Lorde
Melodrama


4.5
superb

Review

by SowingSeason STAFF
June 17th, 2017 | 771 replies


Release Date: 2017 | Tracklist

Review Summary: a bold and colorful magnum opus

Maybe all this is the party
Maybe the tears and the highs we breathe…

Melodrama is an album that aches at its core. Ella Yelich-O’Connor, a teenage pop sensation who has already established more maturity and credibility to her name than ninety-five percent of her fellow genre dwellers, pens Melodrama as she crosses the age threshold into her twenties but the emotional threshold to that of someone wise beyond her years. The narrative scope of the record isn’t nearly as broad as its musical implications, occurring over the course of a single night. Despite this, Melodrama sees O’Connor pulled in several directions – from the drunken parties that characterize youth’s vibrancy to the humbling silence of returning to an empty apartment, sober and alone. It’s a brazenly adventurous art-pop record that is equally as bare and candid, offering a glimpse into the adrenaline-inducing highs and soul-shattering lows of Ella’s development as both an artist and a person. It’s the kind of pop album that defines a year, and it may very well do the same for Lorde’s ever-ascending career trajectory.

If there was anything that detracted from Pure Heroine, it was the way that the record’s sound – while well-constructed and critically acclaimed – blended together into a homogeneous pool of mid-tempo glitch beats and cynically wistful ruminations. Here, the knots at both ends of her rope have been untied and unfurled, extending her reach musically, emotionally, and lyrically to more vivacious extremes. Lead single ‘Green Light’ is the perfect example, erupting into a euphorically melodic chorus that would have been too flashy for her debut. Other tracks get more up close and personal than she’d typically allow, like the heart-wrenching ballad ‘Liability’, where Ella laments “So I guess I'll go home into the arms of the girl that I love, the only love I haven't screwed up…she's so hard to please, but she's a forest fire / I do my best to meet her demands, play at romance, we slow dance in the living room…but all that a stranger would see is one girl swaying alone, stroking her cheek.” Lorde has always had a knack for turning a phrase, especially with sarcasm, but she’s never sounded quite this poetic or genuinely vulnerable. The imagery of her dancing alone with “the only girl she’s ever loved” and coming to the realization that she is writing about herself only deepens the emotional impact. Whether it’s melodically or expressively, Melodrama sees Lorde splashing new colors upon her canvas…and even when it’s sad, it’s beautiful to behold.

One of the reasons Melodrama had so much momentum before its release was because of the aforementioned singles, which define the album’s greatest sonic and introspective explorations, respectively. This is, however, anything but a “singles album”, which is a common and honestly deserved stereotype among mainstream pop releases. Melodrama is as unified and consistent as any pop record you’ll hear this year, with nary a poor or misguided effort and a plethora of supporting tracks that bolster the cause. The best track on the album is ‘Hard Feelings / Loveless’, a two-part track that commences with longing reflections on a breakup (“Let's give it a minute before we admit that we're through” / “Cause I remember the rush, when forever was us” / “I care for myself the way I used to care about you”) and then transitions rather abruptly into a sprightly, upbeat fuck you of a jingle: “Bet you wanna rip my heart out, bet you wanna skip my calls now / Well guess what? I like that…'Cause I'm gonna mess your life up, gonna wanna tape my mouth shut.” It sort of feels like the quintessential Melodrama track, because it encompasses all the stages of a breakup which, aside from sensationalized emotions and added frills, is the primary motif that surfaces throughout Melodrama. Take ‘Writer In The Dark’ for example too; a track that features some of her highest pitched and most dynamic vocals (Pure Heroine conditioned us for her lower register), but is more easily defined by what she puts on paper: “I still feel you, now and then, slow like pseudo-ephedrine…when you see me, will you say I've changed?”, all before wrapping things up with the confident revelation, “I'll find a way to be without you, babe.” The album rises far above your typical pop tropes and accesses some uniquely personal spaces, allowing it to connect with listeners on multiple levels. If it wasn’t clear when ‘Green Light’ hit the airwaves that Melodrama would be something of a cathartic vessel for Ella, then this piece as a whole screams it. It’s a record that hurts, drinks away the pain, and asks us to join in the search for that elusive silver lining. In other words, it's human.

Melodrama is just what it implies. It’s comprised of these fleeting moments of passion and heartache that characterize the extreme highs and lows of young adult life. Lorde makes more than just a few allusions to melodrama being a condition of the human mind; it’s natural for us to sensationalize important moments in our lives and remember them as far better or worse than they actually were. ‘Supercut’ actually touches on it directly: “In my head, I play a supercut of us, all the magic we gave off…All the stages and the stars, I turn all of it to just a supercut…Cause in my head I do everything right / when you call, I'll forgive and not fight / Because ours are the moments I play in the dark / We were wild and fluorescent.” Fluorescent feels like the ideal descriptor for Melodrama as well; the album – like us – takes these mundane moments experienced by just about every human being on Earth and dramatizes them. If you’ve ever experienced a difficult breakup or felt on top of the world during a first kiss, and wondered how it would come off portrayed through the seemingly magical filter of a Hollywood screen, that’s essentially what Lorde pulls off here. Each lyrical passage is a page from her journal, and each song an award-winning dramatization of it. Few artists could take the allure of a new attraction and make it sound as intoxicating as Lorde does on ‘The Louvre’: “Our days and nights are perfumed with obsession, half of my wardrobe is on your bedroom floor…I am your sweetheart psychopathic crush, drink up your movements, still I can't get enough…A rush at the beginning - I get caught up, just for a minute.” If Pure Heroine was her life at sixteen, chronicled as a Sundance Film Festival indie flick, then Melodrama is her life projected on the big screen, with sweeping strings and production techniques that embellish every aspect of it. Despite all of its fluorescent exaggerations, Melodrama is arguably a more open, candid look at Ella Yelich-O’Connor than anything we’ve heard before. Not only is this her most engaging and exciting work musically, it’s also her most heartfelt and personal – two traits that rarely intertwine on the same recording.

It seems as if every year there is a pop artist that steps up and claims the genre crown. In 2013 it was Justin Timberlake for The 20/20 Experience, which arguably revolutionized pop. 2014 saw Taylor Swift exit country to make her pop debut with 1989. 2015 belonged to Carly Rae Jepsen for her 80s-laced Emotion. Last year, Ariana Grande made a huge leap in confidence with her coming-of-age album Dangerous Woman. Melodrama has the same feel as those records. It does not sacrifice an ounce of depth or creativity to achieve its mainstream goals, and it is still extremely infectious. The only real shortcomings are when Lorde scales things back to the past and attempts to duplicate a sound that was already accomplished more successfully on Pure Heroine (‘Homemade Dynamite’ feels like the most obvious perpetrator in that regard) – but even then, the material is quite strong and well-executed. Often with a star of Lorde’s magnitude, the goal is simply to avoid a sophomore slump. With Melodrama, however, she takes the chart-topping success of her debut and adds new sonic and emotional dimensions to expand upon it. It’s easily an improvement in just about every way, and it officially places her in a select category of top tier pop artists who are capable of being a mainstream hit while retaining one hundred percent of his/her artistic integrity. Make no mistake, pop music in 2017 belongs to Melodrama: a bold and colorful magnum opus that marks an almost unbeatable personal milestone for Lorde. Given her track record thus far, though, it would be unwise to bet against her.



Recent reviews by this author
Lana Del Rey Lust For LifeFleet Foxes Crack-Up
Bleachers Gone NowRoger Waters Is This The Life We Really Want?
Alt-J RelaxerSam Amidon The Following Mountain
user ratings (416)
Chart.
3.8
excellent
other reviews of this album
1 of

Comments:Add a Comment 
SowingSeason
Moderator
June 17th 2017


24014 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

June is going to singlehandedly ruin my objectivity rating.

Digging: Manchester Orchestra - A Black Mile To The Surface

JWT155
June 17th 2017


13467 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

And there it is... another masterpiece.

JWT155
June 17th 2017


13467 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Great review as always sowing, Supercut is up for SOTY for me.

JWT155
June 17th 2017


13467 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Not gonna lie, 2017 has been loaded so far and only going to get even crazier.

SowingSeason
Moderator
June 17th 2017


24014 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Thanks! And agreed. The National is still on deck among others. I was excited for Arcade Fire but their single kind of ruined that momentum for me personally.

JWT155
June 17th 2017


13467 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

The National, Arcade Fire, Queens of the Stone Age, Grizzly Bear, Broken Social Scene, Lana Del Rey, The War on Drugs, LCD Soundsystem, plenty of AOTY contenders to be released just from the usual suspects.

Lucid
June 17th 2017


8058 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Yes Sowing! Agree on practically all the points you touched on, great write-up. I didn't really buy the hype with her debut but watching her come into her own as an artist (and human) here has been wonderful. She's one of the best of her generation, and the intensive effort she's put into the record is clear. This is how you bypass the sophomore slump: by overshooting everyone's expectations. Pop aoty without a doubt (I know Carly is releasing in the Fall, but I don't see her topping Emotion).

hamid95
June 17th 2017


387 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I, for one, am really loving the hyperbole you're putting in the review, Sowing.



In other words, it’s her most human record to date.



This irks me the wrong way, though, seeing as she's only put out two records to date.

SowingSeason
Moderator
June 17th 2017


24014 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Yeah it's a figure of speech I use a lot that I should probably get away from because of cases like this. I'll most likely rephrase that...and yeah, I suppose if ever there'd be a reason to be overtly over emphatic it'd be reviewing an album titled Melodrama.

Lucid
June 17th 2017


8058 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

A bit surprised you didn't talk about Antonoff taking the lead role in the production. I was worried because his characteristic anthemic choruses can get smudgy/cluttered with sound, reminiscent of teen movie soundtracks in an unflattering manner. Didn't want him to turn her album into a female-fronted Bleachers. However I think that her diligence with tone/mood reined in his impulses and the result is richly detailed with all the parts feeling necessary. Very pleased with how immersive it is, feels like a fever dream and makes me wish I had synaesthesia.

Flugmorph
June 17th 2017


16427 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

my fav song is probably the green light remix bonus track lol

SowingSeason
Moderator
June 17th 2017


24014 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

@Lucid: Was fully aware of his involvement in production, I just didn't find a way to weave it in naturally. I also left out any reference to 'Perfect Places', which I regret as it is one of my favorite tracks.

literallyzach
June 17th 2017


357 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

perfect places is such a brilliant track in context too. wonderful review!!

Digging: Keyakizaka46 - Masshirona Mono wa Yogoshitaku Naru

Spec
June 17th 2017


34588 Comments


Hell yeah. Liability is beautiful.

TheSupernatural
June 17th 2017


1638 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Calls it a magnum opus but won't give it a 5?

GhostOfSarcasticBtrd
June 17th 2017


4791 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

5 e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.

SowingSeason
Moderator
June 17th 2017


24014 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Not every artist is capable of perfection

GhostOfSarcasticBtrd
June 17th 2017


4791 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Lorde's boutta choke Sowing out with an onion ring necktie.

SowingSeason
Moderator
June 17th 2017


24014 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

With that said this could grow into a 5, potentially

GhostOfSarcasticBtrd
June 17th 2017


4791 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

*onion ring necktie stashed away for another day*



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





FAQ // STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2017 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy