Four long years after her debut album, Pure Heroine, Lorde is back at it with the highly anticipated Melodrama. The twenty year old New Zealander worked with producer Jack Antonoff (who also plays in bands fun. and Bleachers) on her sophomore record. This complex and musically detailed album left me sitting in my garage long after I turned off the engine. I’ll admit I was skeptical about the upcoming album- would it stray more into the Top 40s genre of pop music? Would it live up to the 2013 album that I’m still not over? After hearing the first single, “Green Light,” in March, I was hopeful for this album to evoke the same sense of comfort and familiarity for me, just as Pure Heroine did.
Unlike Pure Heroine, which was written and recorded in Lorde’s hometown of Auckland, Melodrama was primarily written in New York City. Lorde admitted to enjoying the anonymity she experienced in NYC, which released some of the pressure of writing an album. While a similar coming of age theme is prevalent in the two albums, Lorde adds a new facet of solitude to Melodrama. The artist lyrically puts the listener in specific places—a party, a car, an empty living room—and emphasizes the intimacy of those locations, bringing out the good and bad parts of being alone.
The second track off the album, “Sober,” describes a relatable party scene. That’s the great thing about Lorde—she takes the mundane, and turns it into this amazing melody and gives it meaning and emotion. The slowly building synth into the chorus and the high pitched sample repeating “midnight, lose my mind” really made this song for me. I think I audibly gasped out loud in public when the blaring brass came in on this track.
“Homemade Dynamite” brings home that signature Lorde sound—her light, wispy voice atop a unique, sporadic melody made up of a menagerie of musical instruments.
The title track left me in awe. As a second part to the previously mentioned “Sober,” it describes what’s left over after everyone has left the party. The beautiful yet slightly sad string and piano opening sets the feeling for this song. The overall theme of being alone, but not lonely is touched upon in the line: “Lights are on and they’ve gone home/ But who am I?” As cliche as that question may seem, it relates to something Lorde said in an interview with NPR: “I need to know that I’ll feel like I represented myself and what I believe in with dignity.” In order for Lorde to accomplish that, she needs to answer that question. Just watching Lorde perform one song, it is easy to tell that she pours her heart and soul into these tracks, and as listeners, we get to watch her grow as an artist and as a person. Back to the track, because I cannot get enough of it—it has a similar pitch to the sample I talked about in “Sober,” except the lines in this track are: “Oh how fast the evening passes/ Cleaning up the champagne glasses.” The pitch and tempo of that line make it quite catchy. Not only does the dramatic melody make this a standout track, it is lyrically unique as well.
“Writer in the Dark” could be mistaken for a Kate Bush song, thanks to the melodic piano keys matched with Lorde’s vocals. This song and “Hard Feelings/Loveless” are the two tracks on the album that specifically deal with love. The artist went through a break up in 2015, and while some tracks deal with processing the emotions that follow a relationship cycle, Lorde insists that Melodrama is not a breakup album. The lyrics in this track show the artist getting back on her feet after dealing with those emotions, claiming, “I love it here since I’ve stopped needing you.”
In “Liability,” we get this stripped down version of Lorde, her delicate vocals accompanied by a lone piano. Stylistically, this is the most different track, followed by “Writer in the Dark,” because listeners are so used to hearing Lorde’s vocals on top of these intricate melodies. Here, we’re given her voice and a single musical attribute. The reprise offers a self-reflective perspective from the artist as she lulls over some of the same lyrics from “Liability,” but with more than just a piano.
All in all, Melodrama delivered the signature Lorde sound, but at the same time distinguished itself from Pure Heroine. The sophomore album puts the artist into the action of her lyrics and lets her experience each vignette—unlike her debut, where she remained on sidelines and described stories as someone watching things unravel, Melodrama puts Lorde in the front seat as the person who writes her own story.