Monday, December 18, 2017

Favorite Albums of 2017 Number 3 - Lorde's Melodrama

The first time I heard "Green Light," the lead single for Lorde's second album, Melodrama, I was completely taken with its overwhelming euphoria. I must have played it the whole way to work that morning. I was already a fan since the release of "Royals" and was excited to hear more from this young prodigy. Once Melodrama came out in the Summer, it was clear this whole album was on another level. Lorde's pop virtuosity has multiplied exponentially since her debut, Pure Heroine. Her voice, her songwriting and her lyrical inventiveness are in perfect sync and the result is an album full of vivid pictures, feelings and memorable phrases that is very much alive and kicking.


This album is much more organic than Pure Heroine, with the presence of pianos being the most obvious addition. But also, the songs are more open and inviting. It's the little moments that most stay with me, such as on "Homemade Dynamite" when the music stops and she softly sings "Now you know it's really gonna blow" pause, then the soft "poough" (or however that would be spelled) of the explosion. The humor of that is unexpected and refreshing and ultimately exposes her playful personality, but not for the last time. The very next song, "The Louvre," a tale about a love that is knowingly being exaggerated as being epic has a couple of these moments, but my favorite is the line that gives the song its title, "But we're the greatest, they'll hang us in The Louvre/down the back, but who cares, still The Louvre." It's a line that is realistically conversational and brings the album's main character to life.

Lorde has said in interviews that the idea of the album is of a party where this girl goes from room to room thinking of this relationship that just ended. The shifts in emotional tone from song to song and in her vocal expression make this clear. She has a very mature sense of control over her voice. A song like "Liability" could have been very different if it was more restrained or completely unrestrained. Instead, it is beautifully balanced and heartbreaking with the slightest crack in her voice punctuating the sense of loneliness that is framed by a very subtle uplift in it's declaration of self-love and acceptance. It's a complex song and a theme I'm not sure I'd heard before.

The other straight up ballad, "Writer in the Dark," is chill inducing with her high register chorus that makes me think of Tori Amos: "I am my mother's child, I'll love you til the breathing stops/I'll love you til you call the cops on me/but in our darkest hours, I stumbled on a secret power/I'll find a way to be without you, babe." It's that combination of sadness and empowerment that is hinted at in every song on the album, and those lines are its most clear expression. Yes, it hurts, but also, she will be ok.

My favorite songs tend to make me imagine a movie scene they could play over. Not like a music video, but a scene in a movie that has context beyond the song. Maybe it's because I once wanted to be a filmmaker and because my favorite directors are masters of using pre-existing songs in their movies. Think Martin Scorsese or Quentin Tarantino. With "Supercut" it's as if Lorde has reached into my head and created a song that comes with the scene already burned into it. This is by far my favorite song on the album and perhaps of the year. The music and lyrics work like a holographic projection into your brain where she plays out these scenes of this relationship that was, in detail. Lorde has synesthesia, which basically means her senses sort of work together so she hears music and sees colors. Her music and sense of imagery in her lyrics likely benefits from this, and no song does this more than this one.

This summer, my 8 year old daughter, Shayera, would ride with me to work every morning because her summer camp was near my job. While we would listen to many different albums on the way, we probably played this album more than any. While some of the themes of the album are still beyond her, I was happy to share the work and perspective of a strong, confident, young woman like Lorde with her and watch her sing and dance to these songs. Anyway, here's what she thinks of it in her own words:
I love Lorde because her music makes me smile. The type of music is pop music. It makes me get up and dance every time I hear it. The songs flow into each other like they're one song. This is just a little bit of what I think about Lorde.

I like "Green Light" because it sounds like you are talking to someone. I also like it because it sounds like a song you would hear at a party. I like "Sober II (Melodrama) because it sounds like she's relaxing at a party. I think that this is the most pop song out of them all.

I love Lorde's album Melodrama because it just makes me want to get up and do something. If you compare Lorde's music with someone else's music, Lorde's music would win. That's how good her music is! I also like her music because it's very unique. Lorde is a great singer and composer.
I recently listened to the WTF Podcast episode where Marc Maron talks to Lorde. They talked about how expressions of joy tend to be uncomfortable and she said she has decided to express her joy openly in her art and life. It comes across in her completely free performances where she's not afraid of being awkward in her movements. But it also comes across in her music and her singing. When I worked with Shayera on writing her piece, I was taken by how much of this she was intuitively picking up on without the knowledge of the interview. That, to me, speaks volumes about how successful Lorde is an artist. And to think this is only her second album.


  1. Great piece, from an original view point.....I hope you've been playing the "non-explicit" album for your observant daughter - otherwise you may have to contend with your own superstar aged 16 - lovely review - Safe and Happy holidays

    1. Thanks. Yeah, we don't really censor for our kids. Within reason. So she's been hearing the explicit version. We're ok with that.