Perhaps the best thing to do with expectations is to ignore them. What would be the follow up from a young woman who as a teenager produced an album, and a song, which captured the world’s attention?
The answer is that Lorde’s second album, Melodrama, does not attempt to take on the world of pop once more with feverish attempts at big smash hits. Rather she focusses on something serious to her – the break up of a relationship – and she explores it throughout this expertly produced album with clever and insightful writing. It’s an essay, each song a variation on its theme. At first blush it may appear all rather dark and heartfelt. “These are what they call hard feelings of love,” she writes in Hard Feelings, “..when the sweet words and fevers all leave us right here in the cold.” But the observations are sharp. “But my hips miss your hips” she sings in Sober, while she affords herself a wry smile with “bet you rue the day you kissed a writer in the dark, Now she’s gonna play and sing and lock you in her heart”. Indeed sometimes, it verges on the playful: “But we’re the greatest, they’ll hang us in the Louvre. Down the back, but who cares, still the Louvre”
This is no angsty and immature angsty affair from a youngster lost in heartbreak. Melodrama presents as a weightier and more considered album. It’s from a writer looking back with the benefit of some perspective, which is laudable at the best of times, and even more so from someone who is only just 20 years old.
As for the music, it may not have a global smash hit pop single in it, but it doesn’t look like that’s been the intention.That’s not to say it doesn’t sound good. Green Light and Supercut still do the business as quality pop, while Liability and Writer in the Dark are impressive ballads. Most of the songs are populated by keyboards, bass and drums, but a guitar makes a surprise and welcome appearance in The Louvre. The production is clean and layered, allowing plenty of room for Lorde’s expressive voice to occupy centre stage. Indeed, at times it feels like she is right there next to you, so clearly do we hear her intake of breath. All this adds to the sense of Melodrama being an intensely personal statement.
In the album’s liner notes she writes that the album had a hard gestation – “two years of breathlessness and hunger” – and but for the help of those around her “this record would probably have gotten the better of me.” That didn’t happen. It’s a mature and classy piece of work.