It’s been a few quarters, but welcome back to This Is My Jam, the outlet for NBN writers to share their entertainment obsessions.
I didn’t really think of myself as a big Lorde fan before “Green Light,” the first single off her sophomore album, Melodrama, came out. Sure, I thought I liked Pure Heroine back in 2013, but turns out it took a few years for me to fully come around to my status as a fan. Maybe even a superfan, considering my Twitter basically turned into a Lorde fan account for a minute because of “Green Light” and my re-listening to Pure Heroine.
Time to make up for all the time we went without new @lorde by listening to "Green Light" on repeat for a week straight— JUST IN: Curto (@justinmcurto) March 3, 2017
I just re-listened to all of PURE HEROINE because of "Green Light," and in case you forgot, @lorde was totally best new artist of 2014— JUST IN: Curto (@justinmcurto) March 6, 2017
Also sorry for literally only tweeting about Lorde lol I'm not even a superfan (I don't think?)— JUST IN: Curto (@justinmcurto) March 9, 2017
But anyway, part of that led to a sort of … research interest, if you will. In “Green Light,” Lorde brings back a motif that’s present throughout her music: teeth. And I’m not just talking about the song “White Teeth Teens” either – turns out, there were five songs before “Green Light” that mentioned teeth. In the name of journalism, I took it upon myself to find every teeth reference Lorde has made in her music and analyze each one.
Am I researching for and writing my anthropology final paper? No, but I can write a dissertation on @lorde's obsession with teeth by now— JUST IN: Curto (@justinmcurto) March 9, 2017
“I cut my teeth on wedding rings in the movies”
“But every song’s like, “Gold teeth, Grey Goose, trippin’ in the bathrooms’”
Lorde’s teeth obsession has been around from the start – in fact, it begins in her first single, “Royals.” And this is even a double whammy of a song, with two teeth references. The first, in the first verse, refers to the expression “to cut one’s teeth,” which means to start your experience with something. So, cutting her teeth on wedding rings in the movies probably refers to Lorde beginning to think about indulgence and fame by seeing the beautiful weddings that happen in movies. (I mean, who doesn’t want Bella and Edward’s wedding from Breaking Dawn Part 1?)
The second line is in the chorus and talks about a hip-hop lifestyle. The scholars over at Genius say the teeth part here may be a specific reference to “Candy Paint & Gold Teeth,” a song by Bun B, Ludacris and Waka Flocka Flame. More broadly, it’s just another way of saying everyone Lorde sees has money and is living it up, but that’s a life Lorde and her friends will never get to have.
“Dreams of clean teeth”
If you’re listening to Pure Heroine, you won’t hear about teeth until the second song, “400 Lux.” This song’s teeth reference calls back similar themes to “Royals” – Lorde wants a celebrity lifestyle, but it’s unattainable. She wants perfect teeth like the celebrities, but won’t get that, because she’ll never be a royal. Oh, and because her boyfriend just bought her orange juice two lines ago.
“A hundred jewels on throats/A hundred jewels between teeth”
Again, materialism. Indulgence. Hip-hop. In her second single off Pure Heroine, Lorde seems to be talking about necklaces, or jewels on throats, and grills, or jewels between teeth. And again, this lifestyle of jewels on teeth is all around her – there’s hundreds of jewels.
“White Teeth Teens”
“We got the glow in our mouths/White teeth teens are out/White teeth teens are up for it”
This is probably the teeth reference that gets the most attention, just because of its title. When Lorde’s talking about white teeth teens, she means the popular kids – the kids with money who can afford to have really nice teeth. However, as the song goes on, she lets us in on something big: “I am not a white teeth teen.” Lorde and her friends can tell who the popular people are because of their nice teeth, but they’re not a part of the group because their teeth aren’t clean. Sense a theme yet?
“I see you happy in the front seat/I see you with all of your front teeth”
This is my personal favorite of all the teeth references. It’s actually happy, since Lorde moves away from teeth as an indicator of status and what she can’t have. In “No Better,” she’s just having a great time with her friends – kind of like in “Ribs.” For this teeth reference, she sees one of her friends smiling, with all of their front teeth, because they’re all enjoying life while they have it. A lesson we can all learn from Lorde and her friends.
“Those great whites, they have big teeth/Hope they bite you”
“All those rumors, they have big teeth/Hope they bite you”
I didn’t know if teeth would carry over into Lorde’s new music, but turns out they did – again, with two references on the first single off her forthcoming album, Melodrama. Both times here, Lorde uses teeth to sort of threaten her former lover. The first time, she talks about how he lied about liking the beach to the girl he cheated on Lorde with. (Side note: Who would cheat on Lorde?) So, she hopes the sharks in the ocean will give him what he deserves. Similarly, she says the rumors he’s spreading will bite him back one day.
So, there seems to be a somewhat clear progression of Lorde’s thoughts on teeth. In Pure Heroine, teeth almost act like a symbol, of a status that Lorde and her friends are separate from. But, as she moves away from Pure Heroine, there’s some ambivalence – teeth become a way to show happiness (in “No Better”) and something to be scared of (in “Green Light”).
Lorde has actually commented on her lyrics about teeth a few times: First, she said teeth are “just a weird obsession,” but later, she called them “a big ageing [sic] motif” since people gain and lose teeth. So, is that an indicator of what’s to come on Melodrama? If so, you’d see me with all my front teeth.