Supercut and nostalgia

Credits in image –

Being a media student, I could pretend I have always been well aware of what a supercut is. Still, that would be a lie. It was only a few weeks ago that I decided to look up the definition of this word. 

According to the Oxford Languages dictionary, a supercut is a compilation of a large number of short video clips, typically showing examples of a repeated or clichéd action or phrase in films or broadcasts. It is considered a genre of video editing and the approached themes are completely diverse. This technique is rooted mostly in television and has relations to vidding – a fan labor practice of creating music videos from the footage of one or more visual media sources, thereby exploring the source itself in a new way.

Supercut videos gained popularity with the rise of YouTube around 2005 and after Andy Baio, a writer who focused his publications on culture, coined the term in a blog entry in 2008. It is important to keep in mind that all of this happened around the same time the Internet was rising and therefore copyright was not truly controlled, making it easier for people to obtain footage and create videos. Yet the situation changed around 2010 and with the growth of online and internet regulations, the popularity of supercuts decreased. Nonetheless, over the last couple years TikTok is making this practice popular again, with fan based edits of their favorite celebrities, Hollywood movies, and even books. 
However, this is not an article about the history or cinematic cultural relevance of a specific editing method. 

As stated above, I only learned the meaning behind the word “Supercut” a few weeks ago. While watching my Netflix original comfort movie – Someone Special – for the hundredth time, I finally paid attention to the opening track of the movie: Supercut by Lorde. After adding it to my 2021 playlist, I can safely say that it was played at least 20 times on repeat and quickly became my all-time favorite Lorde song. As you may imagine by now, this was the sole reason I found out what supercut meant.

Screenshot of Vevo x Lorde live performance of “Supercut”

“Supercut” was written by Ella O’Connor – Lorde’s birth name – in collaboration with the Grammy-award winning songwriter and record producer Jack Antonoff. The song is the ninth track of “Melodrama”, the singer’s second studio album. It is no surprise that the reception of the song was astonishing, having critics stating that the lyrics are one of the most gracefully created on the album. During an interview with the New Zealand online magazine “The Spinoff”, Lorde revealed she got the idea for this composition while leaving a party late at night and sitting in the back of a taxi in Auckland listening to Paul Simon’s album “Graceland” playing from nearby bars. She stated that the concept behind the track was to feel as if one was “dancing through the walls of a party”.  

Even though the singer doesn’t mention the story behind what is being sung, fan theories suggest the song is about her breakup. It is possible to notice likely hints of a relationship that is not going anywhere, however, the people involved do not know how to fix it. In this track, we see a perspective of someone looking back only at the good times of the relationship, ignoring the bad ones, while rethinking possible mistakes made along the way. 

In case you still have not opened your favorite streaming service and played the song as background music to this reading, here is a short analysis on the production with insights I gained after reading Clifford Stumme’s analysis of Melodrama. While reflecting on a possible past relationship, Lorde’s opening lyrics are “In my head I play a supercut of us, all the magic we gave off, all the love we had and lost”, revealing that she chooses to remember only the best moments of this specific relation. Later on, with the emotional lyrics “And in my head the visions never stop” and “But when I reach for you there’s just a supercut” it becomes clear that her partner is no longer with her, and the only remaining memories are constantly being overplayed in her mind. Those moments do not portray the full picture of the relationship and end up only being a reminder that now that the relationship is over, there is nothing she can do to change it. 

During the pre-chorus, the idea of a person willing to change everything about them and accept anything to make a relationship work is illustrated. Although this notion is strongly portrayed, the chorus works, in contrast, as a reality shock and reveals that those thoughts are just a supercut and no matter how good some memories are, the relationship no longer exists. In the second verse, the song takes a turn to the present and Lorde’s life as a pop artist going on tour and meeting other stars, and taking in only the highlights of those experiences – by turning the memories again into a supercut – since she still feels emotionally weighted and conflicted.

In the bridge of “Supercut”, Lorde focuses internally on her own reactions to her memories by singing “In my head, I do everything right”. There are two possible interpretations for this lyric: either she is asking what would have happened if she had reacted in a different, and perhaps better, way or she is remembering having handled the situation as well as she could. Both analyses are extremely valid and after listening to this song more times than I would like to admit, this specific lyric slowly became my favorite. Not because being someone with too many failed relationships makes this line hit a bit too hard or because I see this lyric as the best representation of everything this song conveys. I absolutely love this lyric because it is a thought that I believe everyone has had at least once in their life when experiencing nostalgia.

Image credits: @diegolunes (Tumgir)

Since I am a huge fan of dictionary descriptions, here is another one retrieved from Oxford dictionaries. Nostalgia: a feeling of sadness mixed with pleasure and affection. We normally experience this when reflecting about the past.
Trying to fix a former mistake, knowing that there’s nothing you can actively do in the present since time machines do not exist – yet. 
Reviving moments in your head you know will forever haunt your memory while staring at the ceiling of your room at 3 AM simply because some memories are just too strong to be forgotten. 
Visiting places that will always remind you of that specific situation that happened ages ago. 
Spraying the last drops left of the perfume you used to wear in your first year of high school and feeling like you are entering the classroom and meeting the people who would become your best friends for four years all over again.
Scrolling through old pictures and videos – or looking through the pages of photo albums if you rather – and realizing there is absolutely nothing you can do to relive those moments.

Image credits: Chloe Sheppard

I might just be an overthinker, but I hope everyone reading this relates to at least something mentioned above because – despite seeming sad at first sight – I see nostalgia as one the best feelings you can experience. Those memories usually come to my mind as a compilation of very specific moments I miss and therefore I believe that the relation to both the concept and the song “Supercut” is extremely relevant. Studies show that the feeling of nostalgia can actually increase somebody’s personal view of themselves, their self-esteem, and it potentially helps to combat effects of loneliness. Although some might argue that just like in Lorde’s song when we experience nostalgia, we only remember the good and happy moments, I must disagree. 

There is of course a slight chance that this only happens to me, but when looking back at the most precious memories of me having fun with people who once meant the world to me which cross my mind while listening to my old favourite songs or watching videos filled with these memories, I do not experience only joyful feelings.

I miss waiting anxiously for the clock to strike 10 AM so I could leave the classroom filled with people I couldn’t stand to meet with my friends during the break just to talk about our favorite TV Shows and Indie singers. Pretending we are fully grown-ups now that we are not the youngest in middle school. Acting as if we could relate to Halsey’s, Troye Sivan’s, or Melanie Martinez’s lyrics at the age of 12. Feeling like we are better than most girls because we are “different”.

I miss waking up at 6 AM on a cold June morning in São Paulo, not wanting to leave my warm bed but needing to do so. Arriving at school and promising I would stay in a bad mood and quiet since it was so absurd that I still had to attend classes after taking the semester exams. Yet changing this behavior completely after listening to a bad joke my best friend tells me while we walk towards the drinking fountain to gossip about people we do not care about. I agonize when remembering getting my first really bad grade on the very same day and crying in the school bathroom while worrying about failing the school year.

I miss the ache I felt after what I thought was my first heartbreak. I feel sorry for the innocent 13-year-old version of myself who would look in the mirror wondering what on earth is possibly wrong with her. The feeling of realizing this was not even close to a heartbreak and laughing about it when telling this story to my new friends at 14. I feel anxious for the girl who found out at 15 that boys would make bets on who would manage to kiss her first. The ingenuity of thinking I managed to find the love of my life at sweet 16 and the anger and the pain experienced at 17 when coming across what it truly felt to be heartbroken. 

When thinking of all these memories I do not want to relive them. The simple thought of experiencing everything again, even with the knowledge I have at the moment, is already tiring. You can feel nostalgia toward something but still rather keep those moments in the past. I mourn for all the past versions of myself. For the feelings I will never experience again. For everything that only exists in my memory now. For what builds who I am today. 

However, I carry all those moments in the most special place in my heart. I feel extremely sentimental when listening to certain artists, when re-watching episodes of specific series, when eating particular foods. Furthermore, I feel excited and curious when thinking about what the 25-year-old version of myself will feel nostalgic about. Which moments that I am currently experiencing will have a relevant impact on my future self. Which pictures I will look at and smile with affection. Which songs will instantly take me back to my first apartment in Amsterdam.

I choose to look at nostalgia through this angle and then, making another lyrical reference to Lorde’s discography, it feels less scary getting old. 

Written by Olivia Lucchesi

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