Lorde emerged from the foggy haze of 2020 with ‘Solar Power‘ in June. With her new single came a new image. Her outfit was brighter, the music airier. Lorde turned herself away from the green light and frolicked (literally) in all the yellows and oranges of an earth-toned island summer. This new image was a stark contrast to the Lorde fans had come to know on previous album Melodrama, an era-defining record that bared all the chaos, colour and intimacy of a teenage house party. Lorde had grown out of her teens. Now, she was diving into adulthood.
The meaning of ‘Stoned at the Nail Salon’
‘Stoned at the Nail Salon‘ picks up where ‘Solar Power’ left off. The song is a feather-light folk tune. Lorde is anxious about her life’s direction. Facing the uncertainty of a quarter-life crisis, she warbles dreamily. Her witchy vocals are gentle at the touch. Like ‘Solar Power’, the single is another summer-themed track. Unlike its predecessor, ‘Stoned at the Nail Salon, focuses less on living in the moment and instead, takes anxious glances into the future.
This leads to what is arguably both the best and worst thing about this song. Anxiety about the future frequently creeps upon us. Often when we are trying our best to enjoy an important moment.
This mellow track represents a clear image of the anxious and uncertain side of Lorde’s character. Lorde elaborated on these themes in a recent conversation with Nylon Magazine. The song, she explained, documents her thoughts about her year as a 16-year-old pop superstar, her parents growing old along with “all these big, heavy things really confronting my mortality.”
What Lorde does well
Three positive aspects of the track are this. Firstly, Lorde’s dreamy vocals set a serene and vibrant scene. Secondly, the song captures the near-universal feeling of being overcome by anxiety in a surreal setting.
If you listen to the song more than once, you will realize ‘Stoned at the Nail Salon’ has two faces. There is a diluted musical mood in the foreground but you cannot help but hear the negative emotions echo in the lyrics (even if they are a little muffled). In this regard, Lorde showcases the nuance of her songwriting and ability to put across complex feelings.
Thirdly, this track was yet another fantastic collaboration. ‘Stoned at the Nail Salon’ features backing vocals from Clairo and Phoebe Bridgers. Neither of these celebrated songwriters is a stranger to melancholy. Both of their vocals compliment the tone and emotion of the song perfectly.
Lorde poses for a ‘Solar Power’ promotional photo
Where Lorde falls flat
Although the track had several exceptional elements, there were a couple of reasons why I think it falls short of Lorde’s best work on Pure Heroine and Melodrama. Firstly Lorde is not the first artist to cover this ground. To me, the song bears a small resemblance to songs such as ‘Venice Bitch’ and ‘Hope is a Dangerous Thing for a Woman to Have’ by Lana Del Rey. This is both in terms of mood and the single’s exceptional (by folk and pop song standards) length.
This leads to my second point, the song is little on the longer side. As a result, ‘Stoned at the Nail Salon’ runs a dangerous risk of wearing out its welcome. Some verses seem unnecessary considering how repetitive the lyrics can be.
Thirdly, as a lyric hound that enjoys escapism, ‘Stoned at the Nail Salon’ is a hard dose of reality during an already difficult year. It highlights all of my own anxieties as a clueless person in their 20s. It amazed me how much this song hits home for anyone wishing not to face the anxieties of growing older. Amazing lyrics Lorde, but stop attacking us!
Is ‘Stoned at the Nail Salon’ a good song?
The complex yet slow-paced ‘Stoned at the Nail Salon’ has many appealing elements. I love that the track shows the scary reality of aging, and what that could mean for both this artist and ourselves. The track adds to the summer holiday narrative the Lorde created with ‘Solar Power’. It effectively portrays the concept of an anxious mind attempting to rest. This track is an extremely worthwhile listen, just don’t blame me when your own existential crisis kicks in.
Lorde 'Stoned at the Nail Salon'7
Clairo and Phobebe Bridgers
Fans want escapism