Fire Note Says: Lorde resists contemporary pop conventions and dusts off 80’s vinyl influences to craft one of the strongest and most original pop records of the year.
Album Review: Four years ago, the meteoric rise of New Zealand’s Lorde was fueled by the strength of “Royals,” a single that trumpeted the arrival of a confounding, but instantly necessary pop goddess. “Royals” dominated international charts and made Pure Heroine one of the best selling and most essential records of the year.
For fans, the four years between then and now have been a lifetime. But the wait was worth it, because nearly every song on Lorde’s sophomore act Melodrama makes “Royals” look like child’s play.
Miraculous and groovy, Melodrama is somehow both uptempo and dark; somehow simultaneously jungly and hushed. It’s pulsing with id from start to finish, from the manic synth horns that smash through warm synths on “Sober” to the brooding, moody chorus of “Liability.” Lorde is our uninhibited and unabashedly frank tour guide on a safari of young womanhood, leading us through a jungle dense with yelping choruses and luscious, New Wave arrangements. There instances of strange bliss — the anachronistically industrial bridge in the middle of “Hard Feelings;” the additive rhythm and infectious confidence of “Homemade Dynamite” — and moments of familiar, nostalgic teenage angst. “We were wild and fluorescent, come home to my heart,” our heartbroken heroine pleads in “Supercut.” What jagged, jaded adult on this planet wouldn’t give anything to feel “wild and fluorescent” just one more time? Is there any summary of rebellious adolescence more poignant than “Our rules, our dreams, we’re blind / blowing shit up with homemade dynamite” ?
But the real genius of Melodrama lies in the chemistry between its production and themes. Lorde stiff-arms modern pop conventions and opts for electro arrangements far more akin to New Order’s Substance or Depeche Mode’s Black Celebration than Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream. It’s impossible to navigate the energy and emotion of Melodrama without detecting heavy New Wave elements, laced with the pop sensibilities of Pet Shop Boys and David Bowie. This is the secret sauce; the boldness that lies at the heart of Melodrama. By flouting so many contemporary pop standards and instead dusting off the vinyls, Lorde has, with delightful irony, crafted one of the very best and most original pop records of the year.
The dark nostalgia that runs through Melodrama so thoroughly infects each track that it’s easy to forget that the record is merely renting space from the silence; by the time it ends, we’re so lost in its synths, rhythms and emotions that we struggle to believe it’s over. Melodrama drops us off right where it picked us up: at a few clean piano chords under Lorde’s decadent, confessional vocals. Then it closes quietly, returning us to the dark, empty space it borrowed for an exquisite forty minutes — leaving us wondering how on Earth we never knew we always needed this record.
Key Tracks: “Green Light” / “Sober” / “Homemade Dynamite”
Artists With Similar Fire: Lana Del Rey / Charli XCX / Robyn
– Reviewed by Dylan Gallimore
Dylan Gallimore is a writer from New Jersey, now living in Philadelphia, whose fiction and nonfiction have been published online and in journals across the country. Like every other Millennial, he's got dozens of The Killers' lyrics tattooed across his brain, and he's A-OK with it.
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