Few artists have been able to capture the tense tension of growing up like Lorde did in six simple words: “It’s so scary to get old.”
The first time I heard these evocative words was from Lorde’s own mouth. It was a chilly October evening, halfway through his “Pure Heroine” tour, and I was barely 12 years old. My dad had driven my best friend and I two hours to Berkeley, where he dutifully swayed beside us on the wide cement steps of the Greek Theater, the sun sinking in the sky and dazzling everything golden.
The tickets were my 12th birthday present. I guess my parents chose Lorde for my first gig because they thought her eloquent lyrics would act as a paradigm for my own desire to write. I didn’t care who it was. The thought of going to a concert, an activity that I considered particularly adult, filled me with a sense of adult self-importance.
In seventh grade, I was amazed by Lorde. She was 17, an impossible age. She wore flared gaucho pants and swore. She seemed wise beyond her years when she said things like “I’m a little older than I was when I was reveling in carefree.”
My best friend and I jumped dizzily to the rhythm of its colored lights, buzzing with euphoria. A sort of bright, youthful melancholy settled in my chest as she sang of her longing to return to childhood moments I had yet to experience.
I fell asleep in the car on the way home, the album was playing on my iPod Touch. It was the start of a decade of intimacy that I had never imagined finding in music before. Watching my teenage years begin to pass like raindrops on a car window, I realized that growing old was exactly as it promised.
Lorde being only four years older than me meant that the relevance of her albums was always slightly ahead of my own life experience. Although I often lacked the worldliness to immediately identify with them, I was right to assume that soon I would burn as she described. In keeping with the pattern she unwittingly scripted into my life, Solar energy offers a forecast of what my mid-twenties will look like – lonely, placid – even if I dance carelessly through my Melodrama era, 19 and “on fire”.
I had never had an elder sister in front of me to trace the path of adolescence. As an older brother, I was always the one testing the waters. Lorde smoothed the rough waves, made the waters blue and inviting. By following his lyric chart, I knew what to expect growing up.
The second time I saw Lorde, I was 15 years old. She had even more success since our previous date, and the vastness of the room transformed her into a tiny glowing blur on stage. As I watched her twirl, shining and untouchable, I felt myself slowly unfold.
I often come back to pure heroin for his simple and heartfelt expression of the hollow pain of aging. After all, I’m still “dancing alone in this world,” only I’m no longer 12, tiptoeing to cling to bits of white confetti raining down from the sky — instead, I slowly the last drops of my youth.
All the same, the circle of nostalgia is complete: not only pure heroin my first gig, but it was also my first time visiting the city of Berkeley. I wonder what I would have done if I had known at the time that eight years later I would be walking around this same campus, attending concerts at the Greek Theater, not as a seventh grader scared of her teenage years, but as a student scared to leave them behind.
I’m almost twenty, a fact that sends me into a staggering state of panic every time I remember. May 3 marked the third time I saw Lorde in concert. As I threw my head back dancing to “Ribs,” I discovered that I could be 12, or fifteen, or any age again, carefree and wealthy with time.
In all those years of treating her lyrics like gospel, Lorde was only wrong about one thing: her recent assertion that “all the music you loved at 16 will make you grow up.” Me, at sixteen, I was doing exactly what I am still at university: blasting his music in the car, windows rolled down and elbows sunk in nostalgia. She was there, steadfast and dependable throughout my teenage years, and now in my final teenage months, I can’t imagine facing adulthood without her.
Through every birthday candle blown out in a wisp of smoke, every broken heart nurtured with adolescent sweetness, every burning dream I cultivated with unguileless naivety, his musical guide held my hand, sweetening the heartbreak as I let go of my innocence. “I would ride and ride the carousel ’round and ’round forever if I could,” she laments. I would do just about anything to join her in this eternal rotation.
Contact Vivian Stacy at [email protected].