Album Review: Lorde's Magical Melodrama
It’s always a funny thing when new albums come out. Especially during a week where multiple albums are released and I get to watch my timeline go in a downward scroll of emotions and often terrible musical opinions. All of us consume music differently. Whether it be our favorite headphones, studio monitors, portable speaker, or simply just the internal speakers of our smartphones. Regardless of our method of consumption, however, we all digest music relatively the same. We all have the same basis of emotions and nothing is better than music to surface those emotions no matter what you could have been feeling prior to pressing play. Which is why I always feel somewhat of a connection with people when they take a liking to a particular artist that I enjoy, as well. Lorde is one of those artists.
Sophomore albums always intrigue me because of the anticipation that goes into trying to figure out if an artist will stick with the same formula as their debut album, or if they go in a completely different direction. Most artists tend to tweak the formula just a bit while others stray from their starting point causing the inevitable “sophomore slump.” Although rare, it is also possible for an artist to stick with what worked the first time around while even adding a little something I like to call “holyshitWTF” which of course takes the album to an entirely different level than the rest. Melodrama is one of those albums.
Starting the album with ‘Green Light’ is a decision that even Ella (Lorde) herself said was “different, kinda unexpected, complex, and funny, and sad, and joyous” which is pretty much a solid description of Melodrama as a whole but is also an accurate description for the intro, as well. The best way I can put it is beautiful bipolarity. ‘Green Light’ is, at its surface, a song about the tidal wave of emotions one goes through at the conclusion of a relationship and the rush we always want to be in to feel the happiness after all of the sadness.
However, since alcohol is often a tool for some of us to get to that next part, we have to deal with a bit of regression and ‘Sober’ tackles all the truths of that subject by the time the hook kicks us in the gut. “These are the games of the weekend. We pretend that we just don’t care. But we care. What will we do when we’re sober?
Although, once you reach a certain level of drunk while you’re out with friends post-bad-breakup, you start to feel slightly invincible and ‘Homemade Dynamite’ was made exactly in the essence of that feeling. “Our rules, our dreams, we’re blind…our friends, our drinks, we get inspired. Blowing shit up with homemade dynamite.” We’ve all been there before, you’re not fooling anyone.
Up until this point of Melodrama, I knew this album would be up to par with her debut, Pure Heroine, but ’The Louvre’ is where Ella added the “holyshitWTF” recipe I spoke of earlier. “Our thing progresses, I call and you come through. Blow all my friendships to sit in hell with you but we’re the greatest.” This is one of those moments where it feels like your favorite artist has secretly been surveilling you from afar because the topic hits a little too close to home but she didn’t stop there. ‘Liability’ was the only song on the album it took me a little extra time to come around to. Not because the song isn’t great (it’s beautiful), but because it was just a little too honest for me to stomach (it still is). Ella called ‘Liability’ a “strange little sister of the album” which is fair considering it’s placement and drastic change of pace. But she also said the song “freaked and grossed her out at first” because of the place her honesty made her travel to which is also fair considering a verse that consists of, “The truth is I am a toy that people enjoy. ’Til all of the tricks don't work anymore. And then they are bored of me. Every perfect summer’s eating me alive until you’re gone. Better on my own.” There go those darn feelings again…
My second favorite track of Melodrama, ‘Hard Feelings,’ is sort of like a “grab-and-go” of emotions hidden in the genius of Ella’s songwriting. Lyrics like, “I care for myself the way I used to care about you,” or “Why even try to get right? When you’ve outgrown a lover. The whole world knows but you,” or how about, “It was real for me, yup, real for me. Now I’ll fake it every single day ’til I don’t need fantasy, ’til I feel you leave.” I promise I’m not looking around this room for hidden video cameras right now, but I might be. The song even features a second half titled ‘Loveless’ where Ella may or may not be playfully describing how crazy she can get after a breakup but you don’t really care after what the first half of the record just did to you.
Now, jumping right into my absolute track of the record, ‘Sober II (Melodrama)’ is the exact moment I knew, without a doubt, Lorde has written her best body of work. ‘Pure Heroine' was great, the soundtrack for ‘Hunger Games’ that she curated was elegant, but ‘Melodrama’ is in a class of its own brilliance. The beginning of the song starts off with a beautiful progression of haunting violins before Lorde gracefully enters the song singing over soft piano chords, “You asked if I was feeling it, I’m psycho high. Know you won’t remember in the morning when I speak my mind.” Ella softly sings you into a trance a bit longer before cascading drums prepare you for a complete change of pace and a heavy bassline of 808’s and cracking snares takeover and Lorde rises into her own. The only way I can describe ‘Sober II’ is Lorde’s very own tweet where she describes her album as “a witch casting album love spells” and that is exactly what this song is.
As the album starts to come to a close, another favorite by the name of ‘Writer In The Dark’ showcases a vocal range from Lorde while she also tries her hardest to tell the world she’s going to be alright, and she’s right. “I still feel you, now and then. When you see me, will you say I’ve changed? I let the seasons change my mind. I love it here since I’ve stopped needing you,” Ella sings, almost as if she’s lost her voice from all the convincing she’s been doing this album while also kicking you in the gut on the way out.
Lorde could have ended the album at nine songs with ‘Supercut’ and, as a fan, I would have been completely okay with that because it’s a perfect song to not only describe the rollercoaster that this album is but is also feels like the sort of song that characters in a movie would play as they ride out into the sunset in opposite directions. ‘Supercut’ also not only wraps up the album in terrifyingly hopeful way, but it’s also a perfect summary of what all good relationships are when you look back on them years later while you’re still trying to figure out what love is and isn’t, and all you have left of what you thought it was are random memories that pop into your head often without any warning at all.
However, Lorde didn’t stop at ‘Supercut’ as she gives fans a reprised version of ‘Liability’ that sounds every bit of beautiful as the original version and even offers up an alternate take where something someone once thought was a liability was actually an asset that nobody paid attention to before. “Whatcha gonna do? All of the dreams get harder. All of the things that I offer you…You’re not what you thought you were.”
‘Perfect Places’ was Melodrama’s third single and also serves as the outro for the album, a song that perfectly depicts where Lorde appears to be in all of her performances and interviews as of late and, if that is the case, I could not be any more happy for her.
At the conclusion of Melodrama, Ella sounds like a 20-year-old who has seen her fair share of tough love and is ready to let Lorde take over and have some fun, as she should and certainly deserves after listening to this album. From the production to the songwriting to the arrangements, Melodrama is Lorde’s most beautiful work of art to date and ends the album on the most excellent note I could never come up with.
“All the nights spent off our faces. Trying to find these perfect places. What the fuck are perfect places anyway?”