Melodrama by Lorde
by Kelli Galayda
Lorde is quickening her climb up the ladder of pop stardom with her latest release, Melodrama—a collage of young adulthood and summertime beats that are sure to grant her a steady spot on Top 40 radio this season. A clear step away from the teenage dreams of Pure Heroine, Lorde’s new record fully reveals her hidden talent of hit-making and emotional intelligence, cranking up her sound and omnipresence in the pop landscape to an all-time high.
The starting track, “Green Light,” has already reaped success as a single on the charts, with a catchy piano hook and an earworm chorus. It is certainly not, however, the strongest song on the album. What the track does is create a new persona for Lorde, one that has experienced more of life and thus, by way of protection, dons a fresh coat of reinforced armor. This sets her apart from the wide-eyed teenager we came to know through Pure Heroine. Although "Green Light" is successful in grounding Lorde in a person more self-actualized, it still that uniqueness which makes the artist stand out from the rest of today’s pop category - her tendency to contrast house-inspired, darkly ambient beats with heavy, but often hopeful, emotional intelligence.
Track two, “Sober," takes advantage of the bongo beat that’s grown popular on the airwaves in recent years, creating massive potential for major radio play this summer. Through this track, the album begins digging deeper into the mind of Lorde, or Ella Yelich-O'Connor, peeling back layers of her young life in the spotlight to show the vibrant individual at the bottom of it all. The repeated line, “What will we do when we’re sober?," asks the questions any young adult with liquor on their lips has probably asked themselves at some point: how do we handle the low that comes after that high?
The next track is one of the strongest on Melodrama. If Lorde wasn’t coming back full force already on this sophomore debut, she proves her drive with “Homemade Dynamite," a powerhouse pop melody that forces the listener out of their seat and onto the dance floor. The surreal synths and encapsulating production of the piece as a whole makes it unlike any other song you’ll find on the charts today. The song is catchy, upbeat, funky, and a combination of cool and new that’s just perfect enough to make it an irresistible jam for the teenage crowd, or the ideal backdrop for Millennials in the club. Seriously, who doesn’t want to blow “shit up with homemade d-d-d-dynamite?”
In a rather contrasting matter, next comes “The Louvre,” a confessional love letter that mixes emotional guitars with ethereal house beats. Slower, heavy bass underline the harmonies that lead into a chorus which strays away from the emotion built up in the song’s verses. The hook, “Broadcast the boom, boom, boom, boom, and make them all dance to it," forms a clashing juxtaposition between deep-rooted emotion and dance club lyricism that exhibits the ways in which fame tends to turn the personal into the public. The line, “Can you hear the violence? / Megaphone to my chest,” further showcases how, as an artist, Lorde’s emotions are spoken loudly and clearly to her audience, putting her life up for communal examination.
In “Liability,” the intimacy of Lorde's psychological self is revealed, as if she's casually dropping lines from her diary for us to catch and grapple with. Piano notes lull the song into a melody, where her baritone voice hums words from the deep crevices of a songwriter’s heart: “he don’t want to know me / said he made the big mistake of dancing in my storm / says it was poison.” This song stands out as having the most lyrical depth on Melodrama, as here, Lorde seems to truly speak her mind, and lets go of any reservations that kept the previous songs on the record more ambiguous in regard to deep emotional development.
Then, the album sets off on a sort of dull streak in regards to song production. “Hard Feelings/Loveless” features cool, ghostly beats, similar to the sounds of Pure Heroine, and although it is quite catchy, it somewhat lacks the instantaneous encapsulating blare notable of a more memorable track. The streak continues with “Sober II (Melodrama)," which again lacks the intensity that could immediately capture a crowd and yet also falls short in the nostalgic teenage lyric department. It is almost as if Lorde has become too intimate through this track, talking in tongues only discernable to her own ear, which puts “Sober II” in an empty space between songs that seems impossible for audiences to reach.
The dullness endures with “Writer In The Dark," as Lorde steps back into the ballad region with this song. Her voice sounds screechy and otherworldly on the high notes, and creepily dim on the low ones. The song itself, however, is intricate and interesting, and is lyrically a step toward the levels of “Liability," as Lorde opens the curtain on her “darkest hours” and shows the world the depth with which her love can take hold.
Then comes “Supercut,” which is a slow burn. It is definitely not as stellar and shattering as the beginning hits of the album, but after a few listens, it becomes addicting, revealing the feelings of young love that most anyone can relate to. Lyrics such as, “I'll be your quiet afternoon crush / Be your violent overnight rush,” are evocative of the ways love tangles up our hearts and makes us feel wildly out of our control. But, as Lorde says, those are just “supercuts” of relationships, framing only bits and pieces of the true complexities love creates.
The tenth track on the record, “Liability (Reprise),” just seems like Lorde taking some time for exploration on Melodrama by playing around with her voice and various experimental beats and synths. There’s not too much to grab onto, but hearing the ominous noises emitted by music machines provides easy listening and an entrancing experience to ease audiences into the final song.
Melodrama comes to an end with yet another quintessential summer anthem. “Perfect Places” has it all—the lyrics, the beats, the hooks—everything it would need to be the song that carries us through the dog days of heat waves. It showcases Lorde’s true musical and emotional intelligence.
Lorde has emphatically made her return to the stage known through Melodrama, while molding her new sound with house beats and pop riffs that will unquestionably stick out in the minds of listeners across the globe. It is reminiscent of summertime love, of sun glares on sticky days, of sweaty palms that melt together, of long, hot, sleepless nights, and the cool breeze that tickles warm skin under frail bedsheets. It is loss, passion, pain, hope, misunderstanding, and a thirst for the future. It is Melodrama, in every sense of the word.
— Kelli Galayda is a recent graduate of Monmouth University, where she studied Communications and served as the Editor in Chief of The Verge, an online student-run magazine. Currently, she works as a freelance photographer, writer, and artist. You can follow her on Instagram @kkagey, or find her writing at kgalayda.wordpress.com.