By Patrick Dalziel (@JoyDscvryPaddy)
When Lorde first released Pure Heroine at 17, she instantly gained notoriety for her cutting art pop. Rightfully so, her debut was exceptional, and after a long four year wait we finally have a follow up LP. Coming in the form of “Melodrama” the new album is big, bold and devastating. More realised and confident, it is a fitting follow on to everything Lorde embodies.
Her debut was a meticulous subtle attack on celebrity lifestyles and youthful obsession. Now on Melodrama the focus has shifted. No longer an outsider looking in, Lorde has had to find a new angle to approach the topics from. What we’re presented here is far closer to an album of coping mechanisms: from the partying extravagance of opener Green Light to the fixated love within The Louvre, this feels very much like a handwritten guide of how to survive high society New York.
It’s an interesting idea, and one that is reflected in the production. Everything is pushed slightly too loud, hiding some of the more complex melodies that would have been championed previously. Potentially this could be a statement from the singer regarding originality in the pop world, where regurgitation rules over innovation. The desperation to avoid this heavily inspiring the songs within Melodrama. Take for example, Homemade Dynamite, a slow burner that gradually adds layers of noise and detail through it’s run time to create a sense of infatuation. It’s loud, over the top but still has a sense of restrain applied to it and upon deeper inspection is remarkably introspective. What we’re seeing here is a refusal to dilute the message while appealing to a massive market. A risk that could have gone very wrong.
When the first single, Green Light, was released many worried that her trademark intensity and honesty would diminish in favour of going bombastic. This definitely isn’t the case, though, given that her influences include Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell, crushing lows accompanying the extreme highs, most notably on Sober and Writer in the Dark, both of which are sombre moments of clarity in the hedonistic landscape of Melodrama. Sober, coming straight after the pounding Green Light, is a slow paced hangover to the opener’s exuberance. Whilst the latter is one of the best stand out tracks present, it begins as what feels like a callback to Pure Heroine, before taking a completely unexpected but welcome shift. It’s here we see who has possibly had the largest impact on Lorde during the writing process, Kate Bush, with the vocals on the chorus sounding heavily inspired by Bush’s early works such as Wuthering Heights.
Upon repeated listens to the album her overall influence becomes more evident. The slightly left field production, full of distorted sound effects and overwhelming volume are all very Hounds of Love, shown most clearly on Loveless, which is squeezed into the second half of Hard Feelings. However here, the influence is less vocally based and far more sonically. Crashing drums open the track before being drowned out by a series of cold electronic noises, to unsettle and intrigue. This style fits Lorde’s output spectacularly, and creates a contrasting world of vibrant cynicism.
This atmosphere is remarkably important to the album. If the world built in the runtime was anything less than totally absorbing Melodrama could very easily have fallen apart. Instead it’s a glorious invitation into this decadent alternate universe. Lorde is as helpless to its charms of it as we are, and through the space of the eleven songs we experience every success and misstep in time with her. It’s not so much a storyline per se, more of a selection of notable nights told in brutal honesty.
Overall, Melodrama is nigh on perfect. It’s joyous and celebratory of the singer’s successes but maintains everything she became known for. It’s nice to see that writing songs for the Hunger Games series hasn’t swayed Lorde towards more commercial ventures. Especially when trips down a more avant-garde route produce such high quality output.