Nostalgia Tracks: Lorde’s Teen Angst Anthem “Ribs”


We can talk it so good. We can make it so divine.

You’re probably asking yourself, “Is a song by Lorde really old enough to be considered a nostalgia track?” Nostalgia doesn’t necessarily have to mean that something is old; nostalgia is the wistful reflection and love of the past. It’s a weird feeling – almost a feeling you can’t quite put your finger on, but when it hits, it washes over in bliss. And what is more nostalgic, and terribly embarrassing, than reminiscing on those early teenage years? I may have only been 16 about 3.5 years ago, but sometimes it feels like so much longer than that.

Pure Heroine - Lorde
Pure Heroine – Lorde

2013 was the year I was 16, the year Lorde was 16, and the year Lorde’s debut album Pure Heroine (September 30, 2013 via Lava Records) was released. Although the singer and I live on different sides of the world, being a teenager is universal. Pure Heroine is full of pure, angst-y teen anthems; it was the soundtrack to every kickback my friends threw and every late night car drive we went on. Thinking back on those seemingly endless nights, I feel the urge to cringe because of the corny, sad, carefree, awkward moments I can recall. There’s a definite sense of relief that those are just memories now. Although I don’t particularly miss being 16, I miss the moments attached to that age, and that time in my life.

Lorde may be an international pop star who is also a poet beyond her years, but Pure Heroine has a way of making all listeners feel like they can relate to Lorde. I never questioned the lyrics because she sang with a strong sense of conviction, which may be what some other young artists lack. Lorde, born Ella Yelich-O’Connor, was able to release a strikingly beautiful record based upon a not-so-pretty age. It is a pop album that is full of substance and deep emotion. She was vulnerable and as honest as any teen girl who’s baring her soul to the world could be.

Watch: “Ribs” (live) – Lorde


When I listened to Pure Heroine recently for the first time in a little while, each song instantly had me reflecting on where I was and who I was at 16. Really, there’s always been a song that stood out to me the most. I don’t know if this song means so much to me because of the the lyrics, or the way Lorde sings each line like she’s just yearning for more time in the present… I’m going to go with all of the above. The tune on the record that hit me the most, in all of its angsty glory, is “Ribs.” The song opens with an ambient, droning buzz that makes you want to stare into space, looking at nothing in particular. The songstress is often heard saying she wrote the song about “growing old… and throwing a party when [her] parents were away.”

The drink you spilt all over me
“Lover’s Spit” left on repeat
My mom and dad let me stay home
It drives you crazy getting old

The feelings she sings about are almost tangible: The song that you and your friends could not stop playing even though you’ve heard it a hundred times before – though, Lorde and her friends are much cooler than me. I mean, they had to have been some of the only 16 year-olds to listen to Broken Social Scene.

This dream isn’t feeling sweet
We’re reeling through the midnight streets
And I’ve never felt more alone

Getting older is the hardest thing in life to face. You are forced to come to terms with your own humanity. Growing up is like participating in a race that you wish you never started… only you don’t really have a choice; life progresses and changes, and naturally, it doesn’t wait for you to keep up. You stumble and choose your own path during adolescence, but it can feel lonesome and scary. Through Lorde’s narration of her own teenage journey, she’s able to capture all the anxieties that go hand in hand with being a teen.

Lorde, born Ella Yelich-O’Connor

As “Ribs” goes on, the anxiety and exhaustion in Lorde builds up. It almost feels like she’s trying to keep up with what she’s singing. When it sounds like she’s about to burn out in the middle of the song, it brings about an overwhelming dose of reality. By the end of her song, her vocals seem tired and nearly forced, like she wants to make sure she’s able to capture the moment she’s in.

You’re the only friend I need
Sharing beds like little kids
And laughing ‘til our ribs get tough

Looking back on your childhood, it can feel kind of ethereal at times. It’s pure and innocent. Thinking back to the hundreds of sleepovers you had with friends, the late night talks, thinking you’d be able to function on only two hours of sleep. Of course, it was a much simpler time. There were no major tests you had to think about failing, there were no jobs you had to worry about getting (or keeping), and there were no people you had to worry about impressing. It was a time when your best friend seemed like the only person you’d ever need in the world. Like Lorde, I too had fond feelings for the past when I became a teenager. As I (reluctantly) grow older, it becomes clear that my world isn’t what it used to be, but beautiful memories are still being made. Nostalgia is a wonderful place to visit, but one should not live there.

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cover photo: Lorde //

Pure Heroine – Lorde

Pure Heroine - Lorde
Pure Heroine – Lorde

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