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Yellow Flicker Beat

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"Yellow Flicker Beat"
Cover art features a hard-cover print with the song and title printed in dull, gold colors. An image of a Mockingjay is portrayed in the center.
Single by Lorde
from the album The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Released 29 September 2014 (2014-09-29)
Format Digital download
Recorded 28–29 August 2014
Studio Lakehouse Recording Studios
(Asbury Park, New Jersey)
Genre
Length 3:52
Label Republic
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)
Lorde singles chronology
"Glory and Gore"
(2014)
"Yellow Flicker Beat"
(2014)
"Magnets"
(2015)
Music video
"Yellow Flicker Beat" on YouTube

"Yellow Flicker Beat" is a song by New Zealand singer Lorde released on 29 September 2014 as the lead single from the soundtrack for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 by Republic Records. Written by Lorde and Joel Little and produced by Little and Paul Epworth. It is as an art pop and electropop song with an electronic production and minimal synthesisers and rattling drums in its instrumentation. Critics compared its style to that of Lorde's earlier releases such as her song "Biting Down" from The Love Club EP (2013) and "Team" (2013) from the singer's debut studio album Pure Heroine (2013). The lyrics of the track refer to the rise of The Hunger Games' heroine Katniss Everdeen.

"Yellow Flicker Beat" was well received by music critics, who praised its lyrical content for being more mature than that of Lorde's previous releases. Commercially, the song peaked at number 34 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and entered the record charts of several nations, including Australia, Canada and New Zealand. A music video for the song was directed by Emily Kai Bock and was released on 7 November 2014. Four days later, a remix of the song titled "Flicker (Kanye West Rework)" co-produced by Lorde and Kanye West was released. Lorde performed the original version at the 2014 American Music Awards on 23 November 2014. The song was nominated for Best Original Song at the 72nd Golden Globe Awards, and Best Song at the 20th Critics' Choice Awards.

Composition and release[edit]

"Yellow Flicker Beat" lasts for a duration of 3:52 (three minutes and fifty-two seconds).[1] The Sydney Morning Herald's reviewer Bernard Zuel characterised it as an electropop song and noted the electronic production on the song.[2] Meanwhile, Billboard's Jason Lipshutz shared that the track explored Lorde's art pop sensibilities.[3] The song features Lorde's "brooding croon" over minimal synthesisers and rattling drums.[4] Alex Young and Michelle Geslani from Consequence of Sound labelled the song a throwback to Lorde's debut album Pure Heroine (2013).[5] Brennan Carley from Spin compared the style of "Yellow Flicker Beat" to that of Pure Heroine for the "typically sweeping themes and moody, electronically enhanced melodies." He eventually drew comparisons between the track and "Biting Down" (from The Love Club EP) while Lipshutz comapred the hook to her song "Team" (2013).[6][3]

According to the sheet music published at Musicnotes.com by Sony/ATV Music Publishing, it is set in a tempo of 96 beats per minute. It is written in the key of A minor, and follows the chord progression Am–Dm–Am–E. Lorde's vocals range from E3 to E5.[7] The lyrics of "Yellow Flicker Beat" reference the rise of The Hunger Games' heroine Katniss Everdeen.[3] The song begins with a slow and measured start, which features the "touched by pain" lyrics "I'm a princess cut from marble / smoother than a storm." As the drums start, Lorde sings "This is the start." Zuelit opined that the line was "also the beginning of the end of something. Not their innocence, already sacrificed for a higher goal, but definitely any easy comfort."[2] Carley pointed out that the lines "The scars that mark my body / They're silver and gold" and "My blood is a flood of rubies, precious stones" showcased "a big step towards more mature lyrics."[6]

On 31 July 2014, it was announced that Lorde would be the curator for the soundtrack of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (2014).[8] On 23 September 2014, Lorde announced that the song, titled "Yellow Flicker Beat", would be released on 29 September 2014.[9] The song was written by Lorde and Joel Little and produced by Paul Epworth.[10] "Yellow Flicker Beat" was recorded at the Lakehouse Recording Studios in New Jersey on 28 and 29 August 2014. The song was engineered by Matt Wiggins and Erik Kase Romero.[11] On 29 September 2014, "Yellow Flicker Beat" was released digitally on the iTunes Stores worldwide by Republic Records.[1] The same day, it was sent to Italian contemporary hit radio and US adult album alternative (AAA) and modern rock stations.[12][13]

Reception[edit]

"Yellow Flicker Beat" received mostly positive reviews from music critics. Writing for Spin, Carley praised the metaphorical and mature lyrics of "Yellow Flicker Beat".[6] Meanwhile, Reed complimented on the song's production, writing that the song "fits comfortably within the 17-year-old's sonic wheelhouse."[4] On behalf of The Sydney Morning Herald, Zuel labelled the track "another smart musical, as much as career, step by Lorde".[2] Billboard's Steven J. Horowitz opined that Lorde's voice complemented the song's beat well, and rated it three and a half out of five stars.[14] The single was ranked at number 4 on Cosmopolitan's year-end list.[15] "Yellow Flicker Beat" was nominated for Best Original Song at the 72nd Golden Globe Awards,[16] and Best Song at the 20th Critics' Choice Awards.[17] Despite its praise, several critics noted its conventional sound. Chris Schulz of The New Zealand Herald wrote that "Yellow Flicker Beat" sounded too similar to Lorde's previous work, and lamented the lack of a catchy hook and chorus. Echoing Schulz' statements, Lydia Jenkin, also from the Herald, pointed out that while its sound was reminiscent of the singer's early works, it was still "a perfect musical depiction of Katniss Everdeen".[18]

In the United States, "Yellow Flicker Beat" debuted at number seventeen on the Billboard's Alternative Songs chart. In doing so, Lorde logged the highest launch by a female artist on the chart since 1995 when Juliana Hatfield's "Universal Heart-Beat" also debuted at number seventeen. Additionally, the single appeared on the Adult Alternative Songs at number nineteen with 5.2 million radio audience impressions in first-week audience.[19] On the Billboard Hot 100, the single peaked at number thirty-four.[20] "Yellow Flicker Beat" also charted moderately on several national record charts, including Australia,[21] Canada,[22] Ireland,[23] and the United Kingdom.[24] The single was a success in New Zealand, peaking at number four on the New Zealand Singles Chart.[25] It was certified gold by the Recorded Music NZ[26] and gold by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA).[27] The song was ranked the 18th greatest song of 2014 by Australian alternative music station Triple J.[28]

Music video[edit]

Lorde and other guests dressed in formal clothing at a cocktail party as they smile to a camera
This scene shows Lorde and other guests at a cocktail party smiling upwards toward the camera. Several critics compared the visual to the ending of the 1980 horror film The Shining.[29]

The music video for "Yellow Flicker Beat" was directed by Emily Kai Bock,[30] and was released on 7 November 2014 at midnight (NZDT), when Lorde turned eighteen years old.[31] It has been described as first-person narrative from a woman expressing the strength and resolve of Katniss Everdeen, the central character of The Hunger Games franchise.[32] Commenting on the concept of the video, Lorde wrote on her Tumblr page that she wanted to convey a "mood; a harsh, crackling heat." She refers to Katniss as someone pushed over the edge and considers her a shapeshifter, "full of intensity and impulse." The singer stated that whether Katniss is in "small space or a cavernous one, she’s fiery."[33] Lorde revealed that she broke her foot when filming the scene where she fell towards the camera.[34]

The video starts with Lorde singing in a faintly lit motel room, with a television displaying static and a running car facing the window. The singer is dressed in a white button-down shirt, black slacks and her hair done up in a pompadour. Afterwards, the clip showcases Lorde looking away from the camera in a room surrounded with potted plants. The camera moves away towards a dark, abandoned road filled by smoke with only one street light beaming on the singer. As the chorus begins, a group of teenagers form a circle as they point a flashlight at Lorde as she dances. Her dancing was described as "twitchy" and "witchy".[35] In the next scene, the singer sits alone on the edge of a dark-lit public swimming pool. She then arrives at 1920s-inspired cocktail party where she falls into a "bottomless pit" which was described as a "surreal cliff".[36][37][38] She appears dancing besides a white curtain concluding the video wearing a white suit as she sits in a bus stop bench. The frequent white colored fashion choices was compared by critics to Peeta's look during his video announcements in the Capitol.[33][39]

Critics compared the singer's fashion and dancing to that of Prince and Robyn.[40][41] Billboard's Zach Dionne complimented the fashion choice on the video, calling it "awesome".[42] Jon Blistein of Rolling Stone opined that the music video had little to do with The Hunger Games' concept; however, it did capture "the alienation and defiance that fuels Katniss."[43] Likewise, Andrew Untergerger from Spin wrote that the clip was "disappointing [because] there's no actual Hunger Games footage in there", yet complimented its overall production and called it "cinematic."[39] On behalf of MTV, Abby Devora wrote that Lorde "is [...] truly coming into her own" and named it a welcome change from Lorde's previous videos.[37] Slant wrote that despite looking "awkward and slightly unhinged during public appearances", her performance in the visual was described with "elegance and sophistication."[44] The scene where Lorde and other guests smile toward a camera at a cocktail party was compared to the ending of the 1980 horror film The Shining.[29]

Live performances[edit]

Lorde singing to a microphone onstage dressed in a red-colored outfit
Lorde performing live at the Hearst Greek Theatre in Berkeley, California (2014)

On 2 October 2014, Lorde performed "Yellow Flicker Beat" for the first time at Hearst Greek Theatre in Berkeley, California.[45] Later that month, she gave a live rendition of the track at the ACL Music Festival.[46] The overall performance was praised.[47]

Lorde performed the song at the 2014 American Music Awards on 23 November 2014.[48] She began the performance by singing inside of an "orange-lit box". Halfway through the song, the box lifted, exposing Lorde in a white crop top and black pants outfit to the audience and was accompanied with a group of white-clad dancers.[49] She ended by smearing her lipstick on-stage.[50] The performance was highly praised, particularly Lorde's stage presence and was considered one of the night's best by several publications.[51][52][50][53] Billboard described the performance as "an honest, impeccable portrayal of Lorde’s most idiosyncratic qualities.", referring to it as "scary good". The publication later ranked it the second best performance of the night, behind Taylor Swift's "Blank Space" (2014) stating that Lorde proved to be the "coolest weird dancer in the pop world."[52][54] Miles Raymer of Entertainment Weekly gave the performance an A, expressing that despite being the show's "most awkward moment," Lorde delivered a "dose of bracing weirdness."[55] Rolling Stone compared her "thrashing and headbanging" to Nine Inch Nails' "March of the Pigs" (1994) video. The publication also praised the singer's "exquisitely intimate and intense" moments inside the box she performed in.[51]

Kanye West rework[edit]

Lorde and Kanye West produced a version of the song titled "Flicker (Kanye West Rework)", which was also included on the Mockingjay – Part 1 soundtrack album, at a Malibu, California studio.[56] The track was made available for purchase on 11 November 2014 as one of the pre-order tracks from the soundtrack.[57] Talking about the collaboration with West, Lorde commented, "He's so private I feel weird talking about how he does stuff. I feel lucky to even be in a room with him."[58] The track incorporates stripped-down production, "creepy textural" synthesisers and "booming, echo-laden" beats and does not feature West's vocals.[59] According to a number of critics, the production on it is reminiscent of West's album Yeezus (2013).[58][60][61] Rolling Stone stated that the rework made "ample use of ethereal synths and backing vocals," while the "haunting" piano line at the end "perfectly" contrasted from the track's original "heavy, clanking percussion."[62] The Independent called it "understated and beautiful."[63] Stereogum writer James Rettig shared similar stating that the rework was a "subtle adjustment of the track that makes it a bit more grandiose and ominous."[64] Emilee Lindner from MTV News deemed the rework as "creepy in an epic way."[65]

Track listings[edit]

Digital download[1]
  1. "Yellow Flicker Beat" – 3:52
Kanye West rework[57]
  1. "Flicker (Kanye West Rework)" – 4:12

Credits and personnel[edit]

Credits adapted from the liner notes of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack and Tidal.[66][67]

Recording and management

Personnel

Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Australia (ARIA)[81] Gold 35,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[82] Platinum 15,000*

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone

Radio and release history[edit]

Region Date Format Label
Australia[1] 29 September 2014 Digital download Republic
Belgium[83]
Canada[84]
Finland[85]
Germany[86]
New Zealand[87]
Portugal[88]
Spain[89]
Switzerland[90]
United Kingdom[91]
United States[92]
Italy[12] Contemporary hit radio Universal
United States[13] Adult album alternative
Modern rock

References[edit]

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External links[edit]