Lorde: Melodrama review – Songs of love, sexuality, heartbreak and self-awareness

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Artist: Lorde
Genre: Pop
Label: Republic/Universal

Being exposed to almost immeasurable levels of scrutiny from people who don’t always have your best interests at heart is par for the course for many young pop stars these days. What at first seems gratifying and flawless, however, can eventually lose its charm. As Lorde herself sings on Perfect Places, the closing track on Melodrama, “what the fuck are perfect places, anyway?”

Accepting defects, negotiating the intensity of her teenage years (“crying or laughing or dancing or in love,” as she notes in a recent Vanity Fair interview), twist their way through Melodrama without becoming entangled. Every song is remarkably focused, and while Lorde still retains a tendency to use a dozen words where six would suffice (the opening lines to Green Light being a case in point), she has the keen sensibility of a good prose writer to make sure that she at least sets the scene for (and subsequently tells) a great story. “I know about what you did and I wanna scream the truth” (Green Light) and “In my head, I play a supercut of us… the visions never stop” (Supercut) are merely two examples of itemised plot-teasing that the New Zealand songwriter excels at.

The requirement to excitedly fill in blank spaces has been with Lorde since her 2013 debut album, Pure Heroine, but here – in co-writing/co-production cahoots with Jack Antonoff – she has divided her recent personal experiences into reflective, capsule-sized vignettes charged with signature staccato delivery. Combine these with graceful, gliding hooks and you have distilled catnip for radio play.

What makes Melodrama even more fascinating, however, is how observationally adult it is. In semi-concept mode – through songs as vivid as Liability, Hard Feelings, Loveless, Supercut, Writer in the Dark, Perfect Places, and Homemade Dynamite – Lorde writes of love, sexuality, heartbreak and self-awareness. It’s a brave, glorious pop album from a real-deal songwriter and accidental pop star – thankfully, not the other way around.

Tony Clayton-Lea

Tony Clayton-Lea

Tony Clayton-Lea is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in popular culture