Mood rings are rings that change color based on the temperature of the wearer's finger, reflecting the person's supposed mood. Created and marketed in 1975 by New Yorker Josh Reynolds, they came with a color chart that ranged from black (indicating extreme stress, fear or anxiety) to violet blue (typically reflecting a high degree of bliss or deep relaxation). A short-lived fad of the mid-1970s, they were especially popular with young girls. Here, Lorde uses the titular ring as a concept to illustrate contemporary wellness trends.
Lorde recorded the song for Solar Power, an album where she celebrates "the deep, transcendent feelings I have when I'm outdoors." This links with '60s Flower Child culture, whose ethos of spirituality and wellness involved tools and activities similar to those Lorde and her girlfriends dabble in. Lorde sings of trying to fix her dark mood through such tropes as sun salutations, transcendental meditation, burning sage, keeping crystals and consuming vitamins. Then she looks at her mood ring, which tells her if her pseudo-spiritual solutions are working.
The satirical song appears to be making fun of wellness culture. Lorde explained in a newsletter to fans she is singing from the perspective of a character who isn't her. "It was really interesting distilling some thoughts on wellness culture and the search for spiritual meaning in our modern world into a three-minute pop song. The kind of challenge she likes best!" Lorde wrote.
"It goes without saying I feel tons of empathy for this character," she elaborated. "It was never my intention to fully flame her, although I don't let her off the hook. We're living through wild times, and it's tough to begrudge anyone the methods they employ to feel sane, questionable though they may be."
Lorde wasn't the only one taking a satirical look at the wellness industry. Around the same time, Nine Perfect Strangers, a TV series about a mysterious and secretive health camp called Tranquillum, debuted on Hulu.
Lorde co-wrote and co-produced the song with Jack Antonoff, whom she collaborated with on her previous album, Melodrama.
Other artists that have recorded a song inspired by a mood ring include Britney Spears
Lorde co-directed the video along with Joel Kefali. For the clip, the usually dark-haired singer adopts a sun-kissed blonde hairdo and becomes the nameless character she portrays in the song. It finds her in a "wellness" retreat surrounded by dancers.