David Bowie knew something that we didn’t know four years ago. He knew Lorde was the future of music. While the Kiwi artist’s cohesive debut album Pure Heroine was good, it was hardly enough to solidify her as one of the greats. Four years later though, with the release of her second album Melodrama, it’s clear that he was right. Lorde has poignancy and ambition. A magnetism to the strange, a gentle eye for the tender and a microscope for lyrical detail. And Melodrama highlights all of that.
Lorde could have had the greatest pop songwriters working on this album. Max Martin, Julia Michaels, Sia or any of those top tier hit-makers would’ve happily jumped on board. Instead, she kept it comfortable. She worked on every song with Jack Antonoff, forming a special bond, the type you need too when you’re going to spill every intimate detail of the past three years.
Melodrama opens with lead-single Green Light. An unlikely pop song that throws the pop format out the window in pursuit of the perfect mix of melancholy and euphoria. On Pure Heroine she made sweeping generalisations about escaping her little world but on Melodrama she looks you straight in the eye and sings, “She thinks you love the beach, you’re such a damn liar.” All the while, disco keys illuminate and a beat pumps as she attempts to escape and get over a break-up.
On this record, Lorde attaches every one of her emotions to a certain setting or a point in the evening. Sober pinpoints that the moment of a party when movements are in slow-motion as kinetic energy pulls you towards strangers and you feel tall as giants. Liability positions her alone in her home, plagued by the idea that no one likes her. Lorde knows this is dramatic. She called the album Melodrama after all, but she doesn’t shun these teenage emotions in favour of something more mature. She embraces them. Plays with them.
She’s also not afraid to be humorous with her hyperboles. On The Louvre, which recounts the giddy rush of the beginning of a relationship, she sings, “They’ll hang us in the Louvre/Down the back, but who cares – still the Louvre.” She pairs grandeur with comedic timing and manages to make a metaphor as grand as the Louvre feel small, intimate. “Broadcast the boom, boom, boom, boom and make them all dance to it,” she sings as a muted, throbbing beat once again places her in the middle of a dancefloor. Antonoff’s Springsteen-like guitars then pull us out of that and reach for something more epic as the night fades.
As a teenager, there’s a sense that you’ll find somewhere you belong, where everything feels right. And yet, nothing ever quite matches your exception. The rousing closer Perfect Places details this poignantly. In the high of the party, she’s found it but once she’s sober she concludes, “what the fuck are perfect places anyway?” It’s this realisation that perfect places are relative that form Lorde’s wisest moments. On heart-tugger Writer In The Dark, the orchestral instrumental sweeps higher as she sings, “I love it here, since I stopped needing you.” In that moment, it’s a love song for New York rather than a damning breakup song. New York is a perfect place, even if its momentary. When Lorde hits the upper-echelons of her vocal on Writer In The Dark it’s simply stunning and a reminder of just how willing she is to push every facet of her artistry.
Like every night, for each high Lorde recounts there’s a sobering low to go with it. “Lights are on and they’ve gone home, but who am I?” she sings moments after declaring she’s, “psycho high.” It’s fine to be feel like you’re conquering the world in the swell of a luminous night but it’s the morning when you have to pick up the pieces and find your purpose. “You’re not what you thought you were,” she sings on the haunting Liability (Reprise) but as dramatic as this is, the euphoric moments on Melodrama reassure teenage Lorde that it’s ok.
One of those euphoric moments is the pulsating Supercut, a song that soundtracks a mental montage of all the good things of her past relationship. The song bounces and speeds like the fury of love. It’s an admission that sometimes she’s wrong, a feeling that she should take her ex back as the good memories haunt her mind. It’s just another part of the healing process, one that we follow Lorde on throughout the record.
Lorde said Green Light is the drunk girl at the party who is messy because she’s attempting to get over an ex. “That’s her tonight and tomorrow she starts to rebuild,” she explained on Genius and that’s the concept the record revolves around. It’s about embracing the night time frenzy and letting it go in the morning.
Sure, we can say this is a record of teenage emotion but that would be underselling it. There’s something everyone can take from Melodrama. Embrace every emotion, chase the high but accept the low and know that your search for perfect places is fun but endless.
This record is a masterpiece. It takes in every detail (the weather, the setting, the feeling) and translate it with unfiltered emotional honesty. It has an intimacy that puts you close to the author but a perspective that makes wider realisations about being a young woman, and a human being.
Bowie was right. Lorde is the future of music.