The songs that the world has heard so far from Lorde’s upcoming new album Melodrama have been excellent, and the track she released this morning, entitled “Sober,” continues this streak. It’s been kicking around for a couple of months now — she played it at Coachella, and also at a small show in the run-up to the festival. (If you’re interested in the song’s genesis, Lorde published a short series of tweets relating it. Content warning: “Jack and Lena.”)
The song fits well into what Lorde has explained as the theme of the album: she told the New York Times magazine last month that the album would be based around the narrative of a single house party. In fact, it was sober that defined that theme:
In March 2016, Lorde began writing a new track called “Sober,” whose pointed juxtaposition of pleasure (“My hips have missed your hips”) and foreboding (“What will we do when we’re sober?”) convinced her once and for all that she was onto something good. She decided that “Melodrama” would tell the story of a single house party. This conceit, impressionistic rather than schematic, would allow her to organize a variety of moods into a tense but cohesive whole.
“Sober,” specifically, deals with the morning after the night before. Thematically, the song recalls a song by another antipodean artist Sia’s “Chandelier,” which details the potential destructiveness of an obsession with partying and alcohol. Lorde’s song is more coy than “Chandelier,” interweaving its substance allusions in with other forms of intoxication, namely fame (“Limelight/ Lose my mind”), dance (“In the morning/ You’ll be dancing with us”), and also love (“My hips have missed your hips.”)
Nevertheless, Lorde’s relationship with all three of these inebriants seems ambivalent, at best — the song revolves around that central question, “What will we do when we’re sober?” It’s a question that plenty of people before her have tried to answer, and Lorde’s reflections on the matter indicate that she’s already in possession of some hard-won wisdom: “I know this story by heart/ Jack and Jill got fucked up and possessive/ When they get dark.” It’s telling, perhaps, that after her Twitter thread about “Sober,” she retweeted one fan’s tweet about the song, which captures the atmosphere perfectly: