SONG MEANING: “Magnets” is about a relationship that’s weakening. Lorde, as the lead singer and narrator, doesn’t want it to end and urges her lover to fight on. Keep reading to find out more!
“Magnets” was dropped on Friday, September 25th. The song is hypnotic and dreamy with plenty of synth and an almost African/Caribbean dance floor beat. The song’s going to make good dancing for a lot of parties this fall, and the constant refrain of “[l]et’s embrace the point of no return” will only contribute to the two-stepping madness.
If you want to hear it before you read more, I’ve added the song to my Spotify playlist “Clifford Stumme’s Pop Prerogative” below. Don’t forget to follow my playlist!
Like I said above, “Magnets” is about a romantic pull that’s weakening. Two magnets (two people in love) had a strong attraction, but they’re starting to fall away from one another, or one of them is turning around. No longer will north and south be facing each other. Soon, two north’s or two south’s will be pushing each other away.
The song, sung by Lorde, is told from the point-of-view of the female in the relationship. Her man is leaving her for another woman, but she knows that woman doesn’t have experience or knowledge to understand the guy. Lorde want him to come back to her and to go so far that they’ll never be able to return to a platonic relationship.
In Verse 1, Lorde sings about how neither she nor the guy ever felt the relationship was strong and how they kept on going with it even still: “Never really felt bad about it / As we drank deep from a lie.” The lie is that they will be able to survive as a couple, and she describes this state as “melting magnets”–a slang term that refers to a supposedly strong relationship falling apart. When she mentions “half-shut eyes,” we know that they’re sleeping together and that after some excitement (possibly that of sex) reality begins to settle in.
In the Pre-Chorus, Lorde references “[s]moke and sunset off Mulholland.” Smoke suggests mystery and secrecy in the relationship, and the sunset suggests romance or the end of a relationship (similar to the end of a day and the “half-shut eyes” reference).
Possibly while driving down Mulholland (a famous road in LA where many celebrities live), Lorde’s male counterpart is talking to another woman who Lorde thinks may be his girlfriend, meaning that to be with Lorde, he’s cheating on this other girl. And Lorde doesn’t like this girl at all. Almost as an insult, she says the girl has a “[f]ace from heaven” to suggest that she’s too innocent to be interesting or to “know the things that I know.”
In fact, Lorde claims that “[p]retty girls” in general “don’t know the things that I know.” This is not self-deprecating–Lorde isn’t admitting to being ugly–she’s saying that girls who focus on their appearances and live superficial or “innocent” lives have never dug deep enough to really understand life the way Lorde looks at it.
CULTURE MOMENT: Suggesting that innocence and superficiality go hand-in-hand comes from a cultural tendency to believe that pain, difficulties, and struggles are “real” while good and happy things don’t have substance or depth. Of course, joy can sometimes be deeper than sorrow, but it’s usually easier to find sorrow than joy, so people who think sorrow is deep may be the shallow ones.
You can see similar themes in “Royals” where Lorde again complains about superficial wealth and instead prefers to be part of a group that gains its identity by despising wealth and the shallowness that comes with it–the kind of shallowness that thinks wealth is life’s primary goal or pleasure.
But unlike this girl, Lorde knows things and is introspective enough to recognize shallowness and tells the man that if he comes with her, she’ll “share the things that [his girlfriend] won’t.” This could be a reference to sex or existential struggles–either way, it seems to be deeper than what she says the girlfriend offers.
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In the Chorus, Lorde shows her depth in an odd way. She describes her relationship as “dancin’ past the point of no return.” Her depth has found itself in dancing, embracing a relationship, and the emotion surrounding the losing of one’s self. She has found meaning in the intensity of emotion, encouraging her friend to join her in freeing “ourselves of all we’ve learned.”
Their bond has strengthened, so she loves “this secret language that we’re speaking.” And by urging him to “[s]ay it to me,” she wants him to keep speaking it to her. This language could be a physical or emotional language, but it doesn’t matter either way. Lorde’s depth and communication style here are tied up in intensity of feeling. Knowledge of deeper, darker things (fill in here what you guess those things may be) has led her to the knowledge that letting go is the only answer and that letting go will bring, maybe not happiness, but at least ecstasy–a shorter lived and more intense emotion.
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All of this build up is meant to climax in the final three lines of the chorus: “Let’s embrace the point of no return.” Whatever Lorde and her friend are doing, she wants to do it so strongly, that there’s no going back. They have to commit and continue on to sustain the bond (whether physical or emotional) that they have created.
In Verse 2, Lorde sings, “Never really thought we would make it / We be thinking about what could have been.” These lines could imply that Lorde and the fellow have been having a strong secret relationship and that Lorde really wishes it could have been open; however, she’s still even surprised that the relationship has lasted this long, in spite of “melting magnets.”
Even though the magnets were melting at one point, that warm melting has turned into a hot fire that has intensified their love. They’ve “had a record summer” and “can’t turn it down.” Lorde wants this to keep going and to not “see the envy again” that comes with a weakening relationship and her man going back to his girlfriend.
The song ends in several repetitions of the chorus’s last line “Let’s embrace the point of no return” that emphasize Lorde’s powerful desire to go deeper with this man.
What’d you think of “Magnets” by Lorde and Disclosure? If you share your thoughts soon enough, I may even mention be able to use your comment in my podcast on Friday!
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Clifford Stumme is a blogger on CliffordStumme.com and a college instructor/desk-watcher at Liberty University. He likes juggling and reading/writing, and he is married to the wonderful and beautiful Wife April.