Ella O’Connor, better known as Lorde, is only 20-years-old and her sophomore album Melodrama is a celebration of youth. NewMusicFriday.me talks you through why this record is so, so special…
Melodrama winds around house parties, drinking, falling in out and love and then the heartbreak that follows. Just as she did with debut album Pure Heroine, Lorde pushes the boundaries of pop music, intrinsically pouring herself into every nook and cranny of every note and every breath.
The plot of a house party, where the most raucous and most vulnerable moments of youth are experienced, makes up the plot of this concept album and is something Lorde is aware of:
“Even when I’m at a party, I’m analyzing it and thinking about it in the context of how I should write about it. The side of me never switches off.”
Lorde uses the highs and lows of the night to parallel the journey through a relationship to a break-up, which she herself had experienced just before embarking on the Melodrama writing process. Lead single ‘Green Light’ opens the record and sees Lorde start by reflecting back on heartbreak, fully recovered, with a disco beat that is insanely infectious. It packs a punch too. Lyrics such as “well those great whites, they have big teeth” are menacing and the euphoric shout of “that green light, I want it” make it clear that Lorde is back with a purpose.
‘Sober’ follows whose production is so complex, impressive and futuristic yet remains so relevant. Producer and Bleachers lead-singer Jack Antonoff deserves credit here for his miraculous work on Melodrama. Lorde herself has said that “I would never have done that on Pure Heroine” and that growth in bravery and confidence in her own craft is evident throughout Melodrama. ‘Sober’ is the start of the house party and reflects the “hot mess” of the affair, in the songstress’ on words, repeatedly asking herself “but what would we do when we’re sober?” Both in the lyrics and sound, youth’s effort to mask vulnerability in overconfidence to to fit in is reflected. If Melodrama could be summed up in one track, this would be it as one line, “we pretend that we just don’t care – but we care”, shows particularly powerfully.
If Melodrama could be summed up in one track, this would be it as one line, “we pretend that we just don’t care – but we care”, shows particularly powerfully.
From this moment on, the journey really begins. ‘Homemade Dynamite’, premiered at Coachella earlier this year, is cocky, teasing and brave. Being inspired by “friends” and “drink” to feel like “homemade dynamite” is relatable for all teens turning into young adults, an experience which Lorde at 20 writes about with a hindsight far beyond her years. The track was written with Tove Lo, known for her care-free attitude, and leaps straight onto the dancefloor with Lorde admitting that:
“Sometimes it’s just about wrapping your arms around your friends shoulders and being drunk and being into the same song”
The fourth track on Melodrama steals the show and is our pick of the week here at NewMusicFriday.me. It’s unlike anything you’ve ever heard before and has such a strong aura around it. It makes young listeners look at themselves, cry at the imperfection of young love, then laugh at the beauty of the hopelessness – Lorde describes it as “infuriating but perfect”. It’s one of those tracks that you hear and never forget where you were when you first did. The lines “Our thing progresses, I call and you come through / Blow all my friendships to sit in hell with you / But we’re the greatest, they’ll hang us in The Louvre / Down the back, but who cares, still The Louvre” is probably the most original and poignant thing you will hear this year. Lorde is saying that when we are young, we will give up anything to achieve something. Even if that is just hanging on a wall for no-one to see, we still feel proud because we are hanging somewhere.
It makes young listeners look at themselves, cry at the imperfection of young love, then laugh at the beauty of the hopelessness – Lorde describes it as “infuriating but perfect”.
With ‘Liability’ and ‘Hard Feelings/Loveless’ Lorde shows us her most vulnerable side whilst sidelined at a party, “everyone has a moment feeling like they are too much for everyone”. ‘Liability’ sees a bearing of her soul in a painful out-of-body experience as being watched as “one girl, swaying along, stroking her cheek”. The intrinsic putting together of Melodrama is evident yet again with a single piano note being missed to add a moment of tenderness at one point.
Initially, the transition from ‘Liability’ to ‘Hard Feelings/Loveless’ was meant to be a short clip of Lorde leaving the party, locking herself in a room and laying down her emotions on her own. However, that theatricality was dropped in recording and is simply implied. ‘Hard Feelings’ doubles up as a break-up song too with bodies feeling “young and blue” rather than the “dynamite” before. “I guess I should go” she muses, debating whether to leave her lover or leave the party, wherever you listen from. The same track bounds into another song in ‘Loveless’ whose “I’m gunna tear your shit up attitude”, as Lorde describes it, is a comically sardonic reflection on a youthful “l-o-v-e-l-e-s-s generation” that the songstress spells out.
The ‘Sober II (Melodrama)’ interlude serves as an intense closing of the house party story, perfectly sandwiching it between the two ‘Sober’ tracks. It’s an exhausted look back on the events so far in Melodrama as “cleaning up the champagne glasses” takes place. Lorde reflects how “they’ll talk about us, all the lovers, how we kissed and killed each other” but has spoken how, ironically, “you knew exactly what you were getting into” back at ‘Sober’. Another damning, yet loving reflection on youth’s carelessness.
The final Melodrama tracks neatly close the album. Lorde’s voice is the strongest it’s ever been on ‘Writer In The Dark’ whose simple instrumentals really allow the singer’s voice to soar. It’s almost witch-like as she croons, “I bet you rue the day you kissed a writer in the dark”. The song is incredibly personal. Lorde speaks of being her “mother’s child”, her mother being a poet, and that “I’ll love you ’till my breathing stops”. This reflects the way the relationship will always be alive in her music, likely as her mother’s are in her poetry. ‘Writer In The Dark’ steps back from the intense scrutiny of young life and comes firmly from within.
‘Supercut’ is the closest to the opening ‘Green Light’ and has remnants of the pumping track ‘Ribs’ from Pure Heroine. It was one of the last songs written for the record and one of the few where Lorde speaks directly to someone, “you’re not what you thought you were”. It’s the closing of and reflecting on a relationship which made the singer feel as if she had “said everything” once recorded.
The Melodrama journey ends with a final flourish with a reprise of ‘Liability’ and the realisation that the self-inflicting loneliness of the original track is actually something we all suffer from at one point in our lives, giving the record a firm sense of closure. ‘Perfect Places’ is the final track on the record and is brilliantly euphoric. Lorde uses the adjectives “big”, “bright”, “loud” and “exciting” to describe the track and those certainly make sense. After moving from “dynamite” to a “liability” and experiencing the heartbreak in between, ‘Perfect Places’ gives the sense that the singer is looking back on her life, years later. She realises that these feelings seemed so important then, when “young and ashamed” and wanting to “go to perfect places”, but in reality “what the fuck are perfect places anyway”. ‘Perfect Places’, and in essence Melodrama, is a celebration of youth’s ability to feel all these intense emotions and just get lost in them before having to grow up.
‘Perfect Places’, and in essence Melodrama, is a celebration of youth’s ability to feel all these intense emotions and just get lost in them before having to grow up.