Forest Fires

I deeply regret that I've only begun listening to Lorde's discography now, four years after Pure Heroine came out.
So much wasted time.
At the start of 2017, I vowed to study the methods of other artists, especially the artistry of those who are in my age group. Lorde, or Ella Yelich-O’Connor, is only 364 days older than I am (she was born in New Zealand on a leap year) and this coincidence was enough to catch my attention.
Before "Green Light" came out, I was struck by how many people anticipated the single and affirmed Ella's genius. A lot of people praised her somber yet powerfully “rebellious” 2013 debut album. That got me even more curious.
With "Green Light", Ella attempted to swim in uncharted territory and experiment with her music style. It’s not an easy song to listen to. It takes a while before the ears adjust to the quiet piano introduction that bursts into pop synths. Some complained it’s almost blasphemous.
Say what you want, but it works. The result is a chaotic, frenetic song that celebrates freedom, letting go, and starting over again. As one of my closest friends has said, "Green Light" is a whip-your-hair-like-a-madman-and-dance-like-nobody’s-watching kind of song.
However, it wasn't until I listened to "Liability" that I felt the real zing of her music.
In her most recent release, Ella sings about getting hurt by a former lover and ending up feeling like she is a burden to anyone she loves, be it a romantic partner or a friend.
It's a universal theme, but Ella manages to put her own spin to the story. She puts a spotlight on the enduring forest fire that is self-love (although I would like to believe she was singing about another girl) and then transitions into a terrifically tender chorus that showcases her vulnerability.
“I’m a little much for everyone,” she sings.
Then comes the second verse. Ella finally lets out what she believes is how people treat her-- like a toy, as if her life is up for public consumption and entertainment. In the end, the people she loves choose to abandon her, and she knows she is now much better off alone.
The song is painfully cathartic and it hit me in all the right places, in all the crooked and nasty parts of myself that I am scared to face. It’s a song that reminded me of the crushing sense of loneliness and disappointment that permeates me daily, especially when it comes to relationships with other people.
Like Ella, I am a liability to the people I love. They leave. They ignore my attempts at reaching out and reconciling with them. They move on and make other plans.
And yet, even though "Liability" forces me to acknowledge the ugly parts of myself, it also lights up in me an overwhelming desire for self-empowerment. Indeed, the song is a poignant lament that makes me feel less isolated, less alienated, less like a freak; I am not the only person in the world who feels that way. It is comforting.
"Liability" ends on a hopeful note. “They're gonna watch me disappear into the sun. You're all gonna watch me disappear into the sun,” Ella croons as the piano’s tempo slows down.

It won’t be easy. It will require a tough and unyielding sense of self-determination to walk away from the pain that abandonment has caused, but like myself and countless others, Ella has only just begun to tell her story-- the story of Melodrama and her radical self-empowerment. Her music fuels the forest fire within and it is well damn worth it.

By Ysa Navarro


  1. Wow! I'm so surprised you finally submitted omg! So happy! This is such a good read, Ysa! Also very well-written!