Welcome to Is That Fruity? a column by Zelda and Sarah where we analyze music and pop culture through a queer lens.
Queer adolescents are all too familiar with the nihilism that accompanies the transition from childhood to adulthood. As we come to terms with our identity and form relationships in our teenage years, we navigate complex social landscapes governed by heteronormativity; it is hard at times not to feel fear as we struggle for meaning. Lorde’s music explores the intersection of youth and nihilism—an intersection especially relevant for queer folk coming of age. Her debut album, Pure Heroine, particularly critiques the prominence of conformity in modern pop culture. Lorde urges listeners to reject consumerism and offers an alternative culture to subscribe to, one that values authenticity and connection over “jet planes, islands, tigers on a gold leash.”
Lorde was just sixteen when Pure Heroine was released. Belonging to the same age group as her listeners infuses her music with an accessible and relatable energy. Her discography investigates issues of class privilege, cultural exclusion, and the messy uncertainty of growing up. The album’s closer, “A World Alone,” focuses on themes that resonate with young queer people: love as escapism, romance faced with rumors, and public repercussions.
“A World Alone” opens with three words familiar to any queer adolescent: “That slow burn.” Young queer romance often unfolds at a slow pace, marked by growing trust and exploration against the current of disapproving “people [who] are talking.” This concern with public perception emerges in the refrain, but the chorus quickly turns carefree and revels in the ability of companionship to withstand scrutiny: “Let ’em talk, ’cause we’re dancing in this world alone.” This lyric embodies the singularity that frequently characterizes new relationships, in which it feels as though you and the person you love are the only two people that matter or exist. “A World Alone” tells the story of lovers learning to relinquish control and concern over their public image to simply dance with one another—to express their love openly.
Lorde juxtaposes the unadulterated, visceral joy of a first love with an undercurrent of moody synths and sultry, melancholic vocals. She accompanies these conflicting frames of mind with lyrics that underpin the song’s inextricable youthful energy: “I feel grown up with you in your car, / I know it’s dumb.” Lorde writes about her transition to adolescence and the disconnect between childlike innocence and newfound desire. Asides about “fake friends and all of their noise” follow her self-deprecating remarks, further revealing the origins of her nihilistic outlook. Yet amidst her disillusion with society and undeniable teenage angst, Lorde finds solace in her partner.
She builds on this sentiment later in the song, with the lyric: “You’re my best friend and we’re dancing in this world alone.” Though Lorde is not explicitly writing about same-sex relationships, the entanglement between close friendship and romantic infatuation is especially relevant to queer adolescents. The song urges us all to resist the enticing pull of conformity in favor of more intentional forms of community—a desire shared by many young queer people in this world.