Youth is a high stakes game, and no one captures the perils and euphoria of growing up quite like the oldest adolescent that ever lived shedding her teenage skin.
On Pure Heroine, Lorde was a dedicated outsider who’d never been on a plane, but imagined endlessly what it must be like with a cool, criticial distance. On Melodrama, she’s skydiving, terrified but self-assured. Do you think you love onion rings? Lorde loves onion rings so much that she made an Instagram account devoted to them and promptly deleted it once the simple act of rating fried food lost its purity.
Lorde has stated that Melodrama is a concept record based loosely on the highs and lows of a single house party, and what better place to act out the drama of youth? She did invite some friends to rage alongside her. “Homemade Dynamite” features Tove Lo, who co-wrote the song. The Swedish pop star is just the sort of person you would expect to grab Lorde’s hand and rush to the dance floor with a bottle of wine and a conspiratorial laugh. Joel Little, who worked on Pure Heroine, is back, but her primary collaborator this time around is Jack Antonoff, the in-demand pop producer who works with the kind of singers like Taylor Swift and Carly Rae Jepsen that treat the pop song as truly sacred. Now the wunderkind has fully proved her place among the greats. Halfway through the year, no pop album has come close to Melodrama.
Elements of Antonoff’s signature sounds echo throughout the record (thank him for pounding on the piano keys). She has spiritual sisters in Kate Bush, Robyn, and Liz Phair while remaining very much her own beast. She thrives conducting the chaos.
And, like those who came before her, Lorde writes a damn good breakup song. Her pain is visceral and revelatory. Every petty thought you’ve had scrolling through your ex’s Instagram is elevated to the cinematic. Let the sharks take them all.
Lorde’s breakup songs are visceral. Every petty thought you’ve had scrolling through your ex’s Instagram is elevated to the cinematic. Let the sharks take them all.
But nothing is quite as necessary as the care she takes describe the complex art of hooking up. Times are changing the way we sing about it is lagging, and Lorde taps into a state of female infatuation that rarely sees the light. Shes not devoid of emotion, but rather, feels the physical deeply. Relationships that flash by are no less intense. “Supercut” is a highlight of the album, a goodbye to a love that never stood a chance. She’s simultaneously toasting its fluorescence while tracing the downfall, “in my head, I do everything right.”
It’s all overwhelming, but Lorde does know when to hold back (for dramatic effect, of course). The sparse beats that held Pure Heroine together return to steady the hurricane. Melodrama is full of reprises and callbacks, because no one among us can shake off our ghosts, and so we have to warp them into something we can live with.
Figuring out how to be Lorde, aware of her own flair for the dramatic and relishing it, hasn’t always been easy. She sang the tender “Liability” in her best Miss Havisham get-up on Saturday Night Live, a promising pop star before a world aching for catharsis taking on the role of a jilted lover from the 1860s. The howling “Writer in the Dark” has the singer digging her nails into the arm of an ex before realizing she can’t let anyone kill her supernatural vibe. “I am my mother’s child, I’ll love you ’til my breathing stops. I’ll love you ’til you call the cops on me,” she laments. “But in our darkest hours, I stumbled on a secret power. I’ll find a way to be without you, babe.” Suppressing your inner Rebecca Bunch never really works out.
She broke out rejecting the lifestyles of the rich and famous that isolate listeners from art, and now that she’s on the other side, she’s finding out what it feels like. Turns out, jet planes, islands, and tigers on a gold leash can leave you feeling very lonely.
On stage at Governors Ball earlier this month, Lorde introduced “Liability” to one of the biggest crowds she’s played for in her career by imparting a piece of wisdom on the masses screaming the name she gave herself: “Everybody’s gonna leave you eventually.”
In that case, it helps to become the life of your own party.
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