Listen to the album here.
Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O'Connor, more well known as Lorde, is a vocalist born and raised in New Zealand that gathered an incredible amount of attention back in 2013 for her debut LP, Pure Heroine. With such hits as “Royals” and “Tennis Court,” she became a worldwide phenomenon in no time, and it’s not hard to see why. At such a young age, the girl has a serious set of pipes, and her music, especially for something that was constantly played on the radio, was pretty darn unique and tasteful. It’s been almost four years since Pure Heroine came out, though, and it seemed that Lorde had sort of disappeared. She provided a few updates in between, speaking about how different Melodrama was going to be from her debut, but other than that, there weren't really any details. Then in March, she announced the LP and dropped “Green Light” as a promotional single. In an interview with the New York Times in May, Lorde described this LP as an exploration of loneliness, which got me even more excited to listen.
I’ve always respected Lorde, especially knowing that she’s a few months younger than me and has an incredible voice, but I didn’t really love anything she put out until I heard “Green Light.” That song is something really special. Lorde certainly makes it clear that she is going for a much more artsy style. She released “Perfect Places” shortly afterwards, but I decided to wait to hear the entire LP before checking out the song, so now that it’s out, I have some more to say.
Lorde was not joking when she said she would be exploring the concept of loneliness. There are lyrics on tracks like “Sober” about suffocating under it, and how her hips are missing someone else’s hips. That’s one of many lyrics alluding to a breakup during the writing of this LP. This is even showcased on “Green Light” by lines like, “Thought you said that you would always be in love, but you're not in love, no more” and “Oh honey, I’ll come get my things, but I can’t let go.” Lyrics in this vein continue throughout the LP, such as on songs like “The Louvre” (with a title like that, it has to be in some way about her previous relationship), and “Liability,” but in the interview posted above, it is obvious that this isn’t what Lorde wants the LP to be known for. It’s less of a breakup LP, and more an LP about the comforts and discomforts of loneliness, with her breakup playing as a large inspiration. During the second part of “Sober” (full title “Sober (Melodrama),” making it the title track), we see how Lorde has sickened of fame in lines like “All the glamour, and the trauma, and the fucking melodrama” and on “Liability,” on top of all the breakup allusions, she talks about the fake people in her life with lines like “The truth is I am a toy that people enjoy 'til all of the tricks don't work anymore and then they are bored of me.” I’m not one for lyrics unless I really like them, but in this case, I fucking love them. We get a huge insight into what Lorde has been going through since Pure Heroine, showing us that even the girl who released one of the most popular songs of the decade so far has troubles with depression and loneliness. We see her trying to avoid her problems on “Supercut,” singing lyrics like “In my head, I do everything right.” With depression comes problematic behavior, and Lorde is not afraid to show that in her lyrics.
On top of that, Lorde continues to prove the brilliance of her voice. This is something I’ve been aware of since her debut, but it's the way she presents herself as a hopeless, melancholic woman that makes you want to sing along. I knew this was going to be the case after hearing the verses on “Green Light,” but I am really happy to say that it gets better. On “Hard Feelings/Loveless, ” when she begins singing about a “loveless generation” and spells out the word “loveless,” her delivery is so somber it seriously breaks my heart. The introductory lyrics on “Writer in the Dark” have the same effect on me as she apologizes for not being “good like you.” The backing vocals only add more to this depressing atmosphere, especially on “Sober II (Melodrama)” as they chant “We told you this is melodrama” in a high pitched, emotive register.
The instrumental aspect of this LP is varied. On tracks like “Green Light” and “Supercut,” it is obvious that, despite their very melancholic lyrics, they are made for the masses to enjoy, with a very sweet, catchy beat that goes along nicely with Lorde’s voice. The poppier songs have beats that pair up with the lyrics in a way that, while still vulnerable, are much more “covered” than the less commercial songs. In a sense, I guess you can say that Lorde seems to be singing about her issues to an inattentive audience on the poppier tracks, but on the more “serious” tracks, Lorde is expressing herself to an audience she knows will actually hear her out on her loneliness and depression, be it over a breakup or something else. Regardless, all the instrumentals on this LP are well-suited to their respective track’s lyrical content, cementing the introverted direction of the LP.
I wanted to write a separate paragraph devoted to the final track on this LP, the aforementioned second single “Perfect Places.” This song is such a fantastic way to end this LP because the song is so much more hopeless than I could have imagined. It has the poppier tone for radio appeal, and the lyrics are definitely more obscure, but they add up to a truly gut-wrenching conclusion. The song starts off with Lorde trying to break her life of depression and solitude, unable to stand her loneliness, but toward the end of the song, she starts accepting that this is how life is going to be and that those perfect places won't be found. So she begins a cycle if drugs, alcohol, and meaningless sex, singing lines like “Meet somebody, take 'em home, let's kiss and then take off our clothes, it's just another graceless night.” What really gets to me are the final lyrics of the song and the LP, where Lorde pretty much justifies the self-destructive behavior she got herself in by singing “What the fuck are perfect places anyway?” It's as if she’s completely given up on the idea of healing, so she comforts herself with the notion that a “perfect place” doesn’t actually exist. It is such a beautiful, tragic way to end Melodrama.
I would expect an album like this from an experienced performer like Bjork, but here we have a twenty year old woman from New Zealand who, on her second full length release, transformed from a respectable musician to an artist I adore. Even the songs that are meant to be enjoyed simply for their catchiness offer something so much more than meets the ear, and the album amounts to a beautiful overview of Lorde’s emotional ordeal. Melodrama is as harrowing as it is sublime, and I think the fact that it present an easy resolution just makes the entire experience that much more powerful. This is an LP that I think anyone can really love, whether they’re a casual fan or an experienced listener in search of more.