Your teenage years and your twenties. It’s an age where everything is exciting and amazing, yet feels intensely serious and formative at the same time. We’re all just trying to figure out what we’re doing, where we’re going: whilst being judged and scrutinised by seemingly anyone and everyone.
There aren’t many mainstream artists out there who tackle these kinds of feelings, with Taylor Swift and HAIM being the two big names who first come to mind (and just think of the shit they get given by society for addressing these emotions, too). Lorde, a 20 year old singer-songwriter from New Zealand, is one of those artists as well.
Her sophomore album Melodrama is a beautiful, pop-filled explosion of the thoughts and feelings that come with being a girl in your twenties. It embraces and celebrates them completely, in a refreshingly unashamed manner. Even the title of the album itself takes on an insult society commonly throws at women – “you’re so melodramatic”, we’re told as we dare express ourselves – and instead uses it positively as the title for this celebration of teenage emotions. The album is about growing up, as well as her first major break up, and it’s clear that Lorde rightly isn’t going to listen to anyone who tells her to shut up and stop being dramatic. Emotions are a part of life, and she’s here to express herself.
Album opener Green Light plunges us straight into this kaleidoscope of feelings, discussing the pain of breaking up with your first love. Speaking to Zane Lowe on Radio 1, Lorde explained that the track was about “those little stupid things” that you gravitate towards after a breakup, citing the lyric “She thinks you love the beach, you’re such a damn liar.” Coupled with the overarching honesty of the album, it’s small details like this which make Melodrama such an easily accessible record – almost everyone has been in this position before. The power and intensity of Lorde’s Kate Bush-esque vocals (just take a look at the chorus of Writer In The Dark) force you to listen and take her seriously, effectively portraying the sheer depth of her emotions. No matter how brutally raw the lyrics are, she never sounds anything less than strong. Just take a listen to Liability, where Lorde admits that “I understand, I’m a liability” but ends up accepting that she’ll do her own thing: “You’re all gonna watch me disappear into the sun”, and will ultimately look after herself first anyway.
Melodrama embraces pop just as much as it embraces teenage emotion, and this is epitomised in Green Light. Don’t expect straightforward, bubble-gum pop, though – Lorde still retains the unique edginess found on her debut album, Pure Heroine. Sober and Homemade Dynamite beautifully showcase this, featuring catchy pop choruses yet interesting electronic arrangements. The electronic, echoing backing vocals are reminiscent of those scattered across Taylor Swift’s 1989. This is no surprise considering fun.’s Jack Antonoff is credited as co-producer on both albums, although Lorde’s tracks in general are undeniably more moody and brooding.
Although there is a beauty to be appreciated in the artful electronic layers found throughout Melodrama, the tracks which are more focused on the instruments and backing music sadly tend to be the weaker ones. The first verse of The Louvre builds up masterfully, working with the lyrics to begin to layer up the song. However, it all quickly falls apart in the chorus when both the vocals and the music suddenly seem to be fighting for attention, ruining the steady build up the listener has been drawn into. Separately, both the music and instrumentals have great potential, but seem to detract from one another when put together. Liability and Writer In The Dark are two of the strongest and heartfelt tracks on the album, and are the most simplistic in terms of background music, too.
Ultimately, Melodrama successfully builds on the whirlwind success of Pure Heroine. Lorde seemingly came from nowhere with her first single Royals, but Melodrama firmly proves that she’s here to stay.