‘Stoned In The Nail Salon’ Introduces The World To A New, Gentler Lorde
This is the Autumn to the burning Summer of 'Solar Power'; the flip side of the coin.
To borrow a quote from her megastar friend, the old Lorde can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Because she’s dead.
‘Solar Power’ was the start of the seachange. For a song by an icon that made her name with some of the most anthemic choruses in pop, the thing was a surprisingly slow burn, ducking away from easy climaxes and instead letting feelings stew. It was the sound of a singer-songwriter who knew that she didn’t need to reach for catharsis anymore; who could settle into her own distinctly subtle groove.
‘Stoned at the Nail Salon’, Lorde’s latest single, is the Autumn to the burning Summer of ‘Solar Power’ — the flip side of the coin. It’s another song that works its magic in the background, never drawing attention to itself or choosing simple pleasures when it could go for the quiet kind. Like a haze of pot smoke, it’s impossible to grasp; every time it seems to flutter into a new shape, a gust of wind blows it in a different direction.
That means the song will draw criticism for being “boring”, and it’s certainly true that it’s a far cry from the vicious, sustained energy of Melodrama. But ‘Stoned at the Nail Salon’ rewards repeated listens in a way that no prior Lorde song has so far. Take the time with it, and what once seemed like understatements will bloom into poetry, images that once felt slight transforming into paeans of great, if gentle, power.
This is a song of melancholy, sure, but it’s also a testament to the ways that we can abide with our worst fears, living with what we once considered unliveable. There is strength here, the kind of strength that Sylvia Plath referred to in her poem ‘Mushrooms’ — a kind of insistent, meek, fungal resilience in the face of the world’s concrete. Even in the hardest of places, Lorde finds reserves of energy.
Make no mistake, there are still some vestiges of Lorde’s journey apparent here — her voice is just as eerie as it has ever been, and she’s clearly learnt from the lessons of the ballads of her past, honing her skills of understatement. But this is a new Lorde: still sad, and yet newly triumphant; able to turn away from a wall of heartbreak to find a kernel of hope trembling in her own heart, ready and willing to bloom.