Sunday, June 18, 2017

Melodrama | Lorde

At just 16 years old, Lorde found a way to actualize her thoughts, worries, and dreams in words more elegant than some 40 years her senior could muster. In place of feeding tired visions of hypersexual teenage dreams, she immortalized the vivid teenage experience. Her 2013 debut album, Pure Heroine, validates the contradictory swirl of angst and wonder through striking realism. Its statements on the unknown, like ultimate fate and immortality, resonate with the teenagers of suburbia, whose everyday lives pale in comparison to the dreams that a fame-driven society has cultivated in them.

She was known for being the most composed teenager in existence – as the girl who spent more time dissecting her life than living it. But as her visions of unrealistic fame were actualized, the gridlocked fears of her fate cleared from the forefront of consciousness. We now see a Lorde who learned to cope with life on its face – who is ready to stop thinking about living and finally just do it. On the first taste of Melodrama, a track that overtakes Lorde in an unexpected rush of urgency, she cries, "Oh, I wish I could get my things and just let go. I'm waiting for it, that green light. I want it." 

And with that she plea, she lets loose, abandoning the worries of her teenage years. She has grown into a charismatic young woman, cracking open her own reservations and granting herself the liberty to act her age. The scrapbook of someone who dipped her toes into adulthood with the luxurious excesses attached to a celebrity status at her disposal, Melodrama's narrative reveals Lorde did a bit of it all in the four years between studio albums: The drinks, the parties, the love. In fact, the only thing the album fails to mention is the secret Instagram account dedicated to onion rings.

Swapping Joel Little for Jack Antonoff in the executive producer's seat, she joins the party instead of rebelling against it. Who was once a girl tired of being told to put her hands up in the air is now the dance commander, spilling the beats of her very heart into pools of roaring bass tones: "Megaphone to my chest, broadcast the boom, boom, boom, boom and make 'em dance to it," she declares on "The Louvre," signaling a round of ground-shaking beats. Likewise, she unleashes the jolting production that should be expected of a track titled "Homemade Dynamite," which embodies the hottest moments of Lorde's four-year house party.

Even amid the best moments of drunken ecstasy under the flashing disco lights, she's self-aware: "Bet you wish you could touch our rush, but what will we do when we're sober?" she spits out with a seductive edge over a steady jungle beat and clipped horn samples on "Sober." In the slumps of the mornings after, though, she has a chance to look in the mirror  a sight that becomes uncomfortable. The first loves and first tastes of freedom aren't without the first heartbreaks and first rock bottoms, chronicled here on complementary piano ballads "Liability" and "Writer in the Dark." Their open spaces leave ample room for Lorde's self-confrontational words to resonate: "I understand, I'm a liability. Get you wild, make you leave. I'm a little much for everyone."

By the time she comes down from her alcohol-fueled, sexually experimental, party-hard high, she's spit right back to the place she was: on a bed by herself, with only her thoughts to keep her company. "All the nights spent off our faces, trying to find these perfect places. What the fuck are perfect places anyway?" she ponders through a chorus of her own multitracked vocal lines, as she realizes she jumped overboard in the name of escapism; In pursuit of blissful ignorance, she revolted against the societal problems over which she obsessed on her debut. In both this mindset and the sonic output of this record, she dances dangerously close with the thought of becoming one of the pack – only to come to her senses at the close of her story.

In many ways, "Perfect Places" puts the rest of the record into perspective: Melodrama is much more than a sonic overhaul or a personal metamorphosis for Lorde. It's just as potent as its predecessor in the sense that it paints the consequences that Pure Heroine's overthinking entails. As the teenage years fade and the real world presents itself, life begins traveling faster than we can think about it – and the little time of enjoyment we get becomes more important than the reasoning behind our desire to run from reality, something that we know is inescapable. It grounds us again when dawn breaks, consuming us at our most vulnerable moments.

But the memories of the careless nights are forever captured within this record. And hell, what liberating times they were. 

Melodrama is out now under Republic Records.

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