"Liability" is a short but poignant song that finds Lorde grappling with fame and how it can change friendships and relationships. The musician delivers a dextrous vocal performance over a soft piano melody, singing, "The truth is, I am a toy/ That people enjoy/ Until all of the tricks don't work anymore/ And then they are bored of me./ I know that it's exciting/ Running through the night/ When every perfect summer's eating me alive/ Until you're gone."
In an interview with Lowe, Lorde said hearing Rihanna's "Higher" in a cab inspired her to write the song. "I had a little cry and I was just like 'It's always going to be this way, at some point with everyone it's going to be this way,'" she recalled. "But the song kind of ended up turning into a bit of a protective talismans for me. I was like, you know what, I'm always gonna have myself so I have to really nurture this relationship and feel good about hanging out with myself and loving myself."
It feels so starkly truthful to me," she added. "And I think everyone knows what that’s like, to just feel like a fucking liability. ... But the song sounds so traditional. It’s this piano song which is very new territory for me. ... A lot of teenage music is kind of expected to sound the same. And I was like, you know what, I could be Paul Simon in this moment. I could be Joni Mitchell or Kate Bush; these people who were very young."