I’m pretty sure Lorde convinced me to break up with my boyfriend before I even knew I needed to.
The first time I heard the forward-charging piano riff in the pre-chorus to “Green Light,” I was alone in my bedroom at my homestay in Paris, a month and a half into my study abroad program. Long-distancing was starting to make me feel restless. “I hear sounds in my mind / brand new sounds in my mind.” Staring at myself in the mirror, I tried to reconcile the overflowing doubts with the assurance I’d alway had in the longevity of my nearly two-and-a-half-year relationship.
I listened to “Green Light” on the metro. It stayed on repeat on my walk through the open-air market of Rue Daguerre to class every morning. Lorde’s words whispered and writhed and screamed within me until I too needed to be that girl losing her mind dancing on top of a suburban at 3 a.m. (à la “Green Light” music video). Packed between masses of aloof Parisians on their morning commute, all avoiding eye contact and dressed in stylish cuts and dark colors (no one warned me my loud metallic purple Dr. Martens would be a faux pas), I held still and tried to blend in. But inside I wanted to explode.
Brand new sounds are hard to unhear. We broke up. I took the leap and plunged headfirst into the terrifying, exciting new life as a single gal travelling the world I had been promised. But at first, it felt like no one was there to catch me.
When “Melodrama” dropped in June, I finally had something that put into words all the ugly crying, sloppy nights out, dizzying confusion and downright melodrama I’d been feeling over the past few months. Sure, friends give great advice, but there’s nothing like the feeling that a pop star had read your diary and written an album about it.
There were songs for when I needed to wallow the summer after we broke up, back in Berkeley and no longer having 5,500 miles of separation to keep him off my mind. “But I still remember everything, how we’d drift buying groceries, how you’d dance for me / I’ll start letting go of little things ’til I’m so far away from you, far away from you, yeah.” I spent weeks drifting around on solitary walks with big headphones covering my ears, indulging in the intense way this song reverberated within me.
In “Hard Feelings,” Lorde acknowledges the devastation of losing someone you spent years getting to know, who was integral to your life for what feels like forever. She understands how breakups create a penchant for the dramatic, in which you might find yourself walking up to the rose gardens alone to write poetry and ponder the wilting flowers as a metaphor for the demise of your relationship. Or reading “A Lover’s Discourse” by Roland Barthes. Or deciding, suddenly, that you need to drop everything and move to New York City to pursue your art heaux dreams.
“Writer in the Dark” is me to a T. I’m that girl who will “love you til you call the cops on me.” Dating me is committing to being the topic of many a journal entry. Maybe some shitty love poetry, too, if you’re (un)lucky. Lorde is psychopathically needy in the chorus of this song, but in the verses, she comes to a conclusion that showed me even the neediest people can learn how to be alone and even begin to love it: “I let the seasons change my mind / I love it here since I’ve stopped needing you.” I still often hate solitude, but I’m growing more comfortable with it, which is something that felt utterly impossible just a few short months ago.
Some lyrics on “Melodrama” broke my heart all over again. Some helped me heal. But mostly, they helped me feel less alone. Suddenly I had a hunch that I wasn’t the only one who had ever downloaded three or more dating apps at the same time only to dramatically delete them and redownload them over and over again until I felt like a human garbage can.
I probably wasn’t the only one who had ever gone on a bad date, from the guy who told me he enjoyed breakups to the militant vegan who turned cold when he learned I was only a pescetarian and ended the date early with a feeble side hug. I’m not the only one who felt lonely when my roommate wasn’t home; who wrote my ex long dramatic letters I never sent; who journaled so excessively that I found myself telling my friends I couldn’t hang out because I was writing about my feelings, goddammit.
It’s okay to be a hot mess, because every 20-something coming into her own has been that hot mess. Even one of the biggest pop stars in the world has been that drunk girl blubbering about her ex in the club bathroom. Breakups go hand in hand with melodrama. Lorde knows that just as well as anyone.
Off the Beat columns are written by Daily Cal staff members until the fall semester’s regular opinion columnists have been selected.
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