Melodrama, Revisited: A Love Letter to the Loveless
Two years following its release, Lorde’s sophomore album remains a talisman of departing from adolescence, celebrating her own chaotic impulses with as much tenderness as sheer intensity.
Written by Zoe Judilla
Rarely do we cherish the party in our bones.
At least, this was the lesson learned upon first listen of Lorde’s Melodrama, released in June 2017.
While we often romanticize the youthful rebellion of our teen years or glorify the controlled freedom of adulthood, Melodrama finds the beauty in the forgotten transitional period of life between these two archetypal stages. These “in-betweens” are filled with everything from shame to glory and are dated by a sense of loss in our place in the world. It is during these years that we seek the addictive bass of a house party or a solo sway in self-pity, wallowing in what went wrong and, by result, what could be. Because, no, we’re not being melodramatic about it — we’re just feeling what we feel and expressing it accordingly.
Melodrama bursts with emotional fervency and is acute in creating a story that is somehow both personal and universal. Ella Yelich-O’Connor penned her sophomore album between the pivotal ages of 19 and 20, creating a tender look at what it means to comprehend a time of insecurity and frustration. She is sentimental, self-loathing, and self-destructive, but also invincible when she harnesses those emotions to reach moments of clarity. Although she might not necessarily find the enlightenment she is looking for, it is enough for her to dissect her experiences and use them to move forward into the feigned maturities of adulthood.
The album itself is structured as a night-long journey reflecting the key landmarks of the transition into adulthood. “Green Light,” the lead single, is a heated introduction into her new outlook on life following a devastating breakup — what begins as controlled resentment eventually boils into an overflow of emotion aimed not at her heartbreaker, but towards the inevitability of fate. In a track-by-track dissection of the album, “Lorde: Behind the Melodrama,” the artist reveals the animated “green light” symbolizes her desire for the universe to give her permission to move on. Whether it be from her lost love or towards a new era of her life, Lorde begins her story by preemptively accepting whatever moving on entails.
Such desperate pleas are so recognizable to those transitioning into the unknown, away from the warmth of the familiar. While she begins the album with similar necessities of youth culture, such as a good night out with “Homemade Dynamite” or the lean towards numbness over pain with “Sober,” she then proceeds to untangle a formative concept that deeply affected her own transition into adulthood: love.
“The Louvre” is at once bashful yet distinctive, perfectly illustrating the bloom of romance in all its cacophonous glory. With coy platitudes over quick riffs, Lorde takes us on a whirlwind love story that grows increasingly complex, both sonically and metaphorically. She initially “overthinks [her lover’s] punctuation use,” then later asks if he can “hear the violence” in her chest, wanting the rest of the world to dance to its swift beat. The stakes increase in both the relationship and the song’s production with the layered addition of a deep-rooted bass, an almost-crystalline synth, muted beats, and whirling distortions. It is one of her most impressive feats to date, as she finds herself reveling in her newfound joy. But much like the song’s titular museum, there’s an antiquated nature to the way she reflects on love.
As the album’s “night” continues, Lorde finds herself alone once again. In that loneliness, she shines lyrically as she aims to articulate her dismissive perception of herself with the simple “Liability” and its reprise, as well as her stunning admission of lost love in “Hard Feelings/Loveless.” Suddenly alone and with time to recuperate, Lorde processes her pain and translates it to her own personal growth, instead appreciating the time shared between her and her partner. She makes peace with their end, admitting, “I care for myself the way I used to care about you.” Their memories reduce themselves to glimpses in “Supercut,” and she comes to the realization that this poignant process will continually occur throughout her young adulthood. This sense of finality is somewhat reassuring, as she allows herself to move on yet again.
The final track, “Perfect Places,” is an ode to the infinite cycle, tying up the album’s night-long journey into one cathartic release of a timeless sentiment. It is pure escape from the fears of failure, loneliness, and the unknown that plague young adults of every generation, culminating into one stunning, final dance anthem. Here, Lorde assures, no one knows “what the f---” even qualifies as a perfect place, and that we must inevitably end on a note of instability and insecurity. However, our impulsive tendencies and our desires to live just one more graceless night are more than enough to risk experiencing the rest.
Who’s to say our emotions will develop any sort of sustainable balance as we become older? We’ll drift with our lovers while buying groceries, we’ll turn the radio up with self-imposed urgency, we’ll clean the champagne glasses by night’s end, and we’ll find the perfect places we had always hoped we’d find. As we increasingly reflect on Lorde’s image of adulthood, our hearts ache for the naivety we leave behind. But what remains as collateral of this emotional turmoil is a maturity that melds our memories with our “meant-to-be’s,” creating something altogether wild, fluorescent, and utterly undeniable.