“Well, my hot blood’s been burning for so many summers now / It’s time to cool it down, wherever that leads…”
Lorde is not old. But she’s always felt old, right from the start.
“I’ve never felt more alone / It feels so scary getting old,” she confessed on 2013’s “Ribs” from her critically hailed debut. She was 16 years old then.
By 2021, not even midway through her twenties, Lorde is now grappling with an all-too-relatable observation: the culture is moving on without her. Quickly.
“Stoned at the Nail Salon” is the second offering from Solar Power, following the album’s summery, George Michael-y lead single and title track. In contrast to the carefree vibes, Lorde’s gone far more introspective and existential for her follow-up, which also helps to add context to the relatively fucks-free first single.
Produced alongside Jack Antonoff, whose omnipresence in the music industry is daily fodder for stan Twitter debate, the track gently glides across a pensive guitar and traces the calm between the tours, and the quiet moments of mundanity at home after the rush of her rise to fame.
“This song is sort of a rumination on getting older, settling into domesticity, and questioning if you’ve made the right decisions. I think lots of people start asking those questions of themselves around my age, and it was super comforting to me writing them down, hoping they’d resonate with others too. I used this song as a dumping ground for so many thoughts,” she said in the press release.
She added even more in the accompanying email to fans, which provides vivid imagery of post-tour life as well.
“I started writing this in the first six months after stopping touring for Melo. I was so tired by the end, I’d been so busy for so long, and I remember at the end of that tour saying to people I knew ‘I’m just going to go home and get bored’ — because it had been two years since I had been at a loose end, bored out of my brain going from the couch to the fridge, and I was craving that. The first couple months of it were incredible— I’d run a bath at 10am and eat a slice of cake in it! My bandmate Jimmy and I would go out for these long lunches on Mondays and drink wine! But eventually, of course, the insecurity that this was my life now, that I wasn’t a titan of industry, but someone who just… cooked and walked the dog and gardened crept in. I was starting to fall out of step with the times culturally, I didn’t have my finger firmly on the pulse for the first time in my life, and I could feel the next round of precocious teenagers starting to come up, and I felt insecure that they were gonna eat my lunch, so to speak. Was I over the hill?!! This song was borne out of that feeling. I was sure that I was building a beautiful life for myself, but I wasn’t sure if that life was going to satisfy the same thirsty, fearless person who could tear apart a festival stage or be in seven countries in seven days. I know now that as hard as I try to run towards or away one of the sides of my life, they’re both very much who I am. It’s jarring to move between them, but that dichotomy is me. And writing this song was a real step toward embracing that. It’s almost comical to be writing this from a hotel room where my life is busier than ever, my iCal is wall to wall from wake to sleep, and of course I’m daydreaming about cooking and gardening and romanticising the greener grass once again… SO IT GOES. […] I hope you love this song, and this side to the album, and I hope if you’re someone who also has a habit of tiptoeing up to a deep thought then doubting yourself or dissociating, you know you’re not alone.”
I love this song for her, and for us, for a variety of reasons: it speaks to the inevitable panic upon first recognizing the generational divide has suddenly left you behind (leave the Gen Z vs. millennial discourse on TikTok), and to the maturation of one’s passions over the years, and to the ebb and flow of emotions that comes with being terminally online, even just after a quick scroll of Instagram.
“‘Cause all the beautiful girls, they will fade like the roses,” she remarks, alluding to “the sexy models on Instagram who made me feel inferior – they too will age. We’re all on the same bus. At some point we have to get on the bus back….I was old enough to finally think about it. When you’re a kid, you’re immortal.”
It also captures something very exclusive to Lorde and her pop star contemporaries, which is the culture’s exponentially dwindling attention span. “I could feel the next round of precocious teenagers starting to come up, and I felt insecure that they were gonna eat my lunch, so to speak,” she said in her newsletter. (Certainly, there are a few of the newest Main Pop Girls that come to mind.) While there’s nothing new about the passing of the baton when it comes to pop reign, it’s hard to deny that the cycles are growing shorter and shorter, and fame is more fragmented than ever. Lorde waxing nostalgic at the age of 24 about How It Used To Be, and worrying about keeping up with the girls, is really something to hear – not that her time in the limelight has even slightly passed, of course.
To quote Showgirls: there’s always someone younger and hungrier coming down the stairs after you.
“I realized I was trying to come up with a funny Instagram caption and do a photo of me that looked cool that I would hope would get a certain amount of likes. It sounds obvious, but that’s cooked. For me, I’m not a girl that gets a bunch of likes. I’m who I am, and I’ve got to lean into that…I think for the last one I was 21 and still like the kids, and then the culture started to change and I didn’t know that I wanted to change with it. I didn’t know if I wanted to be TikTok girl, Instagram Stories girl, and it was a real crossroads. I had to be like, ‘Do you want to keep being the kids? Or do you want to transition through that and be something of an elder statesman at 24?’ Which I really feel like I am now, which I love, but it took a minute. I felt a little like, ‘Oh no, I’m the kids?'” she told Zane Lowe.
But there’s not so much a panic in Lorde’s voice as there is the occasional worry about opting for a local fantasy as opposed to chart domination, which sort of washes away as the song goes on and she finds comfort in the slower moments. (She’s alright with a Slow Burn, like our Kacey would say.)
There are some particularly moving lines throughout, especially towards the very end: “Spend all the evenings you can with the people who raised you / ‘Cause all the times they will change, it’ll all come around.”
The only disagreement? “‘Cause all the music you loved at sixteen you’ll grow out of.” Tell that to my Dannii Minogue collection, Ella.
“Stoned” is perfectly representative of the pandemic era mood as well, as so many of us are taking stock and reevaluating our priorities and values. And it feels as though Lorde – now knee-deep in press, and music videos, and live TV performances and appearances, and prepping for another big round of touring – has settled on the most realistic resolution to those lingering concerns about taking one path or another: balance.