Underneath a tree, in a distant garden, a time capsule is buried. It displays the image of a young woman named Lorde. This woman set out to distill the end of her teen years perfectly, so she could always come back and revisit that time in her life. She collected mistakes, thoughts and a lot of emotions – just about every emotion a woman can experience. This time capsule, titled “Melodrama,” portrays a brilliant and sensitive woman, one who allows herself to get swept up in a well-organized chaos.
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Despite living a very different life from that of most people her age (20), Lorde has succeeded in creating a concept album that echoes the feeling of being a young adult making her way alone in the world. The album slides back and forth between anxiety, excitement, profound loneliness and that staggering feeling that the universe is incredibly elastic.
“Melodrama” lives up to its name. Lorde dives in with the arrogance and pathos that usually goes hand in hand with first-time experiences. When it works – it’s magnificent.
A less-obvious prism
The album is dotted with powerful moments of self-love, enviable depths of reflection and wild imagination. Lorde transforms even the smallest moments, like a taxi ride or a swift kiss in the dark, into an event worthy of a thousand songs. While ignoring the pressure imposed on her after “Pure Heroine,” her groundbreaking first album, Lorde succeeds in conjuring that sublime feeling of elevation that only sharp, intelligent pop creates.
Her decision to focus her sophomore album on a less-obvious prism – a young love that didn’t survive her rise to fame – has something to do with the greatness of “Melodrama.” The Kate Bush-like song “Writer in the Dark” is an empathy-filled indictment; “Green Light” marinates in the sweet-and-sour sauce of an inevitable breakup, while “Perfect Places” closes the album with raging hormones and an evil grin. To top it all, the epic “Liability” reminds us that sometimes a ballad can be the best song in a pop album.
In its weaker moments, like the generic “The Louvre” or the unimpressive “Hard Feelings/Loveless,” the album dips into clichés that call to mind a “Gossip Girl” episode. But for the most part, the native New Zealander strengthens her status as a super-talented writer, wonderful performer, and the most interesting pop star around.