Review: Lorde 'Melodrama'

I’m not under any illusions, reader. This isn’t the first Melodrama review you’ve seen. I know how unlikely it is that you’ve managed to plug your ears to the last week’s rising cacophony of criticism, each music journalist vying for the prize of most read Lorde review. The crux of pretty much each and every one of those pieces, as I’m sure you already know, is that Melodrama is a masterpiece. Luckily for you, this particular critic is here to blow that assertion out of the water with some brand new opinions.

Lol jk obviously not.  

I mean it’s not even a big surprise is it? All the evidence pointed here. Lorde a.k.a. Ella Yelich-O'Connor’s 2013 debut Pure Heroine was a perfectly imperfect mixture of the irreverent lyricism of unadulterated youth and melodies to match. If anything at all was going to spell trouble for Melodrama, it’s that Pure Heroine was too good. The ‘difficult second album’ trope is a trope for a reason, many excellent songwriters having crumbled under the pressure to live up to their own hype. In the case of Lorde’s second album, not only did she have to live up to the success of her first, she also had to deal with the fact that the content of the first was entirely disinterested in the trappings of the success she’d go on to enjoy. It was an album about driving late with boys, getting drunk, and running around with her friends in their favourite New Zealand haunts. Once her album had gone multi-platinum, and she’d made her inevitable entrance into the world she’d previously mocked, how was she going to be able to maintain the authenticity that made her such a star in the first place?

It was a needless concern. On Melodrama Lorde is still singing about getting hammered, getting with guys, and dancing with her shoes off. The fact that these themes still feel honest is that she doesn’t shy away from the relationship between her personal life and her pop stardom. The album loosely chronicles the rise and fall of a relationship, whose demise is thanks to the very fact of Lorde’s fame. The first flush of love inspires her to write, as she sings on ‘The Louvre’: ‘Megaphone to my chest / Broadcast the boom boom boom boom / and make ‘em all dance to it.’ It doesn’t last though, and her heart gets trampled by the one who made it beat so hard when he begins to resent the fact that she’s an artist on ‘Writer In The Dark’. Even having attained pop stardom, she’s still getting shafted just like the rest of us have at one time or another. The reasons might differ, but the effect remains the same.

This kind of self-deprecating honesty and openness is Lorde’s modus operandi, and on Melodrama that extends as much to herself as it does to her audience. On the extraordinarily well-produced ‘Sober’, Lorde tells a lover ‘it’s time we danced with the truth’, as she exposes a relationship that exists only in the night time haze. She’s happy to lay herself bare on ‘Liability’, her 2017 version of ‘Dancing on My Own’, in which she comes face to face with herself, accepting that she’s the only person she can really rely on. On ‘Supercut’, the scale lives up to the album’s title, Lorde recognises that her memories of a past relationship are misrepresentative of reality.

Lorde’s success is in no small part born of her relatability. It’s testament to her lyrical ability that she manages to maintain that on Melodrama, remaining absolutely the kind of person we, the listeners, feel like we want to go out and get drunk with. In an industry in which pop can so often feel cold and calculated, with middle aged men writing bland simulacra of youth experiences, it’s easy to dismiss pop music as cynical and throwaway. Lorde’s pop is of a totally different kind. She embraces the sound, but imbues it with such an abundance of head and heart that it’s impossible not to find real life in it.

Find Anna on Twitter at @annaerichmond