Lorde’s Lessons

Photo by Alex Zavala

By Alex Zavala

If you knew me in the summer of 2017, you knew I lived in part for my Lorde and savior. 

On June 16, 2017, I realized Lorde’s music had somehow encapsulated experiences in my life I had not even experienced at that point–like my first breakup (hey Hard Feelings), my second breakup (hey Liability), multiple years of simping over people who may or may not have liked me back (hey The Louvre), and 5 a.m. emotional dance parties with cascading thoughts streaming off the waterfall that is my entire consciousness (hey Supercut).

There’s one experience, however, that continues to morph into something entirely new and continues to confound me at every turn. That experience is feeling alone, and the remarkable journey to finding peace with that. That’s where Perfect Places came in. 

As a lead-up to the album, Lorde released Perfect Places on the first of June in 2017, placing a bookend on my shitty Sophomore year of high school and instantly becoming my favorite Summer earworm. Upon first listen, I was in awe of how a song could sound so awesome yet so ambiguously sad. “I hate the headlines and the weather” evoked upsetting images of Trump-era abuses intertwining with calamitous climate change. Hearing Lorde say “what the fuck are perfect places anyway” was probably the reason I started saying “fuck” a lot, if I’m being completely honest. 

However, what really grabbed my attention for dear life and never let go was how Lorde decisively changes the song’s perspective from her’s to our’s. 

I wasn’t invited to parties back then. Nor did I drink. I wasn’t doing drugs. I wasn’t “19 and on fire”. Hell, I never even had met somebody, took ’em home, and exclaimed “let’s kiss and then take off our clothes”. Though, all the while, the themes of this song hit me like a high I never wanted to come down from.

At the time, I had just started my long, sometimes toxic relationship with medication for my mood disorders; when Lorde sang,

“All of the things we’re taking

‘Cause we are young and we’re ashamed

Send us to perfect places,”

it made me feel like I wasn’t completely alone in this very new stage in my life. The things I was taking were a decisive step in my path to managing chemicals that went a little wild in my head. The party was my prison.

I was young, and I was ashamed because I never realized how lonely adolescence could feel. I wanted to feel normal–like the kids who wore pretty dresses and suits to prom or like the kids who played catch on the field or like the kids who made their lives look so perfect. I wanted to feel how the movies I directed in my head made me feel. Instead, I felt like a book that no one ever wanted to read. 

But, with Perfect Places, Lorde invited me into her world of desperately desiring connection with others and disassociation with the disaster that was living through tough times–times where horrible news was relentless and where hearts beat out of nothing more than necessity. 
After Lorde co-wrote the diatribe that was Melodrama, growing up with her felt like freedom from the fault lines between myself and finding peace. I considered that life really sucked now, but maybe there were Perfect Places out there, somehow. Even if I didn’t know where the fuck they were.

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