Review Summary: It’s the person you want to hear about, but not be around. But be around it you will.
Kiwi pop sensation Lorde has been away for four years.
A lot can happen in that time. Artists can lose perspective or confidence, audiences can move on and expectation can build to an overwhelming hype. However, the definitive factor for the girl who burst onto the scene as the velvetiest, classiest biatch in the room is how she
has changed. You can grow up a lot between the ages of 16 and 20. Or, you could not grow up at all. “What will we do when we’re sober"” asks Lorde, which says it all about the dilemmas both personal and professional behind Melodrama
Lorde’s 2013 debut LP Pure Heroine
had three of the best singles of the year in ‘Royals’, ‘Team’ and ‘Tennis Court’: defiant, literate, exciting and with perfect hooks despite their striking minimalism. The rest of the album was basically the seven rough drafts before she successfully executed that idea. As Lorde returned to the studio with her Yoda-like producer Joel Little, she certainly had plenty of room to move in. And despite some awkward growing pains, the pair have succeeded in making a quirky yet honest pop album that, while not quite reaching the peaks of Pure Heroine
, brings splashes of new colour and style to Lorde’s canvas.
When I first listened to Melodrama
, it seemed to me that the album’s most definitive song was its worst. ‘Homemade Dynamite’ is a tacky, boring three-minute flop that could have been two. Hearing Lorde sing, “Know I think you’re awesome, right"/Our rules, our dreams, we’re blind/Blowing sh*t up with homemade dynamite,” is kinda like walking in on your little sister vomiting Cruisers into the toilet bowl.
Every right move that Lorde and Little make is a 180o turn on the decisions that led to that song. ‘Liability’ is a short, achingly hurtful piano ballad that is emotional but not emo. ‘The Louvre’ is the sort of wild, lusty rush that you want to live in, and I dare you to not laugh aloud at the hype-busting sneer, “We’re the greatest, they’ll hang us in the Louvre/Down the back, but who cares, still the Louvre.”
Most striking of all is the dark, creeping ‘Writer in the Dark’. A break-up is the subject here, but is the dynamic professional or emotional" Either way, this is Lorde baring her teeth like never before. Images of physical and emotional manipulation work on a two-way street. “I’ll love you ‘til my breathing stops/I’ll love you ‘til you call the cops on me/But in our darkest hours, I stumbled on a secret power/I’ll find a way to be without you, babe.” Much like the psychosis that is its subject matter, ‘Writer in the Dark’ is Lorde’s first song that you’ll love uncontrollably before you’ve even figured it out.
Whilst lead-off single ‘Green Light’ was void of the personality that Lorde at her best so superbly captures, it does foreshadow the musical expansion of Melodrama
. Where Pure Heroine
was perfectly manicured, most of Lorde’s second album is from a place that is the emotional equivalent of a party where you’ve unexpectedly lost control.
The sombre piano of ‘Green Light’ and ‘Liability’ is the ying to the yang of the bright splashes of brass on ‘Sober’ and ‘Perfect Places’. ‘The Louvre’ is her most rockist moment yet while ‘Hard Feelings/Loveless’ is Little’s time to shine. The six-minute track is a dense mix, combining a sluggish percussive bed with a collage of discordant sounds. If you want to know the Lorde of Melodrama
, listen to where Little takes that track. It’s emotionally messy, as rational as you’d expect an alcohol-fuelled vent to be. It’s the person you want to hear about, but not be around. But be around it you will. Because Melodrama
- passionate, emotional, flawed - wants you to come back.