s director Grant Singer - Zayn and T-Swift, The Weeknd, Ariana Grande - he’s a top dog.

The video itself is pretty good, in that it goes along with the song pretty well. She told Zane Lowe that the song is about being “that drunk girl at the party dancing around crying about her ex-boyfriend who everyone thinks is a mess” which is shown here kind of literally. It's a nice change from the super stylised stuff she’s done in the past.

Hussein: Speaking of style...

Katie: Stop being so sceptical.