Are you zombie-ing through your job Monday to Thursday and only really living for your Fridays? Then you should sift through Lorde's "Sober" lyrics, which provide an appropriately sobering reality-check on how partying hard on the weekends can take a toll on your emotional health. The 20-year-old singer first premiered the second track from Melodrama at a pre-Coachella concert and, given the lyrics, this no longer seems like a coincidence. It feels like a fantastic cautionary tale to deliver to festival goers before they party a little too hearty.
Lorde herself has tweeted about "Sober," arguing that it "was so important to me because it felt like pop music i hadn't heard before, this sprawling brass & strange vocal syncopation" and describing what sounds like her pride in how "we expressed the emotions so purely- it's leaning & drawling, juvenile & triumphant - impressing someone then embarrassing urself." And if you're unsure if the song's refrain really is about weekend hedonism, she clarifies "that late-saturday-night declaration "WE PRETEND THAT WE JUST DON'T CARE / BUT WE CARE" tasted as fresh & new in my mouth as ice water." But let's not get ahead of ourselves: let's take this verse by verse.
On one level, the introduction gives very little away. There's the refrain of "limelight, lose my mind" — which feels like a reference to the pressures of fame. Still, there's hints of what is to come with "When you get to my high." This mishmash of fame, drugs and mental health issues is what the song is going to be grappling with, so, while it's mysterious, it's also totally appropriate.
Either the "they" referenced are out partying every night or suffering from heavy depression, since sleeping all day is one of the symptoms of depression. The ambiguity feels intentional, as if perhaps these two possibilities are feeding into each other: the people addressed are partying too much and that's making them more depressed.
This isn't just about depression and partying, it's about a toxic relationship. The singer is sexually compelled by the person she's addressing ("my hips have missed your hips") but it doesn't sound like the pair have a healthy influence on each other, since she asks if they will "go astray with me." But wait, in the chorus the themes of the song really kick in...
The first line matters: they're not King and Queen of their own little world, but of the weekend. They're only royal in the context of the weekend. Lorde gives us further indications that their hedonism on Saturdays and Sundays (and Fridays I guess) reaches excess. And, all the while, that repetition of "what will we do when we're sober?" sounds increasingly desperate. This isn't just fun anymore, it's a way of life.
The opening two lines are distressing. Since "closing... teeth" isn't the sort of thing you expect to do around a liquid, it suggests that she doesn't just drink because she likes it, but because she's physically hungry for it, daubing the image in shades of addiction. She ends on a nightmare rendition of a nursery rhyme with "Jack and Jill got f*cked up and possessive," implying that their heavy partying, whether with drink or drugs, is having a bad influence on their relationship.
The worst of the bridge is its repetition. It's sad and it's awful and yet the repetition of "you'll be dancing with us" suggests it's become the nighttime equivalent of Groundhog Day. Why? This is answered by the other repeated refrain "...what will we do when we're sober?" Partying, no matter how monotonous, still feels like a better alternative to sober, real life with problems and no distractions. And that's scary.
So if this song sounds all too familiar, maybe this is the pop gods' way of telling you that you should be taking some you time. Partying's great. Just as long as you do it because you want to, not because you need to.