It always felt funny to fall in love with a best friend. It’s a weird position when you have established your friendship for years, only to let yourself stay awake for hours into the night just because the thought of him fills your mind.
One of my most memorable crushes is when I went head over heels over my friend who basically knows me all my life. We first met during preschool – incidentally, our moms went to the same school from kindergarten to high school – when I was too afraid to go to school. As an only child, I was overwhelmed by the presence of lots of other little children playing together. I wasn’t familiar with that concept of being stuck in an educational facility for the day with other little children in my district in a big educational play date. Initially, I cried a lot. I found my consolation – my first obsession – in a science book my mom bought for me about dinosaurs. I was able to name specific dinosaurs from specific eras; a skill I didn’t bring with me as I grew up. (I wish I still remember all those dinosaurs – it would be an interesting topic to talk about to impress someone at a cocktail party). I became a star; all the boys would come up to me to get their little Dinosaur 101 lectures. One of those boys included him. This started our 16-year-long friendship.
Everything was fine until 10th grade. I grew up to be the smart-ass who was on the student council, the debate team, the school magazine editorial staff, and the theatre club at the same time. He grew up to be the “lady-killer” with dashing good looks, straight As, an angelic singing voice, and a position on the school’s soccer team. Yet, for some reason, he remained single. Maybe because of his lack of social skills? (I helped revise his texts before he sent them to people). We were always in different class sections, and in 10th grade, I had the chance to know him better, since we were put in the same class section. We would work together in grouped assignments and short film projects. We got closer as friends, and he started to tell me all his insecurities, his fears, and his theories about the simultaneous expanding and shrinking of the universe. (We were both avid readers of advanced space theories.) I don’t know the exact turning point of this narrative, but, eventually, my heart went tender for him.
I remember those Wednesdays when I did tennis as an extracurricular; I would gather with my girl friends during our break. Our sweaty legs crossed, sitting on the scorching tennis court, I would tell them about my infatuation with this guy, and they would all gather a response that would ease my tender teenage heart. We would laugh whenever I told them about an awkward interaction with him, and melt in a communal “aww” when I told them about a kind thing he did to me. And along those times, Lorde’s music has always been with me. Those were the times when Pure Heroine was released. The lyrics of “Buzzcut Season” resonated with me when he got close to me; riding the bus “with our kneed pulled in” after school, drinking “cola with the burnt-out taste“, I was the one he tells his fears to and I thought exactly the same thing as I listened to Lorde’s lulling voice singing “there’ll never be enough of us“. The video of “Royals” reminded me of the suburbs I lived in during that time, and even though my middle-class background never allowed me to experience what it’s like to “count our dollars on the train to the party” during the time I lived with my parents, I am currently experiencing it in college. And, most importantly, I always have my girls and our sessions at the “Tennis Court”. Those were great times. It didn’t end well, though. I continued my infatuation for three years until he finally said to a mutual friend that he sees me as a friend and nothing more.
Fast forward to a month ago. I found myself standing on the far left side of the barricade they set up for the Memorial Stadium stage at Seattle Center for the 2017 Bumbershoot festival. My feet may be cramped but I didn’t feel it at all as I was filled with excitement after the (wonderful) Weezer set – I am seeing Lorde, the woman who filled the soundtrack of my life, in the flesh. Next to me was one of my good friends in the United States, bopping to a Flo-Rida song playing to fill the silence between sets. While I was busy rocking out to my favorite South African rappers Die Antwoord on stage the previous night, he was busy moshing at the Flo-Rida set while seeing the singer of our favorite middle school songs crowdsurfing in front of his very eyes. He was waiting for Lorde, perhaps expecting the same type of hype he experienced the last night. Incidentally… he was once one of those best friend crushes of mine. At first, I didn’t understand how he would appeal to somebody since he would nag people a whole lot, but come spring, we found out that we share lots of interests and we started talking a lot. We would have Skype sessions and he would tell me about his life, his aspirations, and his secrets. Those “open heart surgery” sessions happen so many times; I probably am his booty call in an emotional aspect. Eventually, all our mutual friends started matching us to each other (to the point that one of our mutual friends had a dream about us making out) and I gave in to the feeling. He’s not the ideal guy in my book, and after a summer apart from each other, I realized that logically I wouldn’t feel comfortable if I were to start something with him; he talks a lot but he is a bad listener, which is a dealbreaker for me. If I think about it, it’s wise to just be friends, but at the same time, I feel like giving into the feeling.
Well, that’s the thing. For me, the human rationale always trumps the human emotion. Even though the heart wants what it wants, but sometimes there are circumstances that hinder what the heart wants in the first place. And now, what happens to the emotions? It’s stuck. It’s stuck inside the barricades built by circumstances and logical reasoning, yet all it wants is to flow somewhere. For some people, including myself, art can be a form of catharsis to let these emotions flow albeit the barricades set by real life. Through art, these emotions are channeled without words – furthermore, it could be channeled through a medium louder than words.
Lorde’s music also stuck with me during those moments. She released Melodrama, her follow-up to Pure Heroine, this year, and she started releasing Melodrama singles from the start of the year. Whenever Flo-Rida Guy texted me, I would “overthink [his] punctuation use / not my fault / just a thing that my mind do“, like what Lorde sang in “The Louvre”. Giving up to the feeling emphasized how “I can’t stand to be alone“; overthinking during late night bus rides together to “go to perfect places” just to realize during the summer that “it’s just a supercut of us” and it’s all just in my head. And eventually, as summer goes on, my feelings dwindled and died out. Lorde wrote Melodrama as a form of her grand feelings she has experienced for the last two years; all those grand feelings that’s filtered to small talk by societal expectations and human rationale.
These grand feelings are what I got when Lorde performed at Bumbershoot, and Lorde displayed this in every aspect. She utilized backup dancers to perform interpretive dance numbers to her songs. Dance is a form of art in which dancers evoke feelings through movement; as the whole concept of Melodrama goes, dance could be a brilliant form of evoking grand emotions, and Lorde succeeded in doing that.
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Musically, all the songs Lorde delivered in Melodrama deals with these grand emotions, and none are lesser than the other. However, there are some highlights during her Bumbershoot set. “Liability” is a really powerful song that bears some of Lorde’s greatest fears and insecurities. She sang about feeling a little too much to people and coming home to the person who understands her the most, which is herself. She sat on one of the stairs leading to the audience section, lights dimmed, her microphone amplifying her raw emotions. She sang to the thousands of people standing still in that stadium about crying in the taxi after a negative exchange with a person she cares about. It’s amazing how artists have the ability to be vulnerable through expressing their raw intense emotions through art; in a sense, to be emotionally naked without taking off any article of clothing. I salute people who have the courage to do that, especially the courage to sing a soul-bearing song to thousands of people.
What struck me also is her interaction with the audience, and how she used it to convey the ideas of her album better. She addressed the audience like a friend, like telling the audience what she did in the city and what sets she saw at the festival. She also explained each song before she performed it. Before “The Louvre”, a song that resonated with me, she asked the audience to shout out if they have a crush and shout out if they’re with their crush. She laughed and hoped it might help some of us. Before “Liability”, she talked about how this is a really personal song where she would sometimes feel a little too much for people. She also iterated how it’s okay to be alone sometimes because it helps you grow as a person, and gave some reassuring words to the audience that “you are never too much”.
But the thing that struck me the most is one of her little speeches in the middle of the set – she mentioned that one of her favorite type of fans is teenage girls. At first, I didn’t think much about it, but as I suffered from my post-concert depression, I think that this is true (especially corresponding with the values Lorde wanted to deliver in Melodrama). I recalled my experiences with my best friend crushes, with Preschool Dinosaur Guy, with Flo-Rida Guy. Sometimes the feelings of teenage girls are invalidated; older people would dismiss a teenage crush by saying that it’s “just a phase” or it “will end soon”. People would fall to the stigma that grown-ass feelings are mode profound than teenage feelings. Yet, these feelings are just as valid as what these grown-ups feel; they’re just filtered by societal expectations and the human rationale. I remembered overthinking about a comma Preschool Dinosaur Guy put in a text. I remembered thinking if Preschool Dinosaur Guy actually cares a lot about me when he said “hi” to me as we passed through the school hallways. I remembered that gut feeling when Flo-Rida guy dropped a big insecurity through Skype at 3am. Those were grand feelings, and they are really there.
Right now Preschool Dinosaur Guy moved to a college across the Pacific Ocean from my college and he is in a pretty serious 1-year relationship – I haven’t seen him in three months. Meanwhile, I just hung out with Flo-Rida Guy yesterday, talking aimlessly for more than three hours at a Korean-owned teriyaki place until I’m pretty convinced that the restaurant’s ahjumma would ask us to leave at any moment. My feelings are no longer there; I recognize both guys only as friends, and I don’t plan to make it more than that. Yet, just because it’s over, doesn’t mean my previous feelings are just play-pretend. Lorde reminded me that my own human experience is such a grand and majestic thing.