In March 2016, Lorde began writing a new track called "Sober," in which she addresses the duality between the euphoria of artificial stimulation and the soberness of being clear-headed. She completed the song with her producer, fun. guitarist Jack Antonoff and Malay, who is best known for his work on Frank Ocean's Channel Orange record.
Lorde recalled on Twitter that the "first inklings" of the song came to her in the back of an uber, and then "properly" while sitting at Jack Antonoff and his partner Lena Dunham's kitchen table, after which she "bolted" to the studio. She added:
"I'll never forget writing the first demo it was like a trance. I guided jack to the chords almost wordlessly with my hands on his shoulders. It was this really intense booming slow synth thing with a drum outro for ages then Malay came thru on my birthday and cracked the code on it."
The song's expression of differing emotions ("In the morning, you'll be dancing with all the heartache. And the treason, the fantasies of leaving. But we know that, when it's over. In the morning, you'll be dancing with us") convinced Lorde that she was onto something good. She decided that Melodrama would tell the story of a single house party, which would enable her to organize a variety of moods into an interrelated whole.
"With a party, there's that moment where a great song comes on and you're ecstatic," she explained to The New York Times, "and then there's that moment later on where you're alone in the bathroom, looking in the mirror, you don't think you look good, and you start feeling horrible."
Lorde premiered the song on April 14, 2017 during an intimate show at the Pappy + Harriet's saloon in Pioneertown, California during Coachella weekend.
But my hips have missed your hips
So, let's get to know the kicks
Will you sway with me?
Go astray with me?
This is one of several instances on "Sober" where Lorde uses dance metaphors. She described the period leading up the recording of Melodrama as a time where all she wanted to do was dance.
Lorde revealed on a Song Exploder podcast the track came during a period of post-breakup partying. "When you come out of a relationship, you just want to fill the quiet as best you can," she said.
The sound of a tiger's roar was thrown in by Jack Antonoff 2.35 minutes into the song (at the bridge). "That was just the kind of dramatic flourish we needed," Lorde said.
Lorde told NME this is her favorite track on Melodrama to perform live. She explained:
"I spent a lot of time getting this really perfect violet light for it in the live show, and every time I see that light I am like 'wow, this is the little world I wanted to build for this song.' So that one's really fun."