review: lorde "melodrama"

by Sarah Crawford


While driving down some Georgia road in 2013, my best friend Catie introduced me to Lorde. Word of her gothy, hip-hoppy, electro-poppy Soundcloud EP was spreading like wildfire that summer, reaching even the depths of our little mainstream-pop-filled suburban bubble. It sounded like nothing I’d ever heard before – I soon had “Bravado” and “Biting Down” on repeat.

A short while after this initial intrigue, Pure Heroine arrived. Something about this 16-year-old girl's lyrics encapsulated the stories of our lives. Her writing made me feel like I was listening to a modern, musical version of a Greek epic. Odysseus may have travelled around the globe encountering sirens and tempests but something about the way Lorde gave a dramatic life to the whirlwind of everyday teenage emotions and delusions felt just as magical and mysterious and larger than life.

Then we graduated from "stick to the status quo" high schools, moved into our tiny college dorms, and grew up slightly and slowly – experimenting with drinks and sex and whatever this whole concept of young adulthood might come to mean for us. Pure Heroine remained the soundtrack to those young and free – but still fairly safe and sheltered – years.

Anyone who ever rode in my car in college can confirm that I thoroughly memorized and exhausted that first album, I doubt I will ever tire of it. And finally in 2017, when even I was beginning to be frustrated with the lack of new material from my favorite prodigal artist (despite my belief that true, generation-defining works of art take time to first experience and then put down into words and music), we finally received more manna from our disco space princess Lorde. Melodrama.

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It's not a complete departure from Pure Heroine; the sweeping but specific songwriting remains just as genius. But it is an evolution, a feeling of growing up – growing out or old or lost or maybe just crazy. The essence of adolescence that Lorde captured so well has transitioned with its writer and hungry listeners to now incorporate less elusive, idealistic feelings and more everyday young adult obsessions – breaking hearts and being heartbroken, moving to new places, realizing that “you’re not what you thought you were,” wondering what you'll become, redefining home and finding it in within yourself.

To pick a favorite song from Melodrama is like trying to pick a favorite painting from Monet's Water Lilies, if you’ll excuse the amateur art historian inside of me for saying so. Certain tracks may stick out more than others during certain emotional phases of our lives [my early obsessions are "Sober," "The Louvre," "Hard Feelings/Loveless" and "Sober II (Melodrama)"]. But they all meld together to create a beautiful, tortured, realistic but somehow still optimistic portrait of hometown heartbreak and other misadventures. They also provide an occasional revealing glimpse into the surreal grandeur of holding the airwaves and every indie kid's heart firmly in your grasp at 19.

To read more technical and less sentimental reviews of this glorious album, below is a creepy lil list of ones I've enjoyed. I also highly recommend following Lorde on Twitter if you’re feeling like a deep dive into her emotions writing + releasing this record.

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NY Times review
The Village Voice review
Uproxx review – an amazing and perfectly poetic read
Pitchfork podcast interview
Rookie podcast interviews, part one and part two 
The Spinoff  podcast interview – in which she explains each track
NY Times pre-release interview – in which she talks about the holiness of pop
Rolling Stone interview – get the print version if you can, the photos are beautiful
Vanity Fair interview
TIME interview

illustration by sarah crawford
inspired by the "melodrama" album art by sam mckinniss