With Pure Heroine, Lorde established herself as a new force to be reckoned with. The distinct rawness of her vocals coupled with her mature, cohesive lyrical content created an album destined to be a classic of the 21st century. The genre of the album was complicated to identify, as it often had organic electronic moments, pop choruses, and minimalist beats. I often referred to Lorde’s sound as “gender-bending” and innocuous. So when Lorde debuted her single Green Light, an anthemic, unapologetically pop record, fans of her original sound were initially hesitant.
It was not an unfounded hesitation given the state of pop music in 2017. Painfully dominated by the Chainsmokers, ex band members’ solo efforts, and female pop stars battling relevancy, it was hard not to be worried about Lorde’s new direction. But, in the piano and drums-fueled first single, Lorde offers a pop song with a purpose other than to dominate the charts.
It is clear that the native New Zealander used songwriting as a therapeutic trance after a breakup. The song clearly and loudly opens the album that moves just as cohesively as Pure Heroine. In the second track, Sober, she explores her inner desires to reconnect with her ex (the subject of Green Light) during a drunken stupor. As the story unfolds, we get a glimpse into the pair’s fiery relationship which ultimately and ambiguously leads to a conscious recoupling. Liability finds Lorde at her most vulnerable, in a stunning moment that will undoubtedly be one of the year’s music highlights.
“…the truth is I am a toy that people enjoy ’til all of the tricks don’t work anymore…
and then they are bored of me”
One of the things that makes Lorde one of the best artists of her generation is her ability to take stylistic choices that feel raw and genuine. Every lyric she defeatedly proclaimed makes you wonder her emotional state in the recording studio. Liability ultimately shows us the conclusion of the relationship they both tried to salvage, while the next mashup of tracks Hard Feelings/Loveless, finds her finally healing by focusing on those moments before it all fell apart.
The next tracks feel slightly cathartic in nature. The title track seems like a desperate cry, perhaps a sudden moment of insecurity, that finds the singer remembering the other side; the not-so-happy moments she omitted in the previous tracks. Lorde reminds us that after all the fame and the success, she also goes through the complex, messy breakups, most of us have experienced. A breakup is usually not in a linear timeline. Ideally, you would notice things are bad, try to fix them, and if that doesn’t work out, break up, and move on. But in reality, a breakup will find many reconnecting points, many more fights, many vulnerable moments, and there will never be a standard time frame to get over someone. In Writer in the Dark, and perhaps as a result of the bad memories she relieved earlier, Lorde admits to still being affected by the breakup, but also, cites his lack of support for her career as yet another concluding factor to the relationship. The following tracks effectively conclude the bitterness of the breakup leading to a reprise of Liability, which finds the singer in a completely different mind state as the original recording. Perfect Places closes the album by wondering “what the fuck are perfect places anyway?”
Listening to Melodrama felt like watching a 3-part play that had a fiery start, an electric climax and a satisfying conclusion. Katy Perry claimed to offer purposeful pop with Witness, her latest offering, but where she failed, Lorde soared. Making purposeful pop is not about adding political lyrics to your songs or making an anthemic hook, it is about creating a cohesive body of work that will serve a purpose. In this case, the purpose being helping other’s cope with tough breakups or, after this uninspiring year, helping make pop music great again.