Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Lorde's "Liability"

At the age of sixteen, Lorde ruptured the wall barring the music industry. Her song "Royals" reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100, marking her as the youngest solo artist to have a number one single.  Lorde's voice is mediocre in terms of technicality, but her lyrics are exceptional. 

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 liability
You're a little much for me'
So they pull back, make other plans
I understand, I'm a liability
The most powerful part of the song comes in the first verse:
So I guess I'll go home into the arms of the girl that I love
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
When 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.

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.


  1. I remember the first time I heard this time I heard this song I was very impressed with the lyrics and the structure. I also enjoyed the shift after she sings "So I guess I'll go home-Into the arms of the girl that I love" because it is intriguing.

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  3. I've definitely heard this song before, but never listened to it enough to really analyze it myself, so reading this is actually really interesting to me, especially the discussion of who the audience is, the girl/lover or Lorde herself. I think it's a really cool literary method for the writer to make themselves the audience; that's something that's been interesting to me throughout the unit, so seeing it in a song really helps convince me that it truly is poetry.

  4. It's so interesting that though Lorde has had a lot of critical acclaim because she is a "pop artist" she does not receive the due praise for her lyricism

  5. Absolutely love Lorde and this song! I think Lorde captures very specific moments of teen/ young adult emotion with regards to social situations and day to day life. You definitely hit on how Lorde uses specific and relatable diction to draw the listener in to the exact moment she is describing.

  6. Liability is such a beautiful song. The tone of her voice and slow tempo really enhances her message of self-love. I personally didn't realize the other woman was herself, but with your analysis I can see the connection. With your analysis, my understanding of the message of her song went to a whole different level. Thank you for sharing.