By Cody Corrall
It’s hard to imagine what we did in Lorde’s four year absence. Since the New Zealand singer released her debut album Pure Heroine when she was 16, Lorde became the pop star on everybody’s lips. She was unconventional: lyrics dreaming about fancy cars and jewelry underscored by big percussion not generally seen in the genre, all while being thrusted into stardom because of it. Melodrama, her triumphant return, and her first Billboard No. 1 album, is a fuzzy, fragmented portrait of her life in her absence.
In its most basic form, Melodrama is a break-up album. But the ways in which Lorde pieces it all together is what makes it so raw and authentic. Especially in “Hard Feelings/Loveless,” where she comes to terms with her breakup, but just wants to dwell on it a little bit longer. She’s growing, she’s prioritizing herself and her feelings instead of her relationships, “I care for myself the way I used to care about you.” Then the tone shifts completely, including the music style, and it becomes a song about “fuckin' with our lover's heads” and repeating over and over that this generation experiences love differently, if at all.
She’s been very open about how true to her life this record is, and she’s given herself the space to be vulnerable. While she’s still younger than most popular artists, she has grown up from her Pure Heroine self, and is incredibly self aware. She knows that being a teenager and being in love comes with being irrational and obsessive, and losing your cloud of judgement -- but she also gives validity to the melodrama of it all.
The underlying crux of this album is the that going from a normal teenager in a small town to a world-wide name took a toll on herself and her relationships. In “Writer in the Dark,” she realizes that she has to compromise her relationships because of her stardom. “Stood on my chest and kept me down/Hated hearing my name on the lips of a crowd/Did my best to exist just for you.” She tried to separate her fame from her relationships but she couldn’t, and it drove her ex-boyfriend away.
Lorde took a few years to be a teenager, and it didn’t go how she planned. She spent most of it dealing with her breakup, either through partying or waking up in other peoples beds or obsessing about her old flame. She tried to make a classic “teen anthem” song with her singles “Sober” and “Perfect Places,” and both times she finds herself coming to terms with the fact that she’s lost.
“Sober” starts off with a disconnected repetition of lyrics, mimicking someone trying to remember what happened the night before. She’s enjoying herself and finding new people to talk to, but she’s dependent on the drugs and the alcohol to maintain her relationships, “but what will we do when we’re sober?” she asks.
In “Perfect Places,” Lorde hits the nail on the head concerning what’s wrong with these “teen anthems,” which usually have a loud chorus about how being a teenager means you’ll live forever. She’s navigating all those emotions through parties, and realizes that she’s genuinely terrified of being alone.
“I think I’m partying so much because I’m just dreading sitting at home by myself hearing my thoughts hit the walls,” said Lorde. “I think parties are a really interesting mental exercise/take on a few different layers when you’re feeling like this.” She’s become dependent on how parties make her feel, but who is she when she gets home? That’s the conflict she’s afraid to face.
Melodrama was well worth the wait. In the interim, Lorde gave herself time to experience life, which she then reflected and commented on in a masterfully conceptualized portrait of her emotions. Teenage emotions are irrational, but Lorde shows how real they feel in the moment, and gives power and validity to them when they are so often written off as melodrama.