At first, hearing lead single “Green Light” was somewhat baffling. Considering Lorde’s dark and minimal sound, “Green Light” didn’t make much sense to me. A piano pop track felt out of place backed by such smokey vocals. The more and more I listened, though, the better it sounded. I still think this highly-anticipated follow-up could have opened slightly stronger. However, the intertwined poetry within Melodrama‘s lyrics becomes more impactful with continued listens. Lorde presents real emotion here — personal and vindictive — that reveals heartache’s true colors. She wrestles anxious relationship afterthoughts, succumbing to the neurotic thrill of post-breakup regret. “We’re King and Queen of the weekend / Ain’t a pill that could touch our rush / (But what will we do when we’re sober?)” asks the 20-year-old New Zealander. Lorde’s pen stays readily self-aware despite completely exposing her skeletons. Thus is the resilience of a true artist.
Her three-year recess proved to sharpen her knack for astute human narration. Lorde’s verbal illustration is a reminder of music’s therapeutic nature for both creator and consumer. “Liability,” this album’s centerpiece, gave me goosebumps. It is the singer-songwriter’s realization of celebrity’s strain on interpersonal affinities. Not only does she feel isolated in her love life but in her friendships too. Due to her social status, Lorde feels often left behind. Mates of all kinds are hesitant to compromise their privacy to spend time with her. This recurring platonic separatism takes its toll on Lorde. Five tracks later, she reprises her heavy-heartedness. Rather than beating a dead horse, Lorde instead connects her dramatic conclusions to Melodrama‘s message. Throughout the album, metaphors of dancing and partying parallel romantic and social loneliness. Her thoughts are constantly twisting, turning, and assuming the worst.
Typically, it’s difficult to capture swaying emotions without a few production hiccups. Despite some overlap, the instrumental formula here is precise and spontaneous. Bleachers frontman and lead guitarist of Fun, Jack Antonoff, handled the bulk of the production alongside Lorde. Together they create an atmosphere that is every bit elastic, emotional, and evocative. Blending elements of art and electro pop, alt-R&B, and trap, Melodrama is greater than the sum of its parts. And with an album as well crafted as this, that’s saying something. Colorful horns, somber piano, white-noise percussion, and whispering vocals add just the right amount of sugar to Lorde’s visceral spice.
On the contrary, I thought the album could have benefited from an opening speech or interlude. A cohesive and purist work like this deserves to be wrapped in the most exquisite of bows. Also, with only 11 songs and two sequel tracks, the album lacks a plethora of new ideas. Although “Green Light” and “Perfect Places” are solid singles, this album still feels slightly undersold. A hit of “Royals” proportion could’ve made this sophomore LP a contender for the best pop album of the decade. Nitpicking aside, the great nation of New Zealand should be proud to house one of the best recording artists this generation will ever witness. With Melodrama, Lorde has successfully released the best pop record of 2017.