45 months is a long time for an artist to disappear in between their album cycles. It took 45 months (or approximately 1325 days) for Lorde to return to the world, to grace our presence with the release of her second album, Melodrama, following the massively successful debut of Pure Heroine. Any artist taking that long of a break in between albums brings the uncertainty of the sound or direction of an album, and many people wondered how and if Lorde (real name Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O’Connor) would be able to deliver a another album as massively powerful as her debut.
Pure Heroine was deemed a success, topping the charts in New Zealand (her home country) and Australia. The album also reached the top five of a handful of national charts: Canada, Ireland, Norway and the United Kingdom. Pure Heroine peaked at number three on the Billboard 200: a pretty phenomenal debut from a 16-year-old. A recent Billboard article predicts that Melodrama will debut at number one this week: which will make her only the second female to do this in 2017, following Halsey’s Hopeless Fountain Kingdom.
Lorde’s debut album brought us the soundtrack to Lorde’s teenage years of angst, underage drinking and the overall annoyingness of existing as a teenager in the 21st century, and her follow up album has showed that her transition to adulthood, like many, was a tumultuous one. Transitioning from teens to early 20s isn’t easy on its own, and developing into an adult while simultaneously being catapulted to superstardom isn’t an easy feat, as represented in a variety of tracks on Melodrama. The skepticism embedded in Pure Heroine has left the building, instead, Lorde opts for a more confident, self-aware lens on the world and the emotions that come with getting your heart broken for the first time.
There’s not much that I can say about this album that hasn’t already been said. Lorde’s ability to showcase her maturity, growth and overall emotional state of young adulthood is something that is unrecognizable for other performers her age. While there are a multitude of reasons as to why women who find fame at an early age often struggle with growing up in the limelight (Brittany Spears, Miley Cyrus, and the newly very confusing Katy Perry), Lorde gives us a breath of fresh air, taking over three years off in between bodies of work to fully find her head space without the pressures of Hollywood and the media to give us a follow up to her acclaimed debut.
Like this brilliantly worded New Yorker article discusses, Lorde hardly struggles to hold onto her distinct sound as an artist from Pure Heroine to Melodrama: experimenting enough without completely succumbing to gimmicks that are interwoven in radio pop music in 2017.
“The world of “Melodrama” is less self-contained than the one painted on her first album, and she plays around with her style, albeit still within some carefully constructed limits. (You will never find Lorde experimenting with the watered-down African and Caribbean influences that have infiltrated pop radio.)”
Melodrama offers insight into how Lorde has dealt with fame, heartbreak and realizing that the self-loathing teenage years are nothing like dealing with the slow adaptation of adulthood, especially present in ideas of what it means to be a woman (and a celebrity) in 2017.
In “Writer in the Dark,” you can catch a glimpse into what happened in her breakup with her ex-boyfriend, James Lowe. “Stood on my chest and kept me down / Hated hearing my name on the lips of a crowd / Did my best to exist just for you.”
You hear these emotions come alive in the album’s single, “Green Light,” which has been debated by fans all over the internet as to whether or not the title of the track is a reference to The Great Gatsby and the main character’s fixation on the past.
If we want to talk about fixation on the past and feelings of nostalgia, you can definitely pull up the track “Hard Feelings/Loveless” (which is undoubtedly my favorite song on the album), where Lorde’s lyrics sound eerily reminiscent of Taylor Swift’s Imogen Heap-cowritten track, “Clean.” Perhaps Swift’s songwriting style has rubbed off on Lorde? (The two are famously known for being close friends).
“I light all the candles / Got flowers for all my rooms/ I care for myself the way I used to care about you / These days, we kiss and we keep busy / The waves come after midnight / I call from underwater / Why even try to get right? / When you’ve outgrown a lover / The whole world knows but you / It’s time to let go of this endless summer afternoon.”
If there’s anything to take away from Melodrama, it’s that we should be grateful that Ella feels comfortable and confident with sharing these new forms emotions, many that were left off of Pure Heroine. Lorde’s debut album, for many (myself included), was an anthem for teenagers who felt like they didn’t fit in (“White Teeth Teens”) and that they are just very much over being told how to feel and how to party on every top radio hit ever (“Royals”). Through the last couple years, it is evident that Ella has been crafting her story to share with us to understand and empathize with her emotions in a more general understanding: the human condition is one of doubt, heartbreak, fear and nostalgia. These themes that we (and Lorde) felt invinsible from as teenagers are now universal fears for every 20 something trying to make sense of the current state of the world. We waited so long because she had so much to say.
As a fan who has followed Lorde’s career since the release of her first single on the radio, I couldn’t have asked for a better follow up album than Melodrama. Watching her develop as an artist has been so exciting, even though we DID have to wait years on end for it to happen. After seeing her live show three times in 2014 – once at The Aragon Ballroom (I met her though a fence. Click here to see the photo), Lollapalooza and Boston Calling, I can’t wait to see where she goes from here and I’ll be seeing her this summer as she returns to Lollapalooza (at headline status) and next year on her North American tour.
Melodrama is a way for those teens, now trying to weave their way into the complicated transition to adulthood, to deal with similar themes of youth and heartbreak, but in a way that can still make us dance. Have you heard the song “Supercut?” It’s like Lorde, Robyn, and Bleachers had a lovechild – a tune that I can rage to while simultaneously holding back tears.
Click here for Lorde’s Tour Dates.
Click here to stream Melodrama on Spotify.