Lorde – “Liability” Track Review
Lorde certainly didn’t last long winding and grinding her way across the dance floor. The unsettling ghosts and nagging complexities she was outrunning on “Green Light” appear to have tracked her down with “Liability”: a wounded, self-recriminating piano ballad. “I know that it’s exciting, running through the night/but every perfect summer’s eating me alive, until you’re gone” or, in other words, its time to face the cruelty hidden behind the hedonism (and sham relationships).
The Kiwi now stands naked and alone, mutilating her own mythos. Lorde is a maelstrom who ruins human relationships (her words and those of her ex). “I’m a little much”. Too severe, too intense, too wild, but in private she’s a study in fragility. The bravado and strength she so readily exuded in 2013 has become a millstone weighing her down, wringing her neck and crippling her psyche.
There’s a lot to unpack here. “Liability” works fabulously taken at face value. Lorde is being bent and broken by norms of society (that have become her own expectations, the promises she makes to herself). She plays at romance, but ends up alone (perhaps intentionally). She appears brazen and cool, but is estranged, forming only superficial bonds.
Metaphorically, she embraces the fear of being a flash in the pan. Is she merely a weekend lover no longer capable of holding our attention? Will the once strident starlet be rendered a pretender who burned too hot, too fast – soon to be forgotten? Lorde certainly seems to thinks so (as she devastatingly puts it):
“The truth is: I’m a toy that everyone enjoys, till all of the tricks don’t work anymore, then they are bored of me”.
The arrangement is hauntingly bare and daringly conventional (this is Lorde after all, a woman who made the cooler than thou outsider posture a teenage art form). This image of a woman dancing at home alone, riddled with neurosis, proves heartbreaking. Labelled “poison” by her lover, rather than sounding a rebel yell: Lorde submits. “Liability” is her damning indictment: a cruel self-diagnosis for a woman who inspires great ardour and greater lust, but no stability and little commitment (if that is what she even wanted or expected to begin with?).
“Liability” blends brutal metaphor and devilish feats of self-aggrandisement. For every withering assault on her own character, there’s a heroic image: the storm, the forest fire, the summer runner and the woman who dances with shadows. There are plenty of salacious whisper-spreading windows into Lorde’s private life, but what separates “Liability” from anything found on Pure Heroine is the simplicity of it all. The purity and weakness of the vocal and the unflinching directness of the lyric is paramount here, not the posture and certainly not the production.
Lorde is transforming before our very eyes: where once there stood an invincible totem of unabashed youth, there now lies a crumpled body ready to be dissected.