Lorde's new album captures the messy, confusing nature of heartache in the most striking way. Siena Yates reviews Melodrama.
Lorde's strength has always been as a storyteller and that's why Melodrama works so well.
It isn't just about the melodramatic nature of life, fame and love, it's a melodrama in itself, telling a story of lust, love, art, heartbreak and eventually healing.
And like its namesake, Melodrama is a hot mess - in the best of ways.
It's hardly surprising given the tumultuous few years Lorde's had since her debut album; changing cities, managers, producers, studios, friend circles and going through a breakup and a new level of fame.
And that's entirely reflected in the music, which goes from dance tracks to piano ballads, throwing in hip-hop influences, string sections and even a reference to the drum fill from Phil Collins' In the Air Tonight. It's also full of melodramatic swells and film score-type moments which make many of the songs feel destined to soundtrack Hollywood's next big romance flick.
On the downside, unlike Pure Heroine where everything felt incomparably "Lorde-ish", there are many parts of Melodrama where you're reminded of someone else.
But what Lorde still does incredibly well is play on those expectations and upend them, going high when you expect her to go low, messing with syncopation, and throwing in totally out-of-place lines like the "broadcast the boom" line in The Louvre.
Jack Antonoff's influence is obvious, as is that of hip-hop heavyweights Malay and Frank Dukes, so that Melodrama's production is in an entirely different league to Pure Heroine, to the point where Lorde's debut now sounds bare in comparison.
And vocally, Lorde has grown impressively. Nowhere is this showcased more than on Writer in the Dark, on which she comes in with a raw, low vocal full of cracks, breaks, rasps and whispers before the hook comes in she throws herself into that higher register in a way reminiscent of Kate Bush.
But the story and lyricism is really the heart of Melodrama. If you've ever gone through a heartbreak and dealt with it in ways you probably shouldn't, this album will strike every chord that makes you feel it again.
Where Sober revels in her vices and asks "what will we do when we're Sober?", Sober II answers that question: "lights are on and they've gone home but who am I? The terror and the horror, gotta wonder why we bother".
On Hard Feelings/Loveless she goes between "I wish I believed you when you told me this was home" and singing about her "loveless generation, all f**king with each other's heads".
Melodrama ends with Perfect Places and the acceptance that there's no such thing.
It's fitting because that's the whole point of Melodrama - it's not perfect in that "neatly wrapped" and easily digestible sense, it's not as obviously cohesive or on brand as Pure Heroine was.
Some tracks will alienate old fans, some will disappoint new fans and most require some unpacking.
But damn, unpacking it is a hell of a good time.
Label: Universal Music
Verdict: An insanely layered and textured drama worth fully immersing yourself in.