Lorde Melodrama Republic Records
One of the things which impressed critics about Lorde when she rose to prominence in 2013 was an apparent wisdom which belied her teenaged year. She was an old soul – orbiting youthfulness with an air of mistrust and disenchantment. Her debut album, Pure Heroine was an addictive distillation of that outlook, a concise suite of catchy pop songs with glassy instrumentals and vivid lyricism centred around the concept of “dancing in a world alone.”
For her second album, Lorde has parted ways with songwriter Joel Little, who she worked with on every track of Pure Heroine. And Melodrama is far more sophisticated than its predecessor. Across the LP, Lorde’s vocals sound notably more assured, especially when Writer In The Dark’s spectacular chorus finds her in a falsetto reminiscent of early Kate Bush.
Lorde’s lyrics have always been slightly cloying and there are a handful of moments that could make even the most hardened pop fan wince – we get “Those rumours they have big teeth/ Oh they bite you,” on the very first song. But Lorde’s occasional moments of gawkiness make this transfer into adulthood feel uncynical and authentic.
Narratively spanning the course of a night out – head-rushes, comedowns and deteriorating relationships – Melodrama is bookended by the two most boldly upbeat tracks, Green Light and Perfect Places. In context of the emotional confusion and loneliness explored with the other songs, Lorde’s message here feels less like naive optimism and more like self-made acts of resilience. When she sings, “Let’s go to perfect places” on the closer – she’s singing like she’s willing herself to believe it.
At 16, Lorde had stars in her eyes, seeing through the artifice and unpicking pop’s aristocracy with a hint of wonderment in her tone. On Melodrama, she shifts her gaze toward independent adulthood. Confused, unsettled and ultimately optimistic – Melodrama is the smartest pop record of the year so far.