Illustration by Ben Beechener
On a sunny Wednesday evening, I sat down in London after a date. I thought it had gone well; the guy in question would text me two days later to say that I wasn’t the vibe he was looking for in a relationship. Navigating an awkward space between being back home and being an independent young woman, going on dates to new and exciting bars, I was discovering that I’d rather sit on the phone to my friend Alex for an hour. And when I called Alex to do exactly that, he told me to listen to the new Lorde single. So, sitting in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, scrolling through Instagram, I put my headphones in and listened to ‘Stoned at the Nail Salon’ for the first time.
Lorde’s new single feels like a blend of the sound promised in her upcoming album (released August 20th), and the heart breaking lyrics of her older songs like ‘Liability’. The domestic bliss of the first verse feels like a Mediterranean or Californian dream, with clear fresh air and a vine over the door. But the anxiety which lingers over the beauty of this home speaks to the place where Lorde is at: a twenty-four year old who has been famous since age sixteen, sitting between lockdown calm and a life of tours and fame, looking to find a balance between the two. The refrain encapsulates this feeling: “all the times they will change, it’ll all come around.” Wishing for a different life is pointless, when the world constantly changes anyway. All you can do is spend evenings with loved ones and wait for time to change you.
Lorde focuses on a romance in the second verse. She seamlessly transitions from an image of young, doomed love with the couple dancing over landmines, to dividing up papers like a middle-aged couple getting a divorce. But rather than being tragic, Lorde reassures this lover that “I’m still crazy for you, babe.” The bold passion a listener might have expected from ‘Homemade Dynamite’ has faded, but as Lorde reminds us, it isn’t always bad to cool things down. It’s a part of growing up, a process which the still young Lorde is going through along with her mostly young fanbase.
Stripped back in comparison to the harsher beats of Pure Heroine (2013) and the almost orchestral feel of Melodrama (2017), ‘Stoned at the Nail Salon’ comes from a more chilled place. Anxious about making the wrong choices, and nostalgic in advance for how the times she loves will fade, Lorde takes the beauty of a summer evening and distils it into a raw look at the state of her life. With the same captivatingly unique voice, she grasps at the ephemeral moments for which she is nostalgic.
The acoustics which will define her third studio album were set up in ‘Solar Power,’ the title song from her new album. ‘Solar Power,’ a light and summery introduction to the more chilled feel of the album, might have left some fans worried that the sad and edgy Lorde they know and love had been left behind in favour of something which was lovely, but didn’t hit quite the same. But ‘Stoned at the Nail Salon’ acts as proof that Lorde will always be able to write the perfect song to cry to in a taxi.
Lorde’s first two albums feel full of confusion, the millennial panic we’ve seen most recently in Bo Burnham’s Inside: the fear of not knowing what’s going on or how to live your life. A lot of these millennial artists seem to have calmed down recently, eased their bite in favour of softness, their fear and anxiety tinged not with anger but a sense of acceptance. These first two singles hint that Lorde is no longer writing for wild nights and sorrowful mornings after; she is writing for the boring Wednesday afternoon in the park. She’s not writing for current hellraisers, but for the former hellraisers.
The song dwells on the oncoming future, looking at the moments which make that future a little less scary, feels different to the wild tragedy of being in your twenties which defined Melodrama, which feels right both for the times and for the maturing artist. She sings in the song that ‘it’s time to cool it down, wherever that leads’; and I’m more than happy to be taken wherever Lorde leads us when her album drops.