Lorde’s ‘Stoned at the Nail Salon’ and the wistfulness of growing up

Lorde has always been an artist who is concerned with moments of transition. Her debut album ‘Pure Heroine’ (2013) captures a specific feeling of teen angst; that is the experience of euphoria from not having to conform to societal structures, while at the same time not having any freedom due to parental control or being in school. Here is what Stoned at the nail salon is about.

Her second album ‘Melodrama’ (2017) lives up to its title and heightens the drama of being on the precipice of adulthood, and finally having the power to live your own life without anyone controlling it for the first time. ‘Stoned at the Nail Salon’, her latest single, isn’t any different. Yet, it concerns itself with a new kind of transition – that is one of acceptance and security.

Stoned at the nail salon

In many ways, ‘Stoned at the Nail Salon’ feels like both the conclusion and antithesis to the violent nostalgia of her earlier song ‘Ribs’. If ‘Ribs’ is about the fear of growing old, then ‘Stoned at the Nail Salon’ is a bittersweet acceptance of growing up. The previously fiery and rebellious central protagonist of Lorde’s songs has finally grown up, and found peace in adulthood instead of pushing against it.

stoned at the nail salonIn her email explaining her creative process behind the making of the song, she describes that it was born out of the insecurity she feels about her current life.

She wrote, “the insecurity that this was my life now, that I wasn’t a titan of industry, but someone who just… cooked and walked the dog and gardened crept in.

I was starting to fall out of step with the times culturally, I didn’t have my finger firmly on the pulse for the first time in my life, and I could feel the next round of precocious teenagers starting to come up, and I felt insecure that they were gonna eat my lunch, so to speak.”

This illuminates why her main strength as a songwriter is her ability to make her own personal experiences into a universal one. Look into the comment section of her songs and you can find anecdotes about how listeners have specifically related to them.

Of course, the central irony of it is that everyone’s experiences of listening to her music are entirely different and are based on their own specific lives. Yet, all the comments follow a similar thematic idea – which is the universal experience of growing up and becoming your own person.

At the risk of sounding like everybody else, I admit I have also found comfort in growing up alongside her music. Although I might not relate to the specificities of being a popstar or coming of age in the limelight, I can trace my own insecurities and anxieties in her music.

When the first wave of the pandemic hit, I relocated to my family home after spending time abroad during university. In university I spent most of my time partying and constantly being around other people, thinking that this is how I should be spending my youth.

Thus, being at home felt like a massive shift in my own lifestyle, and I was hit with a new sensation of quietness and domesticity. What I found is that I’ve been able to tap into a sense of peace that I haven’t been able to find for a long time; and that I’ve spent most of my time doing things based on what other people think I should enjoy, instead of doing things that I actually enjoy.

Although I’ve been cherishing the time I’ve spent gardening and walking, I do wonder if I’m missing out on my youth, or the previous version of myself who was so hungry and ambitious to achieve everything I want out of my life. I’ve been toying with these two versions of myself, and finally found validation in the song itself, as it is a simple reminder that my own experience isn’t singular to myself, and that others are currently going through a similar process of discovery.

Ultimately, the song is about the need for balance, especially recognising the opposing sides of oneself and how one would not survive without the other. The chorus itself is a reminder that one’s past and present versions are always going to be in conflict, and yet being able to accept that one’s past self should be left in the past is a growing sign of maturity.

Lorde’s previous albums and music have always been pervaded with an overwhelming feeling of anxiety and sadness, yet this song feels completely secure in its stripped down acoustics and minimal vocals.

The protagonist of her music has always been concerned in reaching for that “greenlight” that simply isn’t there, but this time, she has finally found what she wished for. Perhaps like Lorde herself perfectly captured in this song, maybe it is finally time to cool it down.