It’s been nearly four years since New Zealand singer-songwriter phenom Lorde’s minimalist pop-on-pop reflection “Royals” made her an international superstar, rubbing elbows on the charts with the radio royalty it coyly cast off in its lyrics. Four years is an eternity to wait between albums in the pop field of play — especially following a debut — but there is a sense with Lorde that one must wait on quality. Some artists can walk into the studio every nine to twelve months and bang out perfection. Others need time to go out and live.
Lorde’s new single “Green Light” feels like a bit of the latter. She’s no longer the preternaturally sharp teen of Pure Heroine, although that album’s knack for pulling wide-eyed, euphoric choruses out of gloomy verses sticks. The swing is wider now. The outlook is wearier. Lorde opens “Green Light” speaking vindictive truth to a cheating boy over foreboding pianos and chirping backing vocals, but the minute the chorus hits, a methodical house beat gets the keys dancing and the singer decides it’s time to try and let go. The shift is jarring, like someone banging on a car stereo and switching from Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights” to Icona Pop’s “I Don’t Care” midway through.
“Green Light” locates the universality in a very specific experience, as a truly effective pop gem should. The song is clearly about Lorde coming home to New Zealand to find herself missing a boy who blew it with her, your textbook “tour’s over and nothing feels the same” lament. The lines about waiting for a change of luck you’re not sure will ever come create an image that most will recognize. It’s just too bad the same can be said for the music. “Green Light” is quality radio fare that’s perhaps too faithful to the style of its predecessors, a don’t-shake-it, don’t-break-it comeback single one hopes will pave the way for more daring strokes.