After a three-year break, Lorde has finally released a new single, and it definitely doesn’t disappoint. I fell in love immediately, but some time during the third listen, as I was dancing around my room like a maniac and putting all of my furniture at risk of being knocked over, I paused. Then I listened—really listened—to the lyrics, and I realized that as happy as Lorde sounds, this song is inherently sad.
In a candid interview with Zane Lowe, Lorde revealed the story behind the new single.
“The song is actually about a heartbreak. And it’s not something that I really am used to writing about,” Lorde said. “It took me a while to be able to figure out how to write about that. It was my first major heartbreak. And the song is really about those moments kind of immediately after your life changes and about all the silly little things that you gravitate towards.”
There are two kinds of breakup songs in the world: the ones you cry to and the ones you work out to. The first are those melancholic songs you put on when you’re alone in your room and just need to let out a lot of emotions. The lyrics usually say something about missing another person or wishing the past could be changed, among other remorseful topics. A fair amount of Adele’s songs fall under this category.
The other type of breakup song is the empowering one that you turn to when you’re ready to feel better. For one reason or another, one of the universal solutions to a breakup is going back to the gym, and these songs make for a motivating playlist. These songs are often an ode to independence, showing that you don’t need to share your life with someone else to enjoy it. This category encompasses pretty much anything by Beyoncé.
These songs work because they validate people’s emotions—sad songs show you that other people have been hurt in the same way, while empowering ones prove to you that you’re better off on your own. But what about when you’re in between these two stages of the breakup? When you’ve already cried enough but you aren’t ready to let go yet? There is a very valid, confusing, and frustrating transition in between that doesn’t get recognized in traditional breakup songs. In fact, it doesn’t get talked about, period. It’s the stage people don’t want to admit they go through. Until, of course, Lorde released Green Light.
In her interview, Lorde visualizes her song as “that drunk girl at the party dancing around crying about her ex-boyfriend who everyone thinks is a mess. That’s her tonight and tomorrow she starts to rebuild.” This makes perfect sense— she is clearly not over it, she is still upset, but she is partying, celebrating, and approaching a change.
What I love about Green Light is that Lorde fully discloses where she stands emotionally, and she doesn’t try to pretend that it isn’t messy. This is such an important message in a time where people are discouraged from being sensitive. Think about it—how many times have you said “I’m over it” before you were actually over it? People are always racing to put things in the past, but in saying “I’ll come get my things but I can’t let go”, Lorde embraces the fact that she isn’t ready. Furthermore, she touches on the irrational moments that happen after a breakup. The lyric “I know about what you did and I want to scream the truth / She thinks you love the beach, you’re such a damn liar” shows an honest, petty moment. No one wants to admit that they resent their ex for no reason some days, but Lorde doesn’t justify her reaction.
Lorde is unapologetic about the fact that she isn’t okay yet, but that doesn’t mean she has given up on getting better. According to the singer, the green light is referring to a traffic light: the signal to go forward and essentially move on. In saying “I hear sounds in my mind / Brand new sounds in my mind”, Lorde shows that she is making progress, and she wants to get to that better place, all in due time. And that’s an important message—you can’t force yourself to move on when you aren’t ready, but you can recognize that the space you’re approaching is going to be a happier one.
Green Light is important because it’s honest. It’s a raw display of the emotional, reeling moments that happen between falling apart and getting better. It’s a representation of one of the less romantic, less ideal narratives involved in growing up. Lorde doesn’t pretend to have it all figured out—she navigates adulthood with little defined direction with a candidness that we don’t see enough of.
Melodrama, Lorde’s sophomore album, is scheduled for release on June 16.