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"Hard Feelings/Loveless" is a medley song recorded by New Zealand singer-songwriter Lorde for her second album, Melodrama (2017). She wrote and co-produced the track with Jack Antonoff, with additional production from Frank Dukes. It is a song which has influences of other genres such as industrial music, noise music, and electronica and uses a distorted synthesizer. "Loveless" includes two samples: the first two lines of the song are taken from a documentary about Paul Simon's album Graceland (1986), and the transitional drum solo was from Phil Collins' 1981 song "In the Air Tonight". The lyrics detail the emotions of falling out of love while mocking the current generation's lengths to pretend to be unaffected by love.
The song received mostly positive reviews from music critics, many of whom praised the song's lyrics and production. The lyrics were compared to the 1987 psychological thriller film Fatal Attraction, while its production was likened to Kanye West's work on Yeezus (2013). The track's themes center on the effects of heartbreak and social issues around love. Lorde performed "Hard Feelings/Loveless", with six other songs, as part of a re-imagined Vevo series at the Electric Lady Studios where she recorded most of her album. It is also part of the set list of her Melodrama World Tour (2017–2018).
Lorde revealed in an interview with The Spinoff that the first two lines from "Loveless", "What is this tape? / This is my favorite tape" were sampled from a documentary she watched about Paul Simon's album Graceland (1986). The drum solo, used as the transition instrument for "Loveless", was sampled from Phil Collins' 1981 song "In the Air Tonight". Jack Antonoff said in a profile in Entertainment Weekly that one of his proudest moments during the recording was placing a "synth at the end [of the song] that sounds like metal bending". Lorde stated that this was one of the earliest tracks on the record. She often listened to the soft rockof Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Fleetwood Mac and Simon’s music while riding the subways in New York City, or taking cab rides home from parties in her hometown of Auckland. They were sources of inspiration for "Hard Feelings/Loveless".
Despite not being credited for production, Lorde said that Malay brought in some guitars which they used for "Hard Feelings". She described the feeling of the song as one of "sitting in the car, delaying the moment where you have to open the door and go out into your life," while simply wanting to "sit there for a second more before moving on". In her words, "Hard Feelings/Loveless" is a traditional breakup song. She compared the track to Kanye West's song "Famous" (2016), where the beat comes out unexpectedly, mashing another sound and showing another side of yourself. Lorde confessed that she never felt "Loveless" should have been its own track. She mentioned that the song includes many references to being single and young and the politics of an evening as well as the landmines you have to jump over. In a profile in The New York Times, Antonoff called the song the "calm after a big fight". He also said that "Hard Feelings/Loveless" reminded him of Don Henley's 1989 song "The Heart of the Matter", which "grapples with news that a past lover has met someone new, then laments other bygone relationships". Lorde recalled that she felt those exact emotions, saying that the "moment you get out of the car, you are only going to get farther apart from each other".
When recording the track, Lorde said she felt an instant connection with Antonoff, describing him as a very singular individual. She said she was "basically speed-dating different producers and songwriters in LA and hating it. And then [she] walked into a room with [Jack Antonoff] and just felt like home. [She] was like, 'Oh, yes. I want to be around you as long as I can and as much as possible.' [The duo] were just obsessed with each other." Despite Lorde and Antonoff's different instincts, their shared views about pop music helped Lorde feel a sense of trust and safety with him. She said that it was rare to have a male collaborator and feel like you could be completely yourself. She took pride in taking a risk and experimenting with the song. She noted that Antonoff copied her breath, which made "blips of breath" through the song that felt like a "warm bed frame". Lorde likened the chorus to traditional 1980s music.
Recording and lyrics
Lorde recorded "Hard Feelings/Loveless" at five different locations in the United States. She began recording at Conway Recording Studios, in Los Angeles, California, assisted by recording engineer Eric Eylands. She also recorded at Rough Customer Studios, in Brooklyn Heights, New York, with Barry McCready and Jack Antonoff. Recording also took place at Electric Lady Studios and at Jungle City Studios whose location is referenced in the lyrics, "I'm at Jungle City and this song is for you." It was completed at Westlake Recording Studios, in Los Angeles, with Greg Eliason. John Hanes mixed "Hard Feelings" at MixStar Studios, while Antonoff mixed "Loveless" at his home studio of Rough Customer Studios. Other personnel include Frank Dukes, who provided additional production as well as Malay, though uncredited, brought in guitars that Lorde used on the song.
"Hard Feelings/Loveless" is composed in the key of B-flat major with a moderate groove tempo of 74 beats per minute. Lorde's vocals span a range of E♭3 to G4. The song has two different chord progressions, "Hard Feelings" follows a basic sequence of B♭–E♭–Gm while "Loveless" follows a sequence of E♭–Cm–A♭–B♭."Hard Feelings/Loveless" is an "industrial-infused" song which has influences of other genres such as noise music and electronica as well as the use of a distorted synthesizer and electronic beats in its production. Stacey Anderson from Pitchfork described the song as having a "creaky, atonal electronic rasp". Jon Pareles of The New York Times described the production of "Hard Feelings/Loveless" as infusing some "mixes with noise," making "burbles and blotches of synthesizer distortion erupt on the edges" of the first song like the "psychic storm behind the song's attempts at a merciful breakup". Spencer Kornhaber from The Atlantic felt that the song's lyrics painted a "touching scene of her sitting in a car with a beau on the verge of splitting" ending the track with "I guess I should go."
The track begins with Lorde saying, with a wistful look back — "go back and tell it". Noisey editor Lauren O'Neill said the lines, "I light all the candles / Got flowers for all my rooms / I care for myself the way I used to care about you" acknowledge how double-sided the process of moving on is, "as if she's building an altar at which she can learn to worship herself, rather than a lover". Caitlin White of Uproxx said that the line, "I care for myself the way I used to care about you" was the "final transaction of a teenage heart". Towards the end of "Hard Feelings", Lorde is heard saying the word "baby" before the track cuts, ending the song with an ambiguous feeling. "Loveless" refers to the "generational epidemic" of love, calling her peers the "generation [loveless]" according to Vulture. The lines, "Bet you wanna rip my heart out / bet you wanna skip my calls now / well guess what? I like that" have been described as sarcastic. They expose the truth in a "sharp couplet that rips into millennial-made traps to avoid commitment". Her humor is seen in the line, "All fuckin' with our lover's heads," comparing it to bombs going off in the city. During the recording process, Antonoff recommended that Lorde take inspiration from Sinéad O'Connor's voice, which he referred to as being "adult contemporary".
Crictics praised how "Loveless" was "shamelessly pop" and how the song was split into two parts, "Hard Feelings" and "Loveless".