Escapism in Summer

In her debut album, Pure Heroine, released at age 16, musical artist Lorde grapples with a variety of topics, including youth, fame, social status, materialism, and mainstream culture. She explores her experience of youth in her song “Buzzcut Season,” imparting this experience through various poetic and literary devices, including understatements and overstatements, personification, metonymy, imagery, and metaphors. The theme Lorde constructs in “Buzzcut Season” is that summer is an escape among adolescents, allowing them to abandon school and the intimidating real world that is approaching and instead live in a suspended state of carefree bliss, however, an undertone of fear persists nonetheless. 

In the beginning lines, Lorde references when she accidentally set fire to a friend’s hair in a school science class, writing “I remember when your head caught flame/It kissed your scalp and caressed your brain.” Lorde then writes “you laughed, baby, it’s okay/It’s buzzcut season anyway.” In this situation, buzzcut season is a metonym for summer. The school year is coming to a close, and the flame gives the friend a taste of the warmth of summer. This is conveyed through the personification of the flame caressing and kissing, indicating it is a comforting force. Being set on fire is downplayed and brushed off here because the students have summer into which they can escape their current pains, such as being burned, so these pains are largely insignificant, seeing as they will disappear soon. Additionally, the friend having their hair set on fire only takes them closer to summer because they can shave it off to enter buzzcut season. 

Lorde then shifts to life during summer, with “Explosions on TV/And all the girls with heads inside a dream/So now we live beside the pool/Where everything is good.” The line “Explosions on TV,” which directly follows the line “It’s buzzcut season anyway,” introduces a new meaning of buzzcut season. The explosions convey the hardships and seriousness of real life, viewed only through a TV by the teens because they are not yet exposed, however, their participation in buzzcut season expresses that they, with their shaved heads, will soon join the war of the world. Following this daunting message, Lorde writes of girls’ heads inside a dream, meaning they, including Lorde, are escaping the world to spend their summer in a dream. Overstatements of them living “beside the pool,” where “everything is good,” communicate their abandonment of their responsibilities in the summer, solely immersing themselves in fun activities. This carefree behavior, like the metaphorical “dream” they are in, is unsustainable though. 

Later in the song, Lorde shifts her tone, writing “Cola with the burnt-out taste/I’m the one you tell your fears to/There’ll never be enough of us.” Cola is a summer drink, and its burnt-out taste conveys the bitterness lingering in one’s mouth as the illusion of an endless, joyful summer begins fizzling out. This also connects to the flame at the beginning of the song, which was ignited with the arrival of summer, but now cola accompanies its burning out. With summer’s illusion dying, fears surface because they are no longer able to be suppressed. To limit their acknowledgement to preserve summer for as long as possible, they are expressed in confidence to very few people. Ultimately, however, Lorde recognizes that there are “never…enough of us,” us being carefree adolescents, so escaping into buzzcut season is only a temporary luxury that will soon no longer be available. 

Lorde closes the song with returning to summer as an escape from difficulties and responsibilities. She writes, “The men up on the news/They try to tell us all that we will lose/But it’s so easy in this blue/Where everything is good.” The formidable real world, or the “men up on the news,” threatens to remove Lorde and her friends from their summer fun by exposing its unsustainability and its deviation from reality, however, they maintain their approach of “nothing’s wrong when nothing’s true.” These adolescents choose to deny the fact that they cannot avoid their mounting responsibilities forever because “It’s so easy in this blue/Where everything is good.” “This blue” is a metaphor for summer, and it also ties into the motif of pools the adolescents live beside during summer. While the exaggeration that “everything is good” applies when floating unburdened in water, one must eventually come to land so as not to drown. For now though, as the final line “I live in a hologram with you” implies, Lorde and her friends will prolong their transient, blissful hologram that is summer (metaphor) for as long as possible.