Our prettier Jesus has risen again, this time with a tender gem about getting older and contemplating your decisions. 2021 is the year of songwriters dropping heart-wrenching ballads as singles — Lucy Dacus’ “Thumbs,” Clairo’s “Blouse,” and now, Lorde’s “Stoned at the Nail Salon.” We knew when Lorde revealed the Solar Power tracklist that this song was going to be a killer, but we weren’t quite expecting it to open with a wishbone on a windowsill. It’s wistful, eloquent, and exhilarating, so let’s crack it apart.
As with the title track released last month, “Stoned at the Nail Salon” features Clairo and Phoebe Bridgers on backing vocals, as Lorde meditates over hushed guitar. She sprinkles wisdom to the world, despite an ache to know what’s missing in her own life. “’Cause all the music you loved at 16, you’ll grow out of,” she sings, advising later to “Spend all the evenings you can with the people who raised you.” Then she tosses up her freshly gel-manicured hands with the kind of whimsy you can only get from being high in a public place. “I don’t know,” she sighs. “Maybe I’m just stoned at the nail salon.”
That windowsill isn’t the only domestic detail in this song: There’s a vine hanging over the door and an attentive dog, too. They bring to mind a theme that has reoccurred in pop this year, as many twenty-something songwriters have been off the road and experiencing the sacred bliss of home life in a new way. Clairo’s appearance on the song is fitting, given the central role this topic plays on her recent album, Sling. “I think lots of people start asking those questions of themselves around my age, and it was super comforting to me writing them down, hoping they’d resonate with others too,” Lorde has said of the track. It’s easy to envision her sitting in a circle with Clairo and Bridgers, bonding over these questions. (Could this crew be another Boygenius?)
The critical response toward “Solar Power” was shockingly divided, with many alarmed by the song’s Margaritaville ease and the absence of the ornate production choices that made “Green Light” such an effective lead single for Lorde’s previous album. But “Stoned at the Nail Salon” tosses that entire argument aside — the songwriting here is what matters. Hopefully the new album contains more cutting-edge ruminations on the way we live now. And forget the wishbone. Lorde doesn’t need any luck.
Find a playlist of all of our recent Songs You Need to Know selections on Spotify.