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Review: inspired by heartache, Lorde’s Melodrama sounds like the future of music

Four years after she became a global star, the New Zealand singer-songwriter’s latest release captures the emotional turmoil of a break-up, and runs the gamut from dance floor singalongs to more contemplative numbers

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 June, 2017, 10:17pm
UPDATED : Friday, 16 June, 2017, 11:17am

Lorde

Melodrama

Republic Records

4/5 stars

Nearly four years after Royals and the album that propelled her to global fame, New Zealand singer Lorde returns with Melodrama, her long-awaited follow-up. While Pure Heroine, her 2013 debut, was all sparse electronica and relatable tales of suburban teenhood, the new record picks up the pieces after a break-up with anthemic dance tracks and lovelorn piano ballads. “It’s a record about being alone – the good parts and the bad parts,” she said recently.

Lorde, aka 20-year-old Ella Yelich-O’Connor, began work on the album in her home country three years ago before relocating to New York to hammer out the songs with Bleachers rocker Jack Antonoff. The result is big pop-driven tunes with open-diary lyrics: suitable for both dance floor singalongs and contemplative late night bedroom solitude.

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It’s easy to see why David Bowie declared Lorde’s music to be like “listening to tomorrow”. On the elegant and euphoric lead single Green Light, there’s a sense we’re witnessing the next generation of dance music. Low, prowling verses pick up pace to the sound of a bold piano key change before exploding into a huge cheerleader chorus with a droning synth trailing idly behind.

The album is preoccupied with the emotional turmoil and complicated feelings left in the wake of a break-up. Lorde’s voice – a deep, breathy, smoky drawl that belies her young age – tells stories of drinking to dull the pain and waking to reality in the cold light of day. Yet songs like Hard Feelings focus on healing – by lighting candles and arranging flowers in conscious acts of self care. A cathartic act, rather than one wallowing in self-pity.

That said, at times, the album’s lyrics feel rather self-indulgent, like reading a Tumblr feed of platitudes superimposed over rose-filtered ocean shots. Yet there’s a sincerity and rawness to Lorde’s lyricism that sets her apart as one of the best songwriters of her generation. And anyway, that’s what melodrama is about: revelling in the theatre of emotions, and it’s hard not to be rapt.