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“Green Light,” Lorde’s first single in 3 years, reveals a more upbeat pop star

Bridgett Henwood is the co-executive producer and editorial director of Vox video.

Lorde, the New Zealander ingénue whose song “Royals” was the undeniable earworm of 2013, hasn’t released a new album since Pure Heroine’s runaway success. But after a week of Twitter teasing, “Green Light,” her first single release since 2014’s “Yellow Flicker Beat,” is here — and it’s poised to be a pop hit.

“Green Light” begins with Lorde’s vocals and one lone piano, her voice gravelly and low. But just when you think the song will be similar to ones she’s produced before, she speeds up — and “Green Light” steps squarely into early “song of the summer” territory. Fast-paced and piano-driven, it’s about going out and dancing on a “light-up floor” and finding a way to push through something, or someone, holding you back. Lorde, a two-time Grammy winner, finds herself closer to Ellie Goulding than mournful Lana Del Rey in this track while singing about drinking at bars and waking up in different bedrooms over an upbeat, singalong chorus.

When Pure Heroine came out in 2013, Lorde’s slow, witchy vocals and anti-club music set her apart in a field of Miley Cyruses, Taylor Swifts, and Katy Perrys. In “Green Light,” the singer retains those velvety vocals, but the low-key vibe of her first album is a thing of the past. Her new single — with its chanting chorus, driving backbeat, and clubby video — replaces her old ethereal, dreamy sensibility with pure pop.

While this release is decidedly different from “Royals” (which was the first song in 17 years by a female solo artist to top Billboard’s alternative chart), Lorde already acknowledged she’s ready for a change:

Lorde, a.k.a. Ella Yelich-O'Connor, was only 16 years old when Pure Heroine dropped. This past November, in a lengthy Facebook post on her 20th birthday, she shared details about her last album and her upcoming one: “Writing Pure Heroine was my way of enshrining our teenage glory, putting it up in lights forever so that part of me never dies,” she wrote. “And this record — well, this one is about what comes next.”

In the years since Pure Heroine’s release, Lorde has also collaborated with some big names in music, including Jack Antonoff of Fun and Bleachers — known for power-rock songs like “I Wanna Get Better,” and for collaborating with Taylor Swift — and the English electronic band Disclosure. The latter’s 2015 track “Magnets” features Lorde, and its dance beat gives a glimpse of where her future music plans may lie.

Lorde’s forthcoming album, Melodrama, doesn’t have a release date but the singer’s own excitement and the hype around “Green Light” are certainly building anticipation.

Correction: Lorde is from New Zealand, not Australia.

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