By: Akos Balogh
Recently, I took my teenage daughter and her friend to hear the singer Lorde in concert.
There we are with 8000+ other fans, listening to Lorde’s Grammy Award-winning voice as she sings hits from her new album Solar Power along with a few of her older songs (which, to be honest, is what I prefer). Hearing her vocals live is worth every dollar and every minute of her concert: it’s no wonder she’s a superstar (although she removed herself from the limelight a few years ago, citing concerns about celebrity culture).
And throughout the night, we were given a taste of Lorde’s gospel: her view of the problems of our world and how to make them right.
The Brokenness of Our World, According to Lorde
The night is full of Lorde’s signature music exploring how our world – and even we – are broken.
In her song, ‘Perfect Places’, Lorde sings about the ‘graceless’ nights that involve unfulfilling nights partying away. Far from glorifying celebrity culture or the hedonism that drives so many, there’s a note of angst, even despair, at our world’s condition:
‘All of the things we’re taking /
’Cause we are young and we’re ashamed /
Send us to perfect places /
All of our heroes fading Now I can’t stand to be alone /
Let’s go to perfect places
But she finishes this melancholy song on the view that there are no such ‘perfect places’:
All the nights spent off our faces /
Trying to find these perfect places /
What the **** are perfect places anyway?
The Good News, According to Lorde
Last Monday, Lorde unveiled her gospel in more than her singing.
After finishing one of her songs, she sits down and starts having a ‘Deep and Meaningful’ conversation with 8000 of us fans. It’s the sort of conversation you’d expect to have with a close friend over coffee at a quiet café. This 26-year-old superstar shares her thoughts about life and meaning. She expands on her gospel.
She begins by lamenting how crazy our world is and how these forces try to force us into a box, moulding us into something we’re not. She often mentions how we live in such ‘strange times’. Undoubtedly, everyone in the room could relate to that pressure in one way or another.
And then, she launches into her solution:
“I just want to say to you that you are so perfect, and you do not need to be pushed into a box. Be the freak that you are… Don’t lose that…Just be exactly who you are… That’s my advice for this Monday night.”
Don’t worry about what anybody else thinks: you do you because you’re perfect just the way you are.
Thus saith Lorde.
In one sense, hearing Lorde say this was no surprise: it’s classic expressive individualism, the belief that our true authentic self, our true identity, is found by looking within. And ignoring outside voices that seek to compromise those inner feelings.
For a secular musical icon to say this is par for the course.
You do you.
The Problems with a ‘You Do You’ Gospel
And yet, telling people they’re perfect just the way they raises some disturbing questions:
- Is everybody really perfect just the way they are?If someone in the crowd is a misogynist or a racist, would Lorde really think they’re ‘perfect’?
- Who gets to say what ‘perfect’ is?If we each get to say what perfection is for us, how can we disagree with other people and tell them they’re wrong? Many people in prison have very different views of what ‘perfection’ means to them (!).
- It can lead to selfish behaviour. If I’m perfect just the way I am, why should I listen to my spouse, colleagues, or neighbours when they raise concerns about something I’ve done? (It’s no wonder that narcissism has risen at the same time as this ‘you do you’ view of the world became popular).
I wonder if we love the ‘you’re perfect just the way you are’ message because it addresses the sense of guilt all of us – Religious and Secular – feel at times. If I’m perfect, I can explain the guilt away: no need to deal with it (or so we think).
The Gospel of the (Real) Lord
While it was fascinating to hear Lorde pontificate on the state of the world and how we should respond, the real Lord – the Lord Jesus – came into the world to deliver a very different gospel.
A gospel where he declared the world broken – caught in the grip of rebellion against our Maker. And a gospel where He came not to say that we’re perfect, but to make us perfect through the cross.
That’s a very different gospel from what 8000 of us heard at the Lorde concert. But what a sweeter, more liberating gospel than ‘you do you’.
Article supplied with thanks to Akos Balogh.
About the Author: Akos is the Executive Director of the Gospel Coalition Australia. He has a Masters in Theology and is a trained Combat and Aerospace Engineer.