Tuesday, June 13th, 2017

Lorde – Perfect Places

We know a place…


Ian Mathers: Lorde’s generation is the one who’s managed to make their inescapable doom frequently quite funny; of course she followed up the anhedonic death drive of the great “Green Light” (that Gatsby-esque sign of fulfillment that never, by the end of the song, actually comes; she is still, always, waiting and wanting for it) with an ode to the fact that our mutual glory days, days and nights of youthful energy and romantic pursuit, are actually draining bullshit. Still worth it, or at least better than alternative (“blow my brains out to the radio” is a little on the nose, even for her); you’re one kind of a monster or another if you can’t either believe in those perfect place or remember that they’re illusions we’ll never reach (whether Apollonian or Dionysian). You gotta do both at once all the time forever, no wonder our millennials are so impressive (and if you think they get bleak, wait for the next crop).

Alfred Soto: Adults over twenty-five will get a more accurate sense of what it’s like to be young, inquisitive, self-aware and foolish by listening to Lorde than the new Arcade Fire, but like the latter “Perfect Places” aims for the anthemic when its artist is best suited for a party in her bedroom. The song would’ve been better off using “What the fuck are perfect places?'” as its hook and underpinning it with those gospel chords. A querulous marketing decision, not a single.

Maxwell Cavaseno: I guess a point or two for Lorde’s extensive use of her more hoarse range; I’m all for uglier voices somehow getting on singles meant for Top 40. Minus a few points, however, for going back to that older production style that drove me nuts with the fake FL 06 dubstep bass farts. No real points forward or backwards for sounding like a lesser Ryan Tedder production.

Kalani Leblanc: I had to play this three times before I could begin to remember what it sounded like. Lorde’s prowl and sharpness, which made you not want to slap your radio off when “Royals” would come on is missing in “Perfect Places” The song being as interesting as a flat soda swallows the possibility of intrigue by the lyrics. Nothing said by the press’ hype they incited themselves matches the singles she has released either — especially not in this drum clap slush called a “Lorde single.”

Josh Love: Lorde is generally suspicious of quick fixes, easy answers and fleeting highs, so a song about drugs and sex that ends with her repeating “What the fuck are perfect places?” is hardly off brand. This time, however, she’s attached her jaundiced musings to an utterly deadass tune. Maybe like with Carly Rae’s newest, it works as a commentary on what’s going on in the song itself. Call it “Cut to the Lack of Feeling.”

Katie Gill: Of course a Lorde song about the typical party lifestyle would be so beautifully melodramatic and cut right to the quick: “all of our heroes fading/now I can’t stand to be alone.” The lyrics are intensely beautiful, as Lorde sums up this entire contradictory and complex viewpoint so brilliantly in just a few minutes. Though the real star here is the instrumentation. The piano matching Lorde’s voice is downright brilliant and that backing beat throughout the song drives and pushes it to new heights.

Katherine St Asaph: There’s a great Enya take (“cover” is stretching) by Swedish national treasure Cecilia Nordlund and producer Dabook from the comp Music We Hate, in which the two contort their song of hatechoice into gonzo shrapnel then, two-thirds of the way, deliver evisceration: “What the fuck is Orinoco flow? What does it mean?” Two-thirds of the way through “Perfect Places” Lorde asks the same of a scene she hates, though in far more polished surroundings. Specifically, this is “All My Friends” as performed by Taylor Swift produced by Jack Antonoff: anhedonia made anthemic. Weird how totally the shift happened: the teenpop I grew up with was about flirty, happy lives paved with danger, and the teenpop ubiquitous now is about increasingly sad lives lived out on perfect advertising sets. (Can’t imagine what happened in the intervening years to influence that!) Since this is a celebrity’s narrative, there’s of course one line’s plaint about the headlines, those “19 and on fire”s. (Lorde might hate the headlines, but this headline writer didn’t much care for her telling critics they need “the gift of shock therapy” for Christmas, so I guess we’re even.) If anything, that line isn’t bitter enough; it dissolves as well as anything else into the party malaise.

Lauren Gilbert: I’ve been to this party, half-drunk and lost, looking for someone to talk to, looking for something I can’t name, a purpose, a reason, something to make me feel alive. Drugs, alcohol, sex; they’ll all work, anything to shut my brain up for five fucking minutes at a time. We choose to revel in physicality: the thump of the bass, the burn of vodka, someone’s mouth on mine. We are restless and graceless, fearless and fathomless. And hey, the world may be fucked, but the music’s still on, and we’re still dancing. Which is all to say: I’m approaching another summer in my twenties; of course I’ll play this on repeat.

Ryo Miyauchi: Neither the table-top boom-bap or arguably the peak Lorde lyric — “it’s just another graceless night” — might not offer enough to invite back Pure Heroine skeptics. But here, she picks on a wound deeper and more raw than suburban boredom: the purposeful ignorance to self that only comes around to put one in a deeper pit of shame. She is, once again, too young to be worrying about what she writes, but bless her for putting this twenty-something malaise succinctly on record.

Thomas Inskeep: More reminiscent of Pure Heroine (“Tennis Court” comes to mind) than “Green Light,” this midtempo would-be sing-a-long gets that teen angst thing of which Lorde seems to be a master. It’s not knocking me out, but it’s solid. 

Eleanor Graham: If I were being what you might call a critic, I might disparagingly mention Avril Lavigne’s “Here’s To Never Growing Up” and move on. But I was thirteen when I fell for Pure Heroine. I’m seventeen now, and I wasn’t a critic when I got home from a party on Thursday night and loaded up this song for the first time with my heart beating really quite fast. Graceless is how Ella described Trump. And that’s the way I read it in this song, not just a pretty flourish of a word, but sharp with disgust. Then the pre-chorus: the dirty needling guitar line, the un-American phrasing of “I don’t know/where to go,” the cheap slurring teen angst/Hemingway glamour of “blow my brains out to the radio.” Now the chorus: the mammoth chime and darkness and glimmer and beauty and horror and syllable as punch to the stomach of it all. I just think it’s interesting how that twee, insular little phrase, “perfect places,” ended up so galaxy-sized and dripping with bitterness. And so othered; “let’s go to perfect places” i.e. let’s go nowhere the fuck we understand. The world alone was a real escape. Now she can’t stand to be there. Whatever. All I know is that this is pop, warm and stupid and devastating and irresistible and somehow everything. She filled that space. I’m not sure I care what anyone else thinks.

Reader average: [8.18] (11 votes)

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4 Responses to “Lorde – Perfect Places”

  1. All the writing here is brilliant. got choked up at Eleanor’s blurb in particular.

    I couldn’t think of anything to say myself, but this was an inspiring set of reviews <3

  2. ugh Eleanor how are you such a good writer

  3. mean girls voice i just have a lot of feelings

  4. Lauren you’re a babe and also thank you for your blurb, i felt like it was the twenty something flipside of mine, very comforting to know someone saw it in the same way as me