There’s something vaguely irritating about successful people your age. Yeah, sure, I’m impressed but I’m also outrageously jealous. Quit making me look bad Birdy. Jeez. One such young starlet was, and to some extent is, Lorde. She released her first album, Pure Heroine, when she was 16 (sickening), which garnered critical acclaim and massive chart success. Her knack for describing the vapid reality of millennial-hood and her down-to-earth image made her somewhat of a heroine (see what I did there?) for lonely teenagers the world over.
Flash forward and teenagers are still befuddled, rich people are still rich and relationships are still tricky. Perhaps that’s why Lorde has managed to come up with yet another album of relatable hits. There’s something plaintive about Melodrama, with its biting lyrics and meatier electronic production. There’s no doubt that it follows pop conventions: catchy choruses, plenty of repetition and dance-able synths. But in some ways it’s anti-pop in it’s honesty. There’s nothing ‘put your hands in the air’ about this album. Lorde looks around her and sees overindulgence and melancholy. She knows that the drinks, the pills and the smokes won’t erase the emptiness modern life engenders. Shit sucks, right? What are we supposed to do about it?
Nowhere is this helplessness more apparent than on the album’s best track, Liability, a piano ballad that has actually made me cry a few times. It tells of a girl that’s been abandoned by those around her because of her recklessness. The protagonist in this heartbreaking tale encompasses the message of this album. Living large is appealing in its anonymity, its potential for wiping away stress and replacing it with decadence. But there’s always a morning after. Hangovers, comedowns, waking up next to a stranger, whatever it is, life will always come knocking at your door demanding an explanation. No one understands this more than Liability’s narrator: “I know that it’s exciting running through the night/ But every perfect summer’s eating me alive until you’re gone/ Better on my own.”
Sober is more upbeat but with similarly bleak lyrics. The rhythm has been played around with to accentuate the message. The end product feels purposefully disjointed, mirroring the discordance of a consciousness clouded by alcohol and drugs. Writer In The Dark is a Taylor Swift-esque expose of the dangers of dating an international pop star. Lorde’s theatrical delivery makes this another tear-jerker. The chorus is very Kate Bush in its wailing which is entirely welcome in my book. The album’s title is especially relevant here, as the age-old tale of heartbreak reaches hysterical proportions.
There’s more of a dance vibe to this album that can sometimes become grating. In my opinion, Lorde is at her best when she lets her voice take centre stage. She has enough sultry emotion to carry a billion albums of stripped-back indietronica. She doesn’t need massive synths and there’s only so many repetitive bass hits we can take. Supercut should have been supercut out of the album (ha). Save me the pumping bass, the speakers in my car aren’t good enough and it’s just a bit annoying. I’m undecided about The Louvre which starts out with promise before it descends into stadium-bait, with its “boom boom boom” chorus and singable soaring phrases. Green Light is a catchy single, but offers very little in terms of innovation. Still, the chorus is deliciously dramatic and the lyrics are much more inspiring than your average chart-topper.
However, Lorde can be forgiven for occasionally succumbing to the pop zeitgeist. There is so much raw potential there that to slate her too much would inevitably come back to bite you in the arse. Melodrama is a gem in the mulch of the charts and should be treated as such. Lorde is without a doubt an intelligent songwriter and I believe with the right collaborators, her musical style could develop into something even more exciting. I mean she’s only bloody 20 and she’s got a whole lot more to show for it than some of us.
[Picture source: http://www.stereoboard.com/content/view/207596/9]