(Photo credit: Sam McKinniss)
How does someone follow up an album that was based on the idea of being an outsider, after catapulting to success and becoming an international pop sensation? This was the question Lorde had to try and answer while creating her sophomore album Melodrama, which was released last Friday. Lorde’s first album, Pure Heroine, focused on the feeling of loneliness, on the idea of not being cool enough to sit at the popular table. Then, Lorde won Grammy awards in 2014 for Best Song of the Year (“Royals”) and Best Solo Pop Performance and suddenly she was the reigning queen of the popular table. On top of that, the aspects of Lorde’s music that made it so different from the rest of the pop landscape—the breathy vocals, the slow electronic synth beats—started to pop up everywhere. It was no longer only Lorde’s style.
Some wondered if this meant she would never be able to follow up this success. How can someone continue to make music that pushes the boundaries, when the things that made them stand out don’t necessarily apply to them anymore? Although David Bowie himself called Lorde’s work “the future of music”, Lorde herself wasn’t sure that she could follow up her own success, telling Rolling Stone magazine “There was a real hit of, like, ‘I just don’t have another one.”
However, Melodrama is physical proof that lightning can strike twice.
Instead of focusing on Lorde’s success and fame, this album is just as relatable as her first but does so by focusing on another human emotion; love. The album takes us on a journey of the emotions felt right after a breakup.
“Liability”, the second single off the album, focuses on the isolation Lorde felt after her most recent heartbreak and how she feels “a little too much for everyone”. The simple piano chords that accompany the vocals makes this song really stand out against the other heavy, electronic numbers. The simple pattern of the backing piano chords is also repeated on two other emotional songs on the album, “Greenlight” and “Perfect Places.”
“Greenlight” was the first single off the new album and is an upbeat dance number that, when it was first released, had many concerned that Lorde had fully departed from her deep—and at times dark—emotional songwriting. However, “Greenlight” represents a combination of Lorde’s past and present styles. This song still speaks of the feelings associated with wanting to be done with heartbreak including deep loneliness and other darker emotions, but when you’re done with the sadness and pain one simply needs to wait for that green light to close this chapter and move on to the next. Lorde sings about the feeling of wanting to be out with friends, wishing the pain could be over. These feelings are paired with an 80’s inspired instrumental background that was greatly influenced by Bleachers front man, Jack Antonoff (co-writer and producer of Melodrama).
Overall, I believe the album perfectly captures the feeling of being a young adult recovering from heartbreak. Even though there are so many female pop stars absolutely dominating the charts currently (like Taylor Swift and Katy Perry who are in their late 20’s, early 30’s) Lorde is significantly younger than most of them. And while there are some younger women breaking into the industry, Fifth Harmony (maybe Fourth Harmony now?) and Hailee Steinfeld, Lorde is the only major player trying to occupy the mainstream singer-songwriter space. This allows her music to really stand out among other artists and, by writing songs about their experiences with heartbreak she is able to appeal to a younger audience and relate to that demographic because she is experiencing it right alongside them. In a market saturated with inauthentic singers, Lorde’s music stands out because of its honesty.
“Perfect Places”, the last song on the album, ends on a hopeful note, with Lorde saying the phrase “What the f**k are perfect places,” meaning there is no such thing as perfect. There is no way to not feel the pain of heartbreak as it’s something we will all face at one point or another. The only way to survive is to embrace the pain and the imperfection of it all.
CIARA LOUGHNANE | I’m not creative enough for this | KXSU Digital Media Director