"Yellow Flicker Beat"
Lorde and Hunger Games protagonist Katniss Everdeen are a metaphorical match made in heaven: fierce and grim, spare and independent, yet all the more compelling for that alchemical admixture of character qualities.
It's no wonder the producers of the latest Hunger Games film, Mockingjay - Part 1, tapped the New Zealand songstress not only to contribute to the movie's soundtrack, but to serve as its musical overseer. Billboard writer Jamieson Cox says of Lorde's selections, "Thanks to her vision, and her grip on the series' most important thematic elements, the 50 minutes of music behind Mockingjay Part 1 ably function as both a glance at 2014's finest purveyors of complex, downcast pop and a complement to the start of the series' chaotic, brutal conclusion."
As for her own song, "Yellow Flicker Beat," add somber, subdued and smoldering to the list of adjectives as it pulsates with a palpable, don't-tread-on-me ferocity. Lorde begins with this line, "I'm a princess cut from marble, smoother than a storm," and it truly seems equally applicable both to Katniss and herself. The balance of the track's impressionistic lyrical swooshes paints a regal picture of someone who's certain of who she is and determined to accomplish the mission she's been given. "And the scars that mark my body, they're silver and gold/My blood is a flood of rubies, precious stones," Lorde sings, "It keeps my veins hot, the fire's found a home in me/I move through town, I'm quiet like a fire."
Woe to anyone who opposes her ("I got my fingers laced together and I made a little prison/And I'm locking up everyone who ever laid a finger on me"). And that rope around her neck? It barely even gets her attention ("And my necklace is of rope, I tie it and untie it").
The chorus suggests that our heroine is fanning the flames of conflict toward a final, fiery conflagration. "This is the start of how it all ends," Lorde tells us (or is it Katniss speaking here?). "They used to shout my name, now they whisper it/I'm speeding up and this is the/Red, orange, yellow flicker beat sparking up my heart/We rip the start, the colors disappear." It's a righteous resistance that completely occupies her attention and leaves little time for dreaming of a better world or future: "I never watch the stars, there's so much down here/So I just try to keep up with them."
From start to finish, then, Lorde lays down a stark examination of Katniss: fearless, yet afraid, a reluctant-but-proud leader whose very name has become synonymous with selflessness ... and violent revolution.
Complex, downcast pop, yes. And yet grimly inspiring in a dogged-determination-to-never-quit way, too. And done in a way only Lorde—and Katniss—can pull off.