Oh, boy. I was not emotionally prepared to listen to Lorde's new single "Liability" today.
While I'm sufficiently bummed out by the harrowing track — which follows Lorde's also-excellent new release "Green Light" — I will demand that all of my female friends download this tune as soon as possible. 20-year-old Lorde has been able to articulate a situation that so many women face — even though her new track feels, and likely is, deeply personal.
Here is a sampling of the lyrics to her new song:
"They say 'You're a little much for me/You're a liability'/'You're a little too much for me'/So they pull back/Make other plans/I understand, I'm a liability/Get you wild, make you leave/I'm a liability"
Here, Lorde is singing about a breakup — one caused because she's "too much." While we don't know exactly what she's too much of, it's a common narrative. Perhaps she's referring to ambitions: She's "too much" because her dreams are too big. It's a narrative that Zosia Mamet wrote about in her essay for Refinery29. The Girls actress was told to make herself smaller for a boyfriend — himself a career-driven Director of Photography — so that he could be more comfortable.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wrote about this very issue — even using the words "too much" in an essay in her book We Should All Be Feminists:
"We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls, you can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful. Otherwise, you would threaten the man."
It's hard not to associate Lorde's "Liability" with this double standard, especially because Lorde is a self-proclaimed feminist. The song may be personal (Lorde did go through a breakup this year, and told Pitchfork that her song "Green Light" was about her "first major heartbreak") but is it only about that? Even if her intention was to write a breakup ballad about her own experience, the truth is, the song can reflect the experiences of so many women who were asked to be smaller than they ever could be.
Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?