It’s a bone-dry desert night in April, and Lorde is dancing onstage in a corseted top and shimmery sequined pants that make her look a little like a disco mermaid. It’s her second time performing here at Coachella, the music festival that overtakes the valley east of Palm Springs, Calif., every spring. The first time, in 2014, when she was 17, was a trial for Lorde–a hyperliterate teenager thrust into the center of one of the biggest music festivals in the world. Now 20, she is familiar with this particular type of fever dream. She runs the stage like a veteran pop star, charismatically chatting with the crowd. But she doesn’t dance like a pop star, even as the pulsating chords of her new single “Green Light” crescendo. There’s no real choreography, no backup dancers flexing in unison, no marks to hit. Her movements are spidery and wild. She’s a tangle of limbs, mesmerizing and vaguely mystical.
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This appears in the June 19, 2017 issue of TIME.