By Giliann Karon
The world thought Lorde’s sad era ended with Melodrama as her comeback single “Solar Power” delivered a playful feel, encouraging listeners to stop crying to her songs, pour themselves a drink, and dance on the beach. Many assumed that her next single would follow a similar path — perhaps something about popping an edible at the nail salon and sinking into the soft, creasing leather chair, then zoning out while the manicurist smooths a nail file around her jagged edges. But Lorde has never aimed to meet anyone’s expectations in the first place.
Pure Heroine defied conventions about how young female pop singers should sound. From the very beginning, she let us know that she doesn’t care for teenage hedonism, instead preferring to question suburbia, materialism, and the internet age. Unlike other artists her age, she despises social media and prefers to keep a low profile. After she finished touring for Melodrama in 2019, she scrubbed her social media profiles clean and closed herself off to the outside world. Since returning to the internet, she’s dropped hints through contemplative emails and cryptic website updates, but there’s no telling what direction her next era will take.
Unlike her previous single, “Stoned at the Nail Salon” is a somber, reflective ballad about growing older while watching the “next round of precocious teenagers starting to come up,” and feeling “insecure that they were gonna eat [her] lunch.” Her high stirs up anxious introspection and discomfort, rather than a warm and glowy buzz. She realizes she’s no longer the teenager whose lush, dreamy pop music defined a 2013 Tumblr subculture. “It’s time to cool it down, wherever that leads,” she solemnly croons.
Since she finished touring for Melodrama in 2019, Lorde has returned to a quiet, mundane life in New Zealand. Instead of bouncing from one press event to the next, she takes her dog for walks and eats cake in the bathtub. But while she comfortably settles into her cocoon of normalcy, she questions whether a life of domesticity can satisfy the “same thirsty, fearless person who could tear apart a festival stage or be in seven countries in seven days.”
Plucking guitar strings delicately wrap around introspective lyrics about how she’s changed since Pure Heroine. After all, she’s never shied away from reflecting on growing old. As the gentle vocals swell and retreat, she continues to ruminate on her life choices. She constantly longs for the other half of her dichotomous life, no matter which side is at the wheel. “Cause all of the music you loved at sixteen you’ll grow out of,” she lulls, referencing Pure Heroine, which she released two months shy of her 17th birthday. Though many of her fans cite Pure Heroine as an influential, coming-of-age album, Solar Power will be a record of its own. “And all the times they will change, it’ll all come around,” she contends, recognizing Pure Heroine’s legacy in giving a voice to bored, suburban teenagers longing for a more exciting life.
At the end of the track, Lorde expresses how she regrets not spending as much time with her family and friends. Perhaps she should suck it up and enjoy her stardom, even if it comes at the expense of a normal life. She confesses that she has a tendency of letting her deliberations swallow her whole, but it’s not necessarily that deep, she contends. Maybe she should listen to her innermost thoughts, or maybe she’s just stoned at the nail salon.
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