If Pure Heroine was about teenage Lorde’s idea of maturity, her imagination of what the adult world must be like, then her sophomore album is precisely the opposite. Melodrama is cool— the toned quality materializes through the predominantly blue album art. And with this record, the brilliant facade of the adult world peels off layer by layer, until all that’s left is the delicate, jaded, melancholic core.
Jack Antonoff’s production adds another coating of complexity and unforgettable projection to Lorde’s end-of-adolescence state of mind: the youth slipping away on the light-up floor, the secluded utopia of careless parties, the love that burns so bright and then breaks into pieces. It touches the solemn and fateful side of this initiation rite of adulthood.
A Never-Ending Party
Now if Melodrama were a party, then Green Light marks the start of the journey of a “drunk girl at the party dancing around crying about her ex-boyfriend who everyone thinks is a mess.” The lead single has such a sense of finality to it, opening the album with a mysterious, cool-colored yet charming story of a new beginning. The mindless carousing continues even though no one knows what might happen when they’re Sober. Or perhaps “pretending that we don’t care” is just another part of adulthood? After all, “going astray with me” is only an attitude to life. Yes, leaving in the morning will hurt, hearts will ache, but why not take this moment to dance with us? Perhaps losing a bit of our minds will be good for us.
Liability is the turning point, the moment of self-reflective weakness. In the dead of night, as the party continues, we go off to the bathroom and see ourselves in the mirror— the terrible, mess of a self. And we realize the horrifying, underlying truth— what exactly does it take to grow up? Compromising our identity? Exposing the most delicate parts ourselves to the devouring of others? That’s when the revelation comes so strikingly poignant: as the lights turn on and the people go home, as we lose ourselves in the distrust and cold-shoulder of others, as the youthful part of ourselves, the innocent dreams of past time depart and fade away in the waters borne ceaselessly into the past, what do we have left?
Of course, love and breakups are quintessential to any grow up story. The remarkable romanticism of the album is apparent in The Louvre through the literary devices: the personification of summer, the days and nights that are “perfumed” with obsession present the beauty of an endearing love. Yet as suggested by the uneasy beats of the track, that beauty, so alarmingly coated in sacrifice, eventually will fall apart. With the somber recount of the aftermath of the break up in Hard Feelings, we are introduced to the winter, the death of the rushing feelings that were once so strong, so domineering, so relentless. Ultimately, as comfortable as being underneath summer’s tongue was, there comes a day when we all have to let go of that endless summer afternoon.
From the End of One to the Start of Another
The theme is then reinforced through Sober II (Melodrama) and Writer In The Dark. The love ends, romance is succeeded by melodrama. In the blinding fumes of accusations, we realize that we always knew we would end up here; it’s only in the psycho-high kind of self-indulgence did we forget that:
They'll talk about us, all the lovers
How we kiss and kill each other.
They'll talk about us, and discover
How we kissed and killed each other.
Yet we can't help but reminiscing the magic and love and tender touches in the car that characterized the summertimes, before the blizzard hit the town and we had to board up the windows and retreat into solitude. And in that contemplation, we arrive at the conclusion:
All of the dreams that get harder,
All of the things that I offer you,
All of the shit that we harbour,
But you're not what you thought you were.
So in the grand finale, we dump it all away in Perfect Places. In a sense, this last track summarizes the entire story, from the party to the fragility, from the love to no-more-love. In the graceless night, we are wild and young for the one last time. Dancing. Proclaiming we are all-right. Yelling to the heavens, trying to prove the perfect place that doesn’t exist. We try to get there, but we never will. We are doomed to fail, but we carry on. And isn’t precisely this kind of valor, of trying in spite of challenges that is so admirable about the transition from adolescence into adulthood?
Melodrama and Us
The album is titled melodrama, romance love affairs. Yet the album is not simply about breaking up, or even love. It seems closer to a diary to oneself, about how to manage the solitude, how to understand the ever-so complex notion of self— all of that, wrapped in strong sonic and lyrical cohesion. This is a part of why I was absolutely dumbfounded when Melodrama was snubbed of its album of the year. The journey Lorde presents shows the audience a meditation on the loneliness of an ambitious pop drama queen. The intimate vocals, lyrics, productions here are all Grammy’s worthy— yet all of that paled in face of the 60th Annual Grammy Awards’ pursuit of “equality” and “representation.”
Above all, the fragility of breakups, the confusion of growing up, the depravity of carousing, the loneliness of sobriety, the fiery emotions of adulthood— Melodrama contains all of these. And through editing life into one endless party, the good, the bad, the glamour, the trauma all invariably arrive at who we are.
Lorde’s idea of youth is acute, indulging, complete and unconditional. So many melodrama will end up being supercuts. So many hard feelings will lead to exclamation of what the fuck are perfect places. Perhaps this youth is imperfect, but its stubborn, tenacious, yet sinister vitality is precious and impossible to compound.