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Green Light (Lorde song)

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"Green Light"
Lorde - Green Light (Chromeo Remix).png
Chromeo remix artwork
Single by Lorde
from the album Melodrama
Released 2 March 2017 (2017-03-02)
Format Digital download
Genre
Length
  • 3:54
  • 4:08 (Chromeo remix)
Label Universal New Zealand
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)
Lorde singles chronology
"Magnets"
(2015)
"Green Light"
(2017)
"Perfect Places"
(2017)

"Magnets"
(2015)
"Green Light"
(2017)
"Perfect Places"
(2017)
Music video
"Green Light" on YouTube

"Green Light" is a song by New Zealand singer Lorde, from her second studio album Melodrama (2017). Universal Music New Zealand released the song on 2 March 2017 as the album's lead single. Lorde co-wrote and co-produced the song with Jack Antonoff, with additional writing by Joel Little and production assistance from Frank Dukes and Kuk Harrell.[1] "Green Light" was described as an electropop, dance-pop, and post-disco song with an upbeat piano loop, hand-claps, bass and strings in its instrumentation. In the lyrics, Lorde uses a "green light" as a street signal metaphor that gives her permission to move on into the future.

Contemporary critics received "Green Light" with acclaim and praised its musical style, and Lorde's vocal delivery. It was called a break-up anthem. Several sites ranked it as one of the best songs of the year, with NME and The Guardian placing it in the top spot on their respective lists. The single garnered success on charts internationally, peaking at number 19 on the US Billboard Hot 100, and at number nine on the Canadian Hot 100 chart. In Oceania, it reached number four in Australia, and number one in New Zealand. "Green Light" was certified Platinum by both the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and Recorded Music NZ, and double Platinum by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA).

Grant Singer directed the song's accompanying music video which premiered on Lorde's Vevo account on 2 March 2017. It shows the artist leaving a nightclub and walking the streets of Los Angeles as she tries to move on from a breakup. The visual attracted the attention of various music critics, who commended the singer's new artistic direction. The artist has performed "Green Light" at Saturday Night Live taping in New York, and at Coachella Valley Music Festival in California. The television shows New Girl, Quantico and Siesta Key used the track on their soundtracks.

Background and release[edit]

"The song is really about those moments kind of immediately after your life changes and about all the silly little things that you gravitate towards. It sounds so happy and then the lyrics are so intense obviously."

—Lorde talking about the song's meaning during a Beats 1 interview with Zane Lowe.[1]

Prior to the song's release, Lorde teased her followers on Twitter, saying that "Green Light" would be "different, and [kind of] unexpected. Complex and funny and sad and joyous and it'll make you [dance]."[2] Lorde's decision to create an uptempo track was influenced by how laid-back songs on the radio were for her musical taste. The chill and slow atmosphere of those songs made her want to bring a different style of music back to the radio waves. She states that she felt "like being a psycho" and simply "bursting back and being like, 'Here it is! All of it! This is everything that I've been feeling!'"[1] She announced the release of the single and its music video on Twitter on 2 March 2017.[3]

When previewing the track for producer Max Martin, he did not think the song would become a hit. Martin had an issue with "melodic math — shortening a part." He called the lyrics "incorrect songwriting" and noted the marked key change after the piano sequences. Realizing that top 40 songs usually have key changes reserved for amplified final choruses, Lorde herself called "Green Light" a "strange piece of music." She acknowledges the "drums [do not] show up on the chorus until halfway through, which creates this other, bizarre part."[4] In an interview with Tavi Gevinson's podcast Rookie, she revealed that the song's piano part was inspired when she went to a Florence and the Machine concert with Jack Antonoff. The singer's pianist made "big, jangly" piano movements, where "the physicality of that movement [...] became the way Jack played" that part in the song.[5] Lorde also revealed that her sound-to-color synesthesia played a big factor in the song's title, saying that a "swirling combo of high school and recent and private and public memories" literally helped to make the title mean to represent a green traffic light.[6]

Composition and lyrical interpretation[edit]

Jack Antonoff (pictured in 2012) co-wrote "Green Light".

Lorde, Antonoff, and Joel Little wrote the song, with production handled by Lorde, Antonoff, and Frank Dukes.[1] It was the first track Lorde wrote for Melodrama. Writing took place over an 18-month period.[7] Lorde's first heartbreak inspired the lyrics, leading reviewers to characterise them as being "downbeat" as well as having an "acceptance of longing".[8][9] Spencer Kornhaber from The Atlantic stated that Lorde was singing about the transitional phase of a breakup and obsessing over her ex "misleading" his new partner in the lyrics, "She thinks you love the beach, you’re such a damn liar". Kornhaber compared the "loop of bliss" in the last minute of the track to The Smiths song, "How Soon Is Now?" (1984).[10] Pretty Much Amazing writer Danilo Bortoli noted how Lorde's songwriting provides a shift in perspective from Pure Heroine (2013). Bortoli mentioned how she used to portray the "role of master observer" and compared her new view to British singer Tracey Thorn.[11]

Musically, "Green Light" was described as an electropop, dance-pop, and post-disco song.[12][13][14] According to sheet music published at Musicnotes.com by Sony/ATV Music Publishing, "Green Light" is set in common time with a "driving" tempo of 129 beats per minute. The song is composed in the key of A major, with Lorde's vocals ranging between the notes of D3 and A4.[15] "Green Light" begins with her singing solo with a lone piano playing "slow, steady" power chords consisting of a root note and the fifth above.[16] Subsequently, in the first of the song's two pre-choruses, a "throbbing beat" plays amid "tongue-twisting lyrics, eerie background vocals, and bubbling electronic effects." In the second pre-chorus, a "cheery, upbeat piano loop and a kick drum" accompany Lorde as she sings about an "uneasy new reality."[2][17] The BBC described the chorus that follows this section as "euphoric", while Forbes deemed it as power pop, featuring hand-claps, bass and strings.[18][19][8][20] Here, the titular metaphor comes in the form of a hook: "I'm waiting for it, that green light, I want it," leading reviewers to interpret the "green light" as a street signal that gives the singer permission to move on into the future.[8][20][21]

Critical reception[edit]

"Green Light" generally received acclaim from music critics upon its release, with many publications placing the song in their respective year-end lists. Jason Lipshutz of Billboard commended the track, highlighting Lorde's songwriting in particular, "[...] with 'Green Light', a comeback single that barges into your heart on its first play, Lorde makes a good case that her songwriting, above all else, is her strongest asset."[22] Nolan Feeney of Entertainment Weekly said that the song pulls "off all of those feelings and sounds without making 'Green Light' feel like it was Frankenstein'd together from a pile of lesser tunes."[2] Hugh McIntyre of Forbes thought, "The tune sees her shedding the gloom of her previous hits for a more upbeat feeling, one which packs a galloping piano/drum beat build up and a power-pop chorus with a vaguely electronic backbeat."[18]

NME's Rhian Daly said "the first track from Melodrama [...] is different and unexpected," noting Lorde sounds "angrier and more theatrical than she did on her 2013 debut. Her voice is raspier, a touch deeper, still with that elegance and poise she emerged with."[16] Pitchfork awarded it Best New Track, with writer Laura Snapes calling it a "comeback breakup jam" and complimenting the song's "euphoria."[23] Stereogum's James Rettig called it "an incandescent number that feels like a natural progression from the insular pop of Pure Heroine."[24] Patrick Ryan of USA Today said the song is "unlike anything she—or frankly, any pop star in recent memory—has put out before, with frequent tempo changes, a wailing hook and the same sharp, heartfelt lyrics [...] on her breakout single 'Royals'," going on to call the track an "earworm."[25]

Writing for The Atlantic, Spencer Kornhaber said that at first listen, the track "comes off as an EDM remix" of Lorde's past material, but after several spins "reveals its tricky logic—and drops a payload of emotion." He also mentions how the "dark theatrical vocal delivery in the verses" is what distinguishes a Lorde track from The Chainsmokers' guest singers.[10] Pretty Much Amazing writer Danilo Bortoli called the track "explosive and contagious."[11] In a mixed-positive review, Craig Jenkins of Vulture said the song "locates the universality in a very specific experience, as a truly effective pop gem should" but also mentioned how it falls under "quality radio fare," being "too faithful to the style of its predecessors."[26] In an interview write-up, Time editor Sam Lansky commended the track for being a "cathartic sing-along that takes an eerie vocal introduction and builds into a thunderous chorus." He felt it is "both unsettled and euphoric like doing jumping jacks in the rain."[27]

Year-end lists[edit]

Publication Rank Ref.
The A.V. Club
2
Billboard
13
Consequence of Sound
2
Cosmopolitan
3
Esquire N/A
Fact
45
The Fader
43
The Guardian
1
The Line of Best Fit
20
NME
1
Paste
19
The Philadelphia Inquirer N/A
Pitchfork
3
Popjustice
17
PopMatters
14
Pretty Much Amazing
6
Slant
2
Spectrum Culture
3
Stereogum
7
Variety N/A
The Village Voice
4
The Washington Post
9

Commercial performance[edit]

Commercially, "Green Light" achieved success following its release. In the United Kingdom, the song debuted at number 28 on the UK Singles Chart, in the issue dated 16 March 2017.[50] On the week of 20 April, it reached the 20th position after leaping seven spots, becoming her second top 20 entry on the chart, after "Royals" (2013).[51] "Green Light" received a Gold certification by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) on 18 August 2017 for 400,000 sales.[52] In Spain, the song debuted at number 13, becoming Lorde's second top twenty entry in the chart. "Green Light" peaked within the top ten in Canada,[53] Iceland,[54] and Israel.

In the United States, "Green Light" debuted at number 100 on Billboard Hot 100 based on the song's first roughly half-day streaming and sales, as well as its first three-and-a-half days of airplay.[55] The following week, the song leaped from 100 to number 19, and debuted at number six (52,000 downloads sold) on Digital Songs Sales, and at number 20 (13.6 million U.S. streams) on Streaming Songs, while drawing 20 million in radio airplay audience. It marked Lorde's third top 20 hit, preceded by "Royals" and "Team" (2013).[56] With a leap of 81 spots, "Green Light" became one of the few songs to have the biggest single-week upward movements since Jeannie C. Riley's "Harper Valley PTA" first accomplished this in 1968.[56] The song performed modestly in other Billboard markets, landing within the top 20 on the Mainstream Top 40, and the top ten on the country's Alternative Songs and Rock Airplay charts. "Green Light" was successful in Oceania. On the report dated 19 March 2017, the song debuted at number four on the Australian ARIA Singles Chart. The song was ranked the sixth greatest song of 2017 by Australian alternative music station Triple J.[57]

In Australia, it received a triple Platinum certification for sales of 210,000. The track debuted and peaked at number one on the New Zealand Top 40 Singles chart on the report dated 13 March 2017, receiving a Platinum certification by the Recorded Music NZ (RMNZ) for sales of 30,000.[58]

Music video[edit]

Background[edit]

Grant Singer directed the music video for "Green Light", and shot the visual for Lorde's follow-up single, "Perfect Places" (2017). Lorde contacted Grant a couple of months before the video's release, and the pair later met for dinner in New York City. Struck by Lorde's "passion, sincerity and thoughtfulness," a collaboration between the pair ensued. Having not released a music video of her own in several years, both Lorde and Singer wanted to take a new direction from her earlier works. This led to him choosing 16 mm film to shoot the video, a technique rarely used in modern videos, which generally use 35 mm film. Singer explained that the idea of choosing 16 mm film felt timeless and was intentional to make the video feel like it was not made in 2017. When explaining the new direction of her videos in a behind the scenes shoot with Vevo, Lorde said:

“I was very aware that this is the first thing that people had seen from me in three years. I was picking up where I had, which was I always had dark lipstick on and in a weird kind of outfit. And this time, I was like, I want to look the way my friends see me. I want to feel like I could be any one of the young people who listen to my music.”[59]

One particular scene where Lorde takes a "payphone off the hook for no reason" was improvised and went unnoticed during the filming process. Singer decided to leave the part in afterwards as it was a "magic moment" and cutting it would have been "criminal." He also mentions the scene was "synchronized with the beat" of the song. Explaining the location of the video, shot at MacArthur Park in Los Angeles, Singer said that he did not want to make the area seem specific. He describes the area as a "no man’s land between downtown and Koreatown." In an interview with NME, Lorde revealed that the video and song are "symbiotic" saying that she wanted the video to be set at night, just like her "real life." During the video, she wears white Adidas shoes, which she says is what she wears when she goes partying at home.[60][61]

Synopsis[edit]

During this scene, Lorde lifts a telephone receiver off its hook. Director Grant Singer specified that the scene was "accidental" and called it a "magic moment" during the filming process.

The video starts with a close up shot of Lorde looking at herself in a mirror in a public restroom. In the next scene, she is dancing slowly in a club, with the silhouettes of other partygoers and flashing lights around her. She then exits the club at night, stepping inside a taxi. Subsequently, she opens the passenger window and places her head partly outside the window, letting the wind rush by her as the taxi drives through the streets of Los Angeles. In the following scene, Lorde is seen dancing on top of the taxi while red lights shine on her. Interpolated scenes of her dancing and laying across the car are shown.

Walking the streets alone, Lorde puts on earphones and dances joyously. She then takes a telephone receiver off its hook. During the pre-chorus, Lorde is inside the bathroom from the first scene with Antonoff playing piano in the background. Her dancing intensifies as the video's earlier scenes are mashed up together. Several shots of her moving her hair back and forth are shown, with one particular shot showing her placing her head down on what appears to be a car with flashing green lights. In the last scene, Lorde makes her way through an overpass at sunset, as a green light reflects on her face.[62]

Reception[edit]

Aimee Cliff from The Fader compared Lorde's dancing to Robyn in "Dancing on My Own" (2010). Cliff also compared the video to Grimes' "Oblivion" (2012) where both artists use headphones to symbolize that dancing is for one's own pleasure. Alexandrina Hemsley, from the performance duo Project O, drew a comparison between Madonna's "Ray of Light" (1998) and Ciara's "Oh" (2005) for featuring dancing on top of a car. Pitchfork ranked the video at number 11 on their year-end list, stating that the video was "some dream-nexus of Kate Bush or Robyn dancing on their own and French New Wave director Agnès Varda capturing the freedom of solo woman wanderers". The publication said that the video documented the singer's "expressive style of modern dance" which was a "glowing vision" of how "romantic" it can feel to be "alone in public".[63] Nate Gross from Exile Edit received a nomination for Best Editing at the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards, losing to Ryan Staake and Eric Degliomini's work on Young Thug's "Wyclef Jean" (2017).[64]

Mic writer Tom Barnes called the video a "liberating ode to the moment heartbreak turns into hope". He noted the visual's colorful aesthetic, which help dramatize the song's narrative.[65] Rolling Stone called the video "electrifying," describing her as being "swathed in electric pink mesh" and sealing her "kiss-off with a bang".[66] After the release of the video, a man working for the Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA), the New Zealand media regulation company, filed a complaint stating the visual "encouraged reckless driving". The company also claimed that it "breached the Free-to-air TV Code's law and order standard". They later released a statement saying that Lorde did "not actively encourage viewers to imitate her," and in their view, "her actions did not amount to direct incitement to break the law, nor did they encourage or condone criminal activity."[67] Since its release, the video has garnered over 114 million views.[62]

Live performances and promotion[edit]

Lorde first promoted "Green Light" by posting a link to her Twitter account which led fans to a website called imwaitingforit.com.[68] The site featured a short video clip of Lorde sitting in a car while eating fries and drinking from a styrofoam to-go cup as a piano-backed track plays on in the background. The screen then flashes the dates "3.2.17 NYC" and "3.3.17 NZ".[69][70] According to Fact magazine, the clip was also broadcast on major TV channels in New Zealand.[71] The singer further promoted her first single by broadcasting the location of three mysterious installations, which featured an abandoned car illuminated in green light, a projection lit in green playing a 5-second music video clip and a neon sign with song lyrics. The installations were held in her hometown of Auckland.[72]

Lorde first performed "Green Light" on Saturday Night Live on 11 March. The singer wore a sparkle shirt-clad as stage was lit in red with a trio of young sisters serving as backing vocals.[73] Lorde's performance was met with positive reviews by critics, although viewers criticized Lorde's dancing.[74] The singer later responded by saying, "One day I will do a normal dance choreographed by a nice person and I will look more like your other favourite performers but we have not yet reached that day."[75] In an analysis from The Fader, the publication defended Lorde's dancing, stating that Western top 40 pop music has centered around "pristine choreography" but the artist's body movements are "more freeform and spontaneous, and it speaks an entirely different expressive language".[76] Entertainment Weekly wrote a positive review, stating that the performance "held true" to Nolan Feeney's 'A' review of the track. The publication described Lorde's dance moves as "delightfully wacky".[77] Paste writer E.C. Flamming described it as "energetic" and commented on her "patented spastic dance style".[78] Lorde also performed "Green Light" at Coachella Valley Music Festival in California.[79] She first teased the song by using it as the intro to her set, which was the last song she performed at the event.[80]

The television shows New Girl, Quantico and Siesta Key used the track on their soundtracks.[81][82][83] "Green Light" was also featured on the third season of the reality television show RuPaul's Drag Race: All Stars, in which drag queens Kennedy Davenport and BenDeLaCreme lip synced it.[84]

Track listing[edit]

Digital download – Chromeo Remix[85]
No.TitleLength
1."Green Light" (Chromeo Remix)4:07

Credits and personnel[edit]

Credits adapted from the liner notes of Melodrama.[86]

Recording and management

Personnel

Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Australia (ARIA)[132] 3× Platinum 210,000^
Canada (Music Canada)[133] Platinum 80,000^
Italy (FIMI)[134] Platinum 50,000double-dagger
New Zealand (RMNZ)[135] 2× Platinum 60,000*
Norway (IFPI Norway)[136] Gold 5,000*
United Kingdom (BPI)[137] Gold 400,000double-dagger
United States (RIAA)[138] Platinum 1,000,000double-dagger

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
double-daggersales+streaming figures based on certification alone

Release and radio history[edit]

Region Date Format Label Ref.
Various 2 March 2017 Digital download Universal Music New Zealand [139]
United Kingdom Contemporary hit radio Virgin EMI [140]
Italy Universal [141]
United States 7 March 2017 Top 40 radio [142]
Rhythmic radio [143]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]