Lorde’s second album, Melodrama paints a self-portrait of the expectations, fear, angst and experiences of a 20-year-old woman.
In 2013, Lorde, an unknown 16-year-old from New Zealand, stepped up to bat and knocked the ball over the bleachers with her debut album, Pure Heroine. The bright-eyed teen who penned Royals, a counter-pop hit, now has reached the stratospheric level of fame she sang of. Pure Heroine propelled her into superstardom, earning her a number one album and Grammy awards.
Writing her second album was tough. She admits anxiety about writing a follow-up to what David Bowie described as “the future of music” proved overwhelming at times. The challenge of delivering a second album that met the bar Lorde had set hung over her like a storm cloud. She retreated from the spotlight in search of inspiration and chanced upon Jack Antonoff, from the band Fun, who produced Melodrama. They clicked, creating an album full of emotion, both good and bad.
Melodrama represents, so eloquently, who Lorde is. This album is Lorde; its lyrics sing of loneliness, the ups and downs of love and friendship and the chaos of fame.
In Liability she sings a sombre tale of self-love. When all abandon her, she still has herself:
“So they pull back, make other plans,
I understand, I’m a liability
… We slow dance
In the living room but all a stranger would see
Is one girl swaying alone, stroking her cheek”.
She realises only too well the fate of an artist – to be loved, but ultimately disposable:
“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“.
Writer In The Dark, taking inspiration from her idols, shows a scorned Lorde putting a former lover on notice: “Bet you rue the day you kissed a writer in the dark.” As the chorus hits, Lorde borrows some influence from Kate Bush as she belts out lines, sounding like a woman on the verge of an emotional breakdown.
Homemade Dynamite and Supercut take a more upbeat feel, with fast piano chords melding with synths and drums, though sadness lingers in the background. There are good times, great times, but it’s all a “supercut” as she sings … a snapshot of the best moments of life. Lorde is left singing, distant and muffled, in the closing moments of Supercut. Close your eyes and you can almost imagine the piano chords exploding into colours like fireworks.
As the album draws to an end, Lorde ponders, in Perfect Places, whether a serene paradise exists at the end of a drunken night:
“All the nights spent off our faces
Trying to find these perfect places
What the fuck are perfect places, anyway?“
She possesses creativity far beyond her years, the ability to construct beautiful metaphors that give us a glimpse into her psyche. And with it, Melodrama brings honesty from a woman who is trying to make sense of the world she holds in the palm of her hands.
Melodrama is out now. – Ben Rochlin
Top image from Lorde’s Facebook.