Laurence Perrine, author of Sound and Sense: an Introduction to Poetry, says poetry's primary concern is to convey an experience. Lorde does this beautifully. Her first album Pure Heroine captured the experience of suburban adolescence: house parties, angstiness, fear of growing up. Her latest album Melodrama captures the experience of a young woman living in the city, exploring relationships after her first breakup.
"Liability," the only piano ballad on Melodrama, expounds Lorde's feeling of being too much, feeling that nobody could ever love her for everything she is.
They say, 'You're a little much for me, you're a liabilityThe most powerful part of the song comes in the first verse:
You're a little much for me'
So they pull back, make other plans
I understand, I'm a liability
So I guess I'll go home into the arms of the girl that I loveWhen she first delivers these lines, the listener imagines her literally going home to another woman. A woman who is, "...so hard to please...a forest fire." The listener quickly realizes the woman Lorde is singing of is herself. She is the only love she hasn't screwed up. These lyrics produce a powerful image of Lorde in solitude, perhaps on a weekend night when everybody is out, dancing by herself.
The only love I haven't screwed up
She's so hard to please but she's a forest fire
I do my best to meet her demands, play at romance
We slow dance in the living room, but all that a stranger would see
Is one girl swaying alone, stroking her cheek
If you watch interviews of Lorde speaking to this song and speaking to this album, she cites a time when she was crying in the back of a taxi; "Higher" by Rihanna was playing on the radio. The song I just outlined, "Liability," opens up with the line, "Baby really hurt me, crying in the taxi".
I know the loneliness of Lorde's experience in that taxi. I know her pain of feeling as if nobody wants to be around her, but I wasn't there to witness these moments. I was only listening through a pair of headphones.