See another take on the album here.
In an age when pop artists seem to count on repetitive singles as the money-making nuclei of albums stuffed with filler tracks, Lorde’s new album “Melodrama” refreshingly subverts that trend. There is rarely a song that could be defined as filler; instead, Lorde carefully constructs each of the album’s 11 tracks. She infuses her own personal experiences as a young adult into honest lyrics and matches their content to well-suited and catchy alternative-pop melodies.
On 10 of the 11 songs, Lorde (whose real name is Ella Yelich-O’Connor) partners with musician and co-producer Jack Antonoff, known for his Bleachers project as well as his work on Taylor Swift’s Grammy Award-winning album, “1989.” Antonoff’s presence may contribute to the fact that without feeling repetitive, the overall musical tone of “Melodrama” remains cohesive throughout the album. The genre of alternative-pop gives Lorde and Antonoff room to create catchy, addictive beats while mixing in more complex scales and melody seen in the alternative world. “Writer in the Dark,” “Supercut” and “The Louvre” all have unpredictable changes in falsetto, tempo or rhythm, but their transitions are expertly stitched together so that it sounds effortless. It’s smooth, glossy alt-pop at its finest.
The musical quality and consistency of “Melodrama” is enough to make it a four-star album on its own, but it is Lorde’s lyrics that elevate it to a full five. Two simple elements comprise their artistry: talent and honesty. The album’s themes of breakups, lust and partying are not foreign to pop music, but their lyrical content is saturated with poignant youthful imagery drawn from Lorde’s own perspective. The average college student is likely to find some degree of relatable quality within lyrics from her song “Sober,” such as “These are the games of the weekend/ We pretend that we just don’t care / But we care / But what will we do when we’re sober?,” or simply “I overthink your punctuation use” in the song “The Louvre.” Then there are the instances where her sheer knack for imagery and metaphor shine through, such as when she sings, “Because ours are the moments I play in the dark / We were wild and fluorescent” in the song “Supercut” and “Well, summer slipped us underneath her tongue / Our days and nights are perfumed with obsession” in “The Louvre.” Essentially, the magic of the lyrics show that Lorde has the writing ability of a 20-year industry veteran with the experiences of a 20-year-old girl.
It’s hard to find significant flaws within the New Zealander’s sophomore album, but if they exist, they’re in the pair “Liability” and “Liability (Reprise).” Although it has arguably the rawest lyrics on the album, the piano-only instrumental and barely-three-minute length leave “Liability” feeling too bare-bones, especially when sandwiched between goliaths “The Louvre” and “Hard Feelings/Loveless.” Still, it should be said that the break in “Liability” from an underlying base ensures that the album has diversity in tempo, which is often necessary to engage listeners the whole way through. “Liability (Reprise)” lacks structure and adds little to the album that “Liability” doesn’t already contribute, but even then its composition is not inherently bad. In fact, between the music and lyrics, there is no distinctly poorly written song on the entire album.
On her first album, a budding 16-year-old Lorde showcased the various ways music excels when it is inspired by the artist’s own experiences. She repeats that on this album, now armed with experience, time, a Grammy Award-winning producer and her magnitude of raw talent that continues to blossom. “Melodrama” is, simply put, a masterpiece.