By Cole Parker
Pure Heroine, the debut album released by sixteen year-old Kiwi, and soon-to-be pop superstar Lorde, defined the sound of nearly every young up-and-coming female pop act since it was released four years ago. It’s downbeat, brooding mood tapped into something culturally and labels have been desperate to try and capture some of its nocturnal magic. Take this as proof of Pure Heroine’s reach: The album led the late David Bowie to call Lorde “the future of music.”
Melodrama is Lorde’s (née Ella Yelich-O’Connor) return to the spotlight, and an evolution of her sound.
Jack Antonoff, a fellow Billboard influencer, and his lush, highly-detailed production have mostly taken the place of longtime collaborator Joel Little’s bedroom beats. Pure Heroine’s sound was sparse. Melodrama is instead tightly packed with instrumentation and synth textures, with few exceptions.
The album’s sound is still very focused on Lorde. The flourishes of horns, the sonic shifts and dense vocal layering accentuate the vocals rather than step on or muddle them.
Her charm cuts through it all. She mimics a boom in “Homemade Dynamite” and it feels like a good friend playfully mocking a favourite song. In the unusually bubbly “The Louvre,” the eponymous moment is giggle-inducing. These moments stand out because of the introspective maturity that make up the majority of Melodrama’s lyrical content.
Antonoff’s presence is definitely noticeable, especially on the first single for the record “Green Light.” The piano-driven intro and follow-ups “Sober,” and the hormonal “Homemade Dynamite,” make up the house party that Lorde says runs throughout the record, while the rest of it feels like the comedown or hangover the next day.
That Sunday morning mood continues, as Lorde delves deep into her own psyche and examines the album’s central emotion; heartbreak.
While Pure Heroine was about killing boring nights as a teen with the one closest to you in the suburbs, Melodrama is about searching for ways to cope when that person leaves. For Lorde, that manifests as drugs, partying, debauchery and scapegoating. She finds others to blame, be it her long gone lover, or her unstable life brought about by her newly-found celebrity.
Lorde doesn’t just accept her fame, she interrogates it and how it’s affected her, her life and her relationships. It’s a theme she’s touched on before with Pure Heroine cut “Still Sane,” but it runs central to Melodrama. She blames her break-up and her feelings of alienation on it.
In the hypothetical coming-of-age film adaptation of Melodrama, her ultra-supportive best friend would be played by the radio. Music is her only source of comfort. She dances away the pain, closes her eyes and basks in it as she “blows the speakers,” and writes it down in song and broadcasts it to the world.
That’s what Melodrama is. The musical journal of one of today’s most talented young stars; perfectly produced, but intimate enough that it feels like a conversation. A pop album this affecting has to come from someone who is deeply affected by the genre and understands how it can overwhelm our emotions and soundtrack our most cherished memories.Lorde, Melodrama, Record Review, Republic Records