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Lorde Melodrama album cover 2017 03 02
Promotional single by Lorde
Released June 9, 2017
Recorded 2016
Length 3:17
Producers Lorde

Jack Antonoff
Malay

Kuk Harrell
Genres Alternative, indie
Label Lava Records, Republic Records
From Melodrama
Chronology
"Green Light" "Sober" "Homemade Dynamite"

"Sober" is the second promotional single from Lorde's sophomore album Melodrama. [1] She started writing it in 2016 reportedly. [1]

Background

She revealed this song convinced her she was on to something good, and decided she wanted to make the whole album a concept album about a "one house party." [1] This is apparently Lorde's favorite track from the album. [2]

8 days before the release of Melodrama, Lorde released "Sober" on Spotify in New Zealand. She also revealed she would release it as a promotional single in honor of the Melodrama World Tour being announced.[3]

In a podcast interview with Hrishikesh Hirway's Song Exploder, Lorde described her first summer after her breakup with longtime boyfriend James Lowe as "wild and fluorescent", which she also mentioned was the "cusp" of transitioning into adulthood. She stated that she would often go drinking in her native country of New Zealand and had a strong desire to fill in the quiet episodes in her life to cope with her heartache. To the singer, parties have an "angst" to them, sharing a distinct memory of her having an intense conversation with someone and seeing people in her back porch dancing. Lorde stated that the DNA of the song is wanting to tell someone how you feel about them and knowing the other person feels the same way and needing the evenings theater have all the characters going to let your guard down.[4]

She worked on the song with Jack Antonoff. Her fear of recording on Westlake Recording Studios, which to her was "too fancy", resulted in her having writer's block. She found a production room, which she called "The Rat Nest", a small and tiny room that created the song. In a demo, the overall production was initially more "moody" and "emotional". She had specific ideas about "Sober" and knew how she wanted it to take shape early in the recording process. Antonoff was open to letting Lorde take guard of the production. The first verse of the song had "uneven level of bars". The groove of the song, came after playing a show at Coachella, which was formed using a bongo drum and Lorde singing the words "Night, midnight, lose my mind" which were subsequently sampled into the track. She compared the preceding vocals to Prince and Michael Jackson.

On November 7, Lorde's birthday, she met with Malay in New York City at a session where he underlaid the groove she worked on with Antonoff into the whole song. He took the "serious" minor chords and turned them into "bouyant, urgent, insistent" party chords. To her, the song finally felt right after working on it for almost a year. She felt like being in the vignette that she was chasing. In the session, she also came up with the stop that occurs before the first verse. Kuk Harrell's vocal production helped to get the vocals "bouncing off the walls". The second verse is Lorde's favorite part in the song. Recorded close harmonies, which exist in certain words. The horns in the track took inspiration from Hudson Mohawke's production work on TNGHT, which Lorde states is ten percent of the reason why she started working on music. She also wanted brass which Laura Sisk took control of the horns during engineering. She wanted the horns to sound triumphant, testing out a tenor and baritone saxophone as well as the trumpet. The sound of a tiger's roar appears before the bridge, which was added two sessions before the song concluded when Antonoff was looking through song samples.[5] According to Antonoff, this was one of his proudest moments when recording Melodrama.[6]

Writing and composition

On her Twitter, Lorde spoke about the song, saying:

"i wanna tell you about sober, so the first inklings of sober came to me in the back of an uber, and then properly at jack and lena's kitchen table. i BOLTED to the studio. i'll never forget writing the first demo it was like a trance i guided jack to the chords almost wordlessly with my hands on his shoulders. it was this really intense booming slow synth thing with a drum outro for ages then malay came thru on my birthday & cracked the code on it. came up with the "midnight, lose my mind" pitched sample on a sinfully hot day in palm springs and also started sober II that day as well. but this song was so important to me because it felt like pop music i hadn't heard before, this sprawling brass & strange vocal syncopation & i think we expressed the emotions so purely- it's leaning & drawling, juvenile & triumphant - impressing someone then embarrassing urself & 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."

Lyrics

[Intro]
Limelight
Lose my mind
Limelight
Lose my mind
Limelight
Lose my mind
Limelight

[Verse 1]
Oh god I'm clean out of air in my lungs
It's all gone
Played it so nonchalant
It's time we dance with the truth
Move along with the truth
Ooh (hey)
We're sleeping through all the days
I'm acting like I don't see every
Ribbon you used to tie yourself to me

[Pre-Chorus]
But my hips have missed your hips
So let's get to know the kicks
Will you sway with me?
Go astray with me?
Ah ha

[Chorus]
We're King and Queen of the weekends
Ain't a pill that could touch our rush
But what will we do when we're sober?
When you dream with the fever
Bet you wish you could touch our rush
But what will we do when we're sober?
These are the games of the weekends
We pretend that we just don't care
But we care
(But what will we do when we're sober?)
When you dream with the fever
Bet you wish you could touch our rush
But what will we do when we're sober?

[Verse 2]
Oh God I'm closing my teeth
Around this liquor, wet
Limelight, lose my mind
I know you're feeling it too
Can we keep up with the ruse?
Ah ah (hey)
Their bodies all through my house
I know this story by heart
Jack and Jill got fucked up and possessive
When we get dark

[Pre-Chorus]
But my hips have missed your hips
So let's get to know the kicks
Will you sway with me?
Go astray with me?
Ah ha

[Chorus]
We're King and Queen of the weekends
Ain't a pill that could touch our rush
But what will we do when we're sober?
When you dream with the fever
Bet you wish you could touch our rush
But what will we do when we're sober?
These are the games of the weekends
We pretend that we just don't care
But we care
(But what will we do when we're sober?)
When you dream with the fever
Bet you wish you could touch our rush
But what will we do when we're sober?

[Bridge]
Damn it, we’re fading
Till daylight, we’re jaded
We know that it’s over
In the morning, you'll be dancing with all the heartache
And the treason, the fantasies of leaving
But we know that, when it's over
In the morning, you'll be dancing with us
Oh, dancing with us, oh, dancing with us
(Can you feel it, can you, can you)
Dancing with us, us
But what will we do when we're sober?

[Outro]
When you get to my high
When you get to my-

Live Performances

Lorde debuted "Sober" at a "tiny pre-Coachella gig" to a crowd of 240 at Pappy & Harriet's on 15 April 2017. This was the first full-length concert since July 2014. Before introducing the song, she stated that recording "Sober" was one of her most favorite things she had ever done. Tickets sold out in minutes. Eve Barlow from Billboard praised the performance, saying that it was "heartwarming to watch Lorde engage with such easy confidence" on stage, noting her growth in her level of comfort with the crowd.  Lorde also performed the song at the Governors Ball on 2 June 2017. During the performance, a tilted box was used, pointing downward. At the end, the box opens and Lorde falls into the arms of her dancers. NME called the performance "simple, but delivered with so much poise and finesse, you can't help but be impressed." Lorde performed "Sober", with six other songs, as part of a re-imagined Vevo series at the Electric Lady Studios where she recorded most of her album and is part of the set list of her  Melodrama World Tour (2017–2018).

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 The Return of Lorde - The New York Times
  2. Revealed by Lorde at pre-Coachella gig
  3. Revealed on Lorde's Twitter
  4. "Lorde Dissects "Sober" on "Song Exploder": Listen" - Pitchfork
  5. Can you hear Lorde's 'baby tiger' hidden in her song "Sober"? - stuff.co.nz
  6. Jack Antonoff on his jam-packed 2017 and the Taylor Swift song he calls a 'hint at the future'" - Entertainment Weekly

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