Melodrama: In Depth

Lorde is my absolute favourite artist. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve wandered to other artists: Lana Del Rey’s melancholy, Frank Turner’s hopeless romance, Tacocat’s Seattle pop. Yet there’s something about Lorde’s music that I relate to so terribly well. 

Pure Heroine released when I was fifteen. I listened non-stop for months on end. I decided that A World Alone would be played at my wedding, that on my birthday every year I’d tweet the lyrics “Today is my birthday and I’m riding hiiiigh”, Ribs made my crushes unbearable. Whilst not much of that has changed, I’ve grown a lot since 2013. As has Lorde. 

She’s a year and a half older than me, which makes her music all the more relatable. She writes it at one age, and by the time it’s released I’ve reached that age. Even in Melodrama the lyric “I’m nineteen and I’m on fire” reminds me that we have shared experiences, that I’m part of her L-O-V-E-L-E-S-S generation. All that said, Lorde’s new album does not tug at me the way Pure Heroine did. 

Lorde sung her dissatisfaction at the music industry’s praise of drugs, something to which she didn’t relate. Come Melodrama, she’s grown up at a faster pace: under fame’s limelight in the way she protested in Yellow Flicker Beat, she’s changed. Perfect Places is hallucinogenic, in The Louvre love is slipped under a tongue. It’s different, a shift that has perhaps strained my relationship with Melodrama. 

Green Light is Lorde’s introduction of a new era. The childlike wonder she had at love in Pure Heroine is gone, she’s been hurt but she’s found herself again. Like Royals, Green Light found chart success. It’s a brilliant summer dance track with somewhat of a twist on the norm. Lorde’s raspy tone has not been forgotten: it reappears as she sings “hope they bite you” with an over-the-top angsty air of violence. 

The idea of Melodrama being a concept album is introduced in Green Light, but by at Sober the concept is a little more audible. It’s about that person you’re not sure you like or even if they like you, but once you’re somewhere and you’re dancing and you’re drunk, all those doubts are gone. Lorde’s relatability is one of her best attributes, Sober is certainly an example of that. Although, to me the song feels too much like the full swing of a party to be so early in the album.

Homemade Dynamite is difficult, as it feels so similar to Sober. It’s another song about this being our place to do what we want, a recurring theme in the album. This song was apparently supposed to be a single but its release coincided with the horrible tragedy in Manchester earlier this year, so it was pulled. It’s history could put you off, or its in your face ‘singleness’. It sounds like a single, it’s repetitive, it’s catchy, it should have been but for good reason it is not. The one thing that saves Homemade Dynamite for me, is the verse:

Might get your friend to drive / But he can hardly see / We’ll end up painted on the road / Red and chrome, all the broken glass sparkling / I guess we’re partying

It encapsulates everything there is to love about Melodrama. It’s a narrowly avoided deadly decision, by a young person who isn’t thinking straight. When the consequences are considered, it’s not the idea of injury, it’s a spectacle: it’s the colours of what would happen, like art. Glass like a disco ball. A romanticised scene like the death of James Dean. It’s Melodrama. It’s taking every stupid little thing we do when we’re young and making it something bigger that ourselves. 

The Louvre is my favourite song. It’s purely Lorde but the concept isn’t lost. It’s dramatic and different, about a love so cherished that she thinks its artistic brilliance should sit alongside the Mona Lisa. Well, not exactly alongside it, at the back, but who cares? It’s still The Louvre. Lorde’s artistic obsession comes through so well in this song that I cannot stop listening. She’s explicit about the bad things this relationship made her do: ignoring her friends, feeling that she and her lover were superior. It’s both melodramatic and real, because sometimes you love someone so much that it feels like a masterpiece, but on the outside you’re just a bit extra. 

Lorde says that while some songs on her album are set at the peak of the party, others are when you’re drunkenly staring in the mirror, feeling insecure. Liability fits the latter description. Someone’s brought her insecurities to the surface: she’s too much for some people. This idea is presented in The Louvre, but Liability is when being melodramatic turns sour – it’s the other side of the coin. But it’s not all bad, the overall message is positive. She learns to dance with herself, to love herself more than others claimed they did. 

Hard Feelings/Loveless should not be one track. I’m sorry. They’re such juxtapositions that they work on the same track from an artistic point of view. They’re the two feelings during a breakup. The former is clinging to a failing relationship, the latter is the relief of being yourself again. Somehow I never feel in the mood to listen to both of these, it’d be like putting 400 Lux and Team on the same track. On the other hand, I love both songs individually. Hard Feelings is raw and heartbreaking, the slow burn of getting over someone. Loveless is dancing your pain away without a care once they’re gone. 

Sober II (Melodrama) isn’t a song I think about a lot. It presents the album’s theme quite tidily in a three minute song, one which is quite repetitive. The raspy “We told you this was melodrama” is fantastic. It’s a taunt, bringing Lorde’s classic witchyness back through audio. It’s threatening and over-the-top, exactly how late-teenage drama feels. Yet it’s an incomplete song, an interlude. I’m not a fan of pt. 2 of songs, unfortunately. 

Arguably, the most Lorde song on the album is Writer In the Dark. It’s quirky and complex. Her voice is tangible, her breaths are cool on the back of your neck. The song rushes through different emotions: violent anger, a painful cry, a calm realisation. It’s perfect, it’s what Lorde has always been: a strange take on the normal. Yet this song feels disconnected from the album’s concept. Does it fit into the idea of a house party? I question whether the album would’ve been better without a concept at all. 

Supercut could have been sung by anyone, but Lorde made it her own. It’s all our imperfections in a relationship, imagining things the way we wish we’d done them, not the way we had. Memories that plague us, not because they’re sad, but because they could’ve been so much happier. Who’d have thought this would make a decent dance song? It’s simple, but maybe it should be. 

I don’t like interlude tracks. Liability (Reprise) makes me feel a bit cheated. Though it may be those insecurities from Liability creeping back, weaker though no less persuasive. I’m not sure the song needed a revisit, Liability is so perfect that I think it’s reprise undermines that. It has nice sounds, I’ll give it that. 

As a song to close the album, Perfect Places is stellar. It’s all about intoxication, those places we go to pretend everything’s good, to dance our troubles away. It’s those places we are with our friends and we’re dancing together and we’re lost together and we love each other. It’s quieting the stress we’re feeling by doing these silly little things “blow my brains out to the radio“. Lorde ends the album in a similar way to Pure Heroine, by speaking in a raspy voice. She asks a question, it’s an answer she’s still searching for. If you immediately listen to Green Light after this, it becomes apparent that she’s doing her makeup in someone else’s car, heading to the party to find the answer. The album’s feel changes, Melodrama is a question: “What the fuck are perfect places anyway?

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3 thoughts on “Melodrama: In Depth

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