|Single by Lorde|
|from the album Melodrama|
|Released||1 June 2017|
|Label||Universal New Zealand|
|Lorde singles chronology|
"Perfect Places" is a song by New Zealand singer and songwriter Lorde. It was released on 1 June 2017 through Universal Music New Zealand as the second single, following "Green Light" (2017), from her second album, Melodrama (2017). Lorde co-wrote and co-produced the song with Jack Antonoff and Andrew Wyatt, with additional production from Frank Dukes. "Perfect Places" was described as an atmospheric electropop song that blends bass, synths and drum machine beats. In the lyrics, Lorde follows the conclusion of the "teenage party circuit" in Melodrama, wondering where her perfect places are.
The track has been received with acclaim by music critics, with many commending Lorde's songwriting. While it failed to chart in the United States, "Perfect Places" had minor chart placements in Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom. An accompanying music video for the song was directed by Grant Singer, who also filmed the visual for the album's lead single "Green Light", and premiered on Lorde's Vevo account on 3 August 2017. It shows the artist in various shots alone at the beach, in a restaurant and on a boat. Lorde further promoted "Perfect Places" by performing it live on television on several occasions.
Background and development
When speaking to The New York Times about the song's composition, Lorde said that it "lived a million times." She added that both she and Jack Antonoff tried "different tempos, used different voicings, took it half time, made it weird and druggy," but nothing worked. One of their issues was how much depth there was to the song. Searching for a solution, Lorde thought of deleting its pre-chorus, and did so saying the track then "follow[ed] a much simpler trajectory." Despite this, they still had "not cracked the code."
As the pair was working on a hook, the idea of having a "mass of multi-tracked Lordes" came up. They proceeded to belt "out the words together beneath the main vocal like a choir of clones." During the recording, Lorde sang multiple takes and changed the sound by moving away or getting closer to the microphone in different parts. In post-production, her takes were layered on top of each other. The work of English singer Kate Bush served as an inspiration for a harmony in the second half of the song. The lyric "Now I don't know which way to go" was changed to "Now I can't stand to be alone" as the pair felt it was too "wishy-washy." On the track's release date, Lorde revealed that riding on the Brooklyn Bridge during the summer and sitting on the Uptown Manhattan subway in the heat, coupled with frequent flights to her residence in New Zealand, prompted her to write the song.
Composition and lyrics
Lorde and Antonoff wrote and co-produced the song with production handled mainly by Andrew Wyatt and Frank Dukes. "Perfect Places" is an atmospheric electropop song that blends booming bass, glimmering synths and drum machine beats. Sarah Grant of Rolling Stone wrote that the verse structures are "punctuated with throbbing syncopation, giving the song a dark, R&B sensibility." Spin noted that the track's "stock dramatic chord movement was backed by church-bell and piano knells." According to sheet music published at Musicnotes.com by Sony/ATV Music Publishing, "Perfect Places" is set in common time with a "moderate" tempo of 105 beats per minute. The song is composed in the key of E major, with Lorde's vocal range between the notes of C3 and C5.
Lorde annotated several of the song's lyrics exclusively on Genius. She wrote the lyric "Watch the wasters blow the speakers" in November 2016, when she was standing on her porch watching her friends fiddle with the speakers inside. Another verse, "I hate the headlines and the weather" came together on a late summer day in New York, with the singer noting how horrific the news was every day. The last lyric she annotated was "Now I can't stand to be alone" which Lorde says she wrote after realizing the main reason for her partying habits was "dreading sitting at home" by herself hearing her thoughts "hit the walls."
"Perfect Places" received critical acclaim from music critics, with several comparing the song to her 2013 single "Team". Jenn Pelly of Pitchfork awarded it "Best New Track", writing that the song "slides in on a spacious, charcoal beat à la Pure Heroine's 'Team,' but reality has grown crueler since then." Pelly further described Lorde as a "songwriter who still vividly celebrates out-of-step self-possession."  Winston Cook-Wilson of Spin compared the lyrics' setting to "Green Light" and added that the song had "a charm [in its] imperfectness," in that Lorde does not know where she is headed. Wilson said the track's main message is that there is "no perfect place" even when "pursuing it leaves you feeling just as lost [...] as you were at the start."
In a series of reviews by five editors on PopMatters, the average score for the track was a 7.4 out of 10. Chris Tiessen commended Lorde's "melodies, rhythmic delivery, and vocal layering" saying they were at a "peak performance." Conversely, Steve Horowitz gave it a mixed review, saying that Lorde "carries the patina of jaded adolescence" but the "passion" seems "elusive." In contrast, Chris Ingalls called it "highly infectious" and "brand new" saying it already sounded "classic and timeless." Adriane Pontecorvo called the track a "good end-of-summer single choice," which is "emotional, both carefree and bittersweet," saying Lorde has "done more interesting songs before," but she ended by calling it a "solid" single. Sharing similar sentiments, Mike Schiller said the song "doesn't quite land the way it feels like it should," but asserts the singer "remains fascinating and impossible to simply ignore." Noisey editor Phil Witmer called it a "triumphant closer" to the album and felt the chorus is like the refrain of The Beatles' "Hey Jude" (1968) except it "actually slaps."
National Public Radio ranked the song number 36 on their 100 Best Songs of 2017 list. NPR's Lyndsey McKenna compared it to the "last glass of wine that you probably didn't need, but you pour anyway with end-of-the-evening abandonment." The Guardian critic placed the track on its Sounds like Summer list, likening the chorus to Taylor Swift's "Blank Space" (2014), but commending the recording for retaining "Lorde’s singular melancholia." Pigeons and Planes editor Joyce ranked the song at number four on their Best Songs of 2017 list saying that Lorde captured an "internal conflict in a way that [was] both forthright and poetic." She went on to say that "Perfect Places" is one of the singer's "most mature offerings yet." Complex ranked the song at number 22 on its year-end list, calling it "an earnest, yearning pop anthem that would have been the best song on Pure Heroine." The song was ranked the 71st greatest song of 2017 by Australian alternative music station Triple J.
Lorde performed the song on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on 16 June 2017, the same day Melodrama was released. She was dressed in "an oversized white suit" with a halo of flowers taped to the back which was compared to the outfit worn by David Byrne in the Talking Heads 1984 concert film, Stop Making Sense. Throughout the performance, Lorde threw up her hands in jagged movements, sharply gulping in air between each vocal line and enunciated consonants with harsh plosives on the microphone. Rolling Stone editor Ryan Reed praised Lorde's band for "nailing the song from the verse's stark piano to the chorus' 3-D blast of synth and arena-sized drum." Ben Kaye from Consequence of Sound called the performance "powerful" stating that she proved to be as "passionate on late night television as she is on stage".
She also closed out the Much Music Video Awards on 18 June 2017 by singing "Perfect Places", along with "Green Light". She wore a red tracksuit and crop top, singing with a choir of "tracksuited kids" while fireworks exploded above her. Stereogum writer Tom Breihan stated that her performance was "enormously fun to watch, with her skeleton rap hands and her theatrical intensity". Geena Kloeppel from Spin described Lorde as having a "fiery vision on stage".  She also performed at Late Night with Seth Meyers on 17 July 2017. Lorde opted to perform a stripped down version of the track and then dance freely and "enthusiastically", which Rolling Stone's Elias Leight said added a "forlorn sensibility to the song, complimenting the lyrics in a literal way".  Spin writer Anna Gaca called it a "great rendition", noting the "choir of young people wearing matching monogrammed Melodrama tracksuits", which helped elevate the song.
The accompanying music video for "Perfect Places" was directed by Grant Singer, who also directed the visual for "Green Light". The video was shot in Jamaica. It was released on Lorde's YouTube channel on 3 August 2017.
On the video's release, Lorde took to Twitter to announce a series of subliminal references in the visual for fans to find. A scene where Lorde holds a lightbulb as a microphone in a dark-lit room interpolates Paramore's "Ignorance" (2009) video, while another shot with her nearly submerging her body in a small pond was compared to the group's visual for "Monster" (2011). During "Perfect Places", Lorde sits alone in a restaurant with several empty champagne glasses around her; this reference is taken directly from the Melodrama track "Sober II (Melodrama)" where she sings: "Oh, how fast the evening passes / Cleaning up the champagne glasses."
The yellow dress and safari-style hat worn by Lorde in the music video take inspiration from a similar outfit of Tarzan's Jane. The dress has also been compared to the one Beyoncé sports in her video for "Hold Up" (2016). In one scene, Lorde shoots a pair of coconuts from a palm tree with a shotgun, which drew comparisons to Lana Del Rey's "High by the Beach" (2015) video where Del Rey shoots down a helicopter. Another shot, showing Lorde swinging from a giant tree swing draped with hanging moss, is a reference to her cover of The Replacements' "Swingin Party" (1985) on the extended version of Pure Heroine. The lyrics of "Swingin Party" literally revolve around her partying excessively. During the video, Lorde also sits outside on a balcony and serves herself tea, which was compared to Lady Gaga's "Paparazzi" (2009) video.
The video begins with Lorde in a straw hat and white button shirt, walking toward a field of tall grass with a machete. An interpolated scene is also shown where she lifts her hands in the air next to a bonfire. In the following scene, she walks through a gate that automatically opens overlooking a clear blue ocean. She lays her shoulder next to one of the gate's sides while the artist's name and song title appear in retro orange letters. Lorde then stands alone on a sandy beach. The next scene shows her walking the beach at dusk as she stares at the water.
She then swings on a giant swing, draped in hanging moss, suspended from a tree limb. As the chorus begins, Lorde is shown in different shots dancing wildly, running across the coastline, followed by her nearly submerging herself in a small pond. The next scene shows Lorde alone in a restaurant filled with empty champagne glasses with an array of plants and flowers around her. She is then laying down on an outdoor chaise longue pouring herself a cup of tea. Lorde is then shown alone in a boat, wearing a yellow caftan dress and a hat as it floats off in the distance. She shoots a coconut from a palm tree with a shotgun and hits a lightbulb to the rhythm of the song. Continuing in a similar way, the rest of the video features several scenes shown before and ends with her singing into a lightbulb and then leaving.
Reception and analysis
The video was well-received from critics, with many commending its scenery. Cosmopolitan compared the coconut scene to Betty Draper from Mad Men. Arielle Tschinkel from Idolator called the video "visually stunning", adding that it places Lorde as the "focus with scenes out of a postcard as her backdrop." Uproxx editor Derrick Rossignol expressed that the video was "beautiful", noting that the "dynamic and anthemic pop track" perfectly scores the moments of "diverse aesthetic wonder in a way that both the song and visual deserve." Abraham Martinez from i-D expressed that the visual was a "theatrical tour de force with nature's elements as Lorde's only co-stars."
The video was also analyzed by several fashion websites for the outfits Lorde wore. The Cut revealed that several of the outfits worn in the video belonged to the Jacquemus, Vaquera and Zandra Rhodes' Shrimpton Couture collection. Melissa Minton from W magazine noted that the singer marked a transition from her darker fashion clothing and dark lips to a "more refined, sexy, glam look that's a bit more tame but just as witchy (and bewitching)." Vogue editor Daise Bodella noted that Lorde's decision to "spotlight young, rising designers certainly points the star in a more fashion-forward direction." She concludes by saying that the singer's style "shows a young woman who has comfortably come into her own."
Credits and personnel
Recording and management
- Recorded at Conway Recording Studios and Westlake Recording Studios (Los Angeles, California), and Electric Lady Studios (New York City)
- Mixed at Mixstar Studios (Virginia)
- Mastered at Sterling Sound Studios (New York City)
- Published by Songs Music Publishing, Sony/ATV Songs LLC, and Ducky Donath Music (BMI)
Credits adapted from the liner notes of Melodrama.
|Belgium (Ultratip Flanders)||23|
|Belgium (Ultratip Wallonia)||10|
|Canada (Canadian Hot 100)||76|
|Czech Republic (Singles Digitál Top 100)||83|
|Denmark Airplay (Tracklisten)||9|
|New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)||11|
|Slovakia (Singles Digitál Top 100)||76|
|UK Singles (Official Charts Company)||95|
|US Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles (Billboard)||13|
|US Rock Airplay (Billboard)||24|
|United Kingdom||1 June 2017||Digital download||Virgin||None|||
|United States||Streaming||Universal Music New Zealand||B06XHPQBRQ|||
|Germany||2 June 2017||B06XHR7W73|||
|United States||6 June 2017||Alternative radio||Virgin||None|||
|Various||16 June 2017||Digital download||Universal Music New Zealand|||
|Italy||Contemporary hit radio||Universal|||
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- on YouTube
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