Lorde has always seemed enviably, precociously in control. Even at 16 years old, on her debut single ‘Royals’, her presence was supreme and dignified. On Pure Heroine, her 2013 debut album, she wrote of idyllic moments of friendship (‘Ribs’), growing up in an increasingly brighter spotlight (‘Still Sane’, ‘Tennis Court’) and being oblivious to global horrors that don’t encroach on small town life (‘Buzzcut Season’). She had grace by the bucketload and glided through her songs like a ballet dancer elegantly pirouetting across the stage.
If there’s one thing to make you spin out and lose control, though, it’s a break-up – especially your first major one. On Melodrama, Lorde weathers the storm of her first serious split well, maintaining her poise while letting out the heartache in a series of jerky pop bangers, tearful ballads and typically odd gems.
The 20-year-old’s second album is loosely based around a house party and you can feel the trajectory of a booze-soaked night in its tracklisting. Opener ‘Green Light’ is that first thrill of release when you’re still sober enough to feel the pain you’re trying to dance away in your living room (it’s also 2017’s answer to Robyn’s ‘Dancing On My Own’). The stark, stirring piano ballad ‘Liability’ could easily be the moment the New Zealand singer described to the New York Times “where you’re alone in the bathroom looking in the mirror, you don’t think you look good and you start feeling horrible.” Several drinks later, closer ‘Perfect Places’ is those last 5am throes before the yawns arrive and your body starts to rebalance its chemical structure; a last piece of euphoria before the inevitable sleepy slump.
At Melodrama‘s core is heartbreak. ‘Supercut’, another track that borrows from Robyn’s playbook of sad-but-grand pop peaks, has Lorde running through a film reel of her relationship in her head. There’s a hushed moment where she lets out an anguished scream as if she’s lashing out in frustration, realising what she’s lost. In that second, all her misery flies to the surface and looms large before it dissipates as quickly as it appeared. On ‘Liability’ she sing of “the only love I haven’t screwed up” – love for herself – before a chorus that wrenchingly positions her as “a little much” for everyone.
Lorde isn’t content to wallow all the way through, though. There’s also a surprising amount of lust on the album – both for her ex and for new lovers – and those moments are some of the best on the record. “My hips have missed your hips,” she purrs on ‘Sober’, while on ‘Homemade Dynamite’ she describes the art of pursuit: “I give you my best side, tell you all my best lies/See me rolling, showing someone else love/Dancing with our shoes off, know I think you’re awesome, right?” On the ‘Loveless’ part of ‘Hard Feelings / Loveless’, she gleefully sings “Bet you wanna rip my heart out/Bet you wanna skip my calls now/Well, guess what? I like that”. It’s a shame it’s relegated to half a song – with it all fleshed out it could be a wicked highlight.
Through it all, save momentary musical drunken sobs like the aforementioned ‘Liability’ and the phenomenal ‘Writer In The Dark’, Lorde somehow manages to work her way through all of this without flying out of control. She even manages to make downing shots sound like an art form (“Oh god I’m closing my teeth around this liquor wet lime,” ‘Sober’) as if she’s some kind of superhuman who doesn’t wince once while she’s glugging back the tequila. It, and the rest of ‘Melodrama’, makes the perfect case for how to get over your ex – put down the pint of ice cream, step away from the cliched rom-coms and dance out all your feelings, by yourself, with others and – most importantly – with Lorde.
STAND OUT TRACKS: Writer In The Dark, Green Light, Homemade Dynamite, Supercut
BUY: Lorde – Melodrama