Written By: Ethan Griggs
My Music: ethangriggsmusic.virb.com
It’s hard to say whether or not Lorde has grown up a whole ton or not. That’s not an insult, as she makes music that people of any age can get down with. After the smashing success of 2013’s Pure Heroine and it’s blockbuster anthem “Royals”, you couldn’t really blame the then-fifteen year old for retreating from the spotlight – it’s easy to get overwhelmed when you’re essentially the only pop star the late great David Bowie has his eye on, let alone being barely into your teens. Finally, she returns with her sophomore effort Melodrama, and if the youth-obsessing, club-banging song-craft doesn’t move you, the striking musical developments of the artist herself will. The record has as many twists and turns as something more avant-garde, but not for a second does the album veer into artful nothingness.
If Lorde is never able to come up with a hit like “Royals” in her career again, she can say she got pretty damn close with the strobe-lit album opener “Green Light”. “I do my makeup in somebody else’s car/We ordered different drinks at the same bar” is how Lorde introduces herself on the album, and it’s clear we’re about to hear a testament that isn’t quite past its own adolescence but yearning to be heard in an adult world.
What remains constant in many of the tracks on the album are the remnants of missed-connections and failed love affairs. Lorde’s true gift as a writer is her stunning usage of imagery, and it gives her songs such a refreshing element in the banal world of pop music. This can be noticed on the wonderfully illustrative “The Louvre” when she sings “Well summer slipped us underneath her tongue/Our days and nights are perfumed with obsession”.
That same song is also a prime example of the adventurous soundscapes on the record, and it affirms something that lots of people have been saying recently: guitars are slowly but surly making their way back to the forefront of the pop genre. While not as heavy on the six-strings as, say, blonde, there are still a satisfying presence of the instrument. In other places, the album is extremely dynamic and always surprising. Right after Lorde finishes the melancholy piano ballad “Liability”, the music turns into a funhouse of majestic pop with the double-part “Hard Feelings/Loveless”. Not before long, the album retreats back to its emotional hibernation with “Writer In The Dark”, a true gem that wouldn’t sound out of place on a classic Kate Bush album.
Even with all its musical tic-tac-toe, the true power behind this album comes from Lorde’s unmistakably modern and impeccably molded vocals. There’s simply no modern singer who sounds quite like her. At times you hear the accent of a native Englander, at others it sounds like she’s been your next door neighbor since forever ago. Make no mistake – Lorde is a force to be reckoned with, and she’s not even in her twenties yet. From the opener all the way to the anthemic closer “Perfect Places”, it’s safe to say that Melodrama is a true contender for album of the year, and it’s just about as original and challenging as modern mainstream pop gets.