The Queen of all that is ear candy has done it again.
Melodrama is Lorde’s second album, following her hugely successful debut, Pure Heroine. And whilst there are plenty of moments of artistic brilliance, occasionally, it grates.
Eleven credited producers feature on the album and at times, it really shows. Every beat, every bop and every note is crammed to bursting with infectious hooks – each fatter than the last, each competing for attention.
The bubblegum rumble, synthesiser trumpets and top-end rushes will be too much for the more cynical ears. But perhaps Lorde – a.k.a Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O’Connor – doesn’t think there’s such a thing as over-producing a record.
And yet, in spite of the indulged urge for overkill, there is something arty, self-aware and occasionally cathartic in the genetic make-up of this album.
Being a sobering take on the hedonism of the ‘living-for-the-weekend’ generation, second track ‘Sober’ is aptly titled. Its bleary-eyed narrator searches for something intimate and real amidst the sea of pill-popping, bass-junkie decadence.
Lines like, ‘‘bodies all through my house, I know this story by heart, Jack and Jill get fucked up and possessive, when it get dark’’ aren’t written by the kind of narcissistic airheads that we’re used to having saturate the Top 40. They are penned by people, real people, who are capable of looking in the mirror and being both exhilarated and terrified by the face of Generation Z glaring back at them.
On listening to the deceptively simple lyrics on tracks like ‘The Louvre’ and the album’s disjointed lead single, ‘Green Light’, I’m taken aback by just how few clichés abound.
The Beatles, Stones, Springsteen, Brian Wilson and Bob Dylan are still revered, fifty years down the line, as standing unmatched atop the Mount Sinai of songwriting genius. So, perhaps the time has come to ask ourselves what it means to be an artist in 21st century music.
Is Lorde an artist? Undeniably. Is this album a work of art? Absolutely. Is it perfect? Of course it isn’t. Conversely, a great deal of the charm to Melodrama lies in precisely this fact.
Throughout the record the vulnerability evident in a human trying to find their feet in a generation that promises nothing other than sex and drugs, rings louder than the clarion call of a vocalist trying to milk one last veal steak from an industry bled dry of inspiration. And in the end, can any of us ask for more than that?
I clicked play on this album feeling hungover and pessimistic. I left the experience feeling rejuvenated, almost sober; maybe there’s hope.
Lorde’s moved on since ‘Royals’ and the beauty of her voice has been retained and the songwriting has been refined. The fragile, piano-led slow dance of ‘Liability’, for example, demonstrates this with an added maturity, even if the lyrical content is about an imaginary friend.
Commercially, Melodrama is already a huge success. Artistically, it’s not far off either. But maybe next time, she could do it with only nine producers, to prune the fat and get straight to that soul.
WORDS BY CHARLIE WHYTOCK