The first single from Lorde's second album Melodrama, "Green Light" finds her coping with her first real heartbreak, which clearly left a mark. She's trying to get the guy out of her mind, waiting for the metaphorical traffic light to change so she can get on with her life.
Lorde comes off a little unhinged on this song, blasting her ex for telling his new girl that he likes the beach, when she knows that's not true. A good Kiwi, she throws in a shark reference to make her point:Those great whites
They have big teeth
Hope they bite you
As the song developed, it sounded almost joyful, which changed the song's direction. "I realized this is that drunk girl at the party dancing around crying about her ex-boyfriend who everyone thinks is a mess," she told Zane Lowe
. "That's her tonight and tomorrow she starts to rebuild. And that's the song for me."
Lorde wrote and produced this song with Jack Antonoff of Bleachers and Fun. She enjoyed the process and felt comfortable opening up to him, which allowed her to put intimate details into her songs.
Lorde was just 20 years old when she released this song. Tweeting about the album, she said it would reveal the two "wild, fluorescent years" leading up to it, when she did a lot of growing up. She signed her record deal at 13 and released her first album, Pure Heroine, when she was just 16.
This song set the tone for the album. She told Zane Lowe: "I knew it couldn't be any old thing. It had to be really special and really singular and it couldn't sound the same as the old stuff. There was a lot of discovery that went on. We wrote the song, and suddenly everything else we wrote for the record started to make sense."
The video was directed by Grant Singer, who did many of The Weeknd's clips, including "Starboy
," "Can't Feel My Face
" and "The Hills
." Shot in the MacArthur Park area of Los Angeles, it finds Lorde dressed for a night out (but with sensible shoes), making her way through the streets after attending a party. Much of it was improvised (including the payphone scene) and focused on her unusual dancing, which she does on top of a car at one point. "I see her dancing and her vocal performance as completely interconnected and they're like one and she loses herself in the music," Singer told Pitchfork
The video was shot on 16mm film, which is the visual equivalent of a vinyl record. It gives a grainy, textured look that stands in contrast to more modern cameras.
Lorde told BBC Radio 1's Mistajam the song was "born" as a standout, uptempo track rather than reflecting the rest of the album. "This is as pop-dance as it gets," she said. "We were just in the studio, mashing around on the piano and… that's what it is. We didn't turn it into the single, it was just born that way."
The New Zealand songstress explained the LP title. "I wrote this album about this crazy year of my life," Lorde explained. "I partied a lot and I felt all the feelings - and it was all so fluorescent. So I decided to call the album Melodrama."
Lorde performed the song for the first time on US television during her appearance on the March 11, 2017 episode of Saturday Night Live
. She also sung another Melodrama
" on the show and made a cameo in a sketch about feminism.
Lorde wanted to lead her Melodrama album with an upbeat track because everything else on the radio is just too laid back for her tastes. She explained, while being interviewed on BBC Radio 1:
"A lot of the music on the radio is very chill these days, very slow. And I was like, 'You know what? I don't feel like being chill. I feel like being a psycho and just bursting back and being like, "Here it is! All of it! This is everything that I've been feeling!'"
During her interview with Tavi Gevinson for the Rookie podcast, Lorde revealed that attending a Florence + the Machine concert with co-writer Jack Antonoff inspired the piano bridge of this song. She said: "Her player did this big, kind of jangly movement with her hands on the piano, and it was literally the physicality of that movement that became the way Jack played that."
Speaking with Tavi Gevinson's Rookie podcast
posted via MTV News, Lorde said she and Jack Antonoff had some specific inspiration for the piano riff that features on the tune.
"It's a fascinating thing… We had gone to a concert - we had gone to Florence and the Machine the night before and neither of us heard the song," she said. "I couldn't tell you what it was, but her [piano player] played this big kind of jangly movement with her hands on the piano and it was the physicality of that movement that became the way that Jack played [the riff]. It didn't come from anything musical, it was seeing her hands banging down."
Lorde asked Max Martin's opinion of the song. The Swedish producer and songwriter has worked with some of the biggest names in pop music including Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys, Katy Perry and Taylor Swift, so the the New Zealand songstress was keen to seek his counsel.
"He had a very specific opinion, which had to do with the melodic math – shortening a part," Lorde recalled to the New York Times of the consultation.
She added that Martin described the track as an example of "incorrect songwriting."
"This wasn't an insult," she explained. "Just a statement of fact… It's a strange piece of music."
Lorde said that she agreed with the Swedish hitmaker's opinion citing the song's left-field key change, adding, "The drums don't show up on the chorus until halfway through, which creates this other, bizarre part."
Lorde said in a clip for online platform Vevo Offscreen that she wanted the video to showcase the real Ella Yelich-O'Connor. "I was very aware that this was the first thing that people had seen from me in three years, and I was picking up where I left off," said the singer. "I always had dark lipstick on or had a weird outfit on. This time I was like 'I want to look the way my friends see me.' I feel like I want to be any of the young people who listen to my music."
"The video for 'Green Light' and the song are quite symbiotic," she continued. "I knew that I wanted it to be set at night, like my real life - I'm wearing the shoes that I wear every night when I go out partying at home."
Lorde added: "It was actually quite difficult to dance on the roof of a suburban at three in the morning. It was a really cold night and it kept getting covered in dew. There was definitely a moment where I was like 'cars were not built to have girls dancing around and losing their mind on top of them.' It was one of the strangest things I've done."
The music video was named International Video of the Year at the 2017 Canadian Much Music Video Awards. Lorde performed the song live to close the show.
Lorde actually started writing the song with her Pure Heroine
collaborator Joel Little. The producer recalled to Songwriter Universe
"We had worked on the verse and pre-chorus parts, although it had a completely different feel and form. And then when Lorde was working with Jack Antonoff, they pulled up the song and started playing around with it, and they added the chorus part to it. So it was different for me... it was an interesting way to come about a song. But it all came together and came out great in the end."
NME named this as their best track of 2017. They wrote:
"Ella Yelich-O'Connor champions the redemptive quality of music on this stone-cold banger that's so vibetastic, hearing it is like being pumped full of helium. 'Green Light' is instantly familiar yet is idiosyncratically structured (hitmaker Max Martin called it "incorrect songwriting"), pointing to her supernatural talent.
NME also named Melodrama as their album of the year.