Melodrama loses signature Lorde magic

IN MELODRAMA , LORDE TRADES the sound that made her famous for marketability.

I should preface this by saying that I might be the ultimate Lorde loyalist; I fell in love with the album Pure Heroine in the last minutes of my senior year of high school, and it served largely as the soundtrack for my transition to college. As an artist, she presented a sense of self-awareness in her writing that I wasn’t quite familiar with. Here was a young girl—17 at the time Pure Heroine was released—who seemed to really understand the sleepless, manic lifestyle of young people just starting to grow into themselves. She became a smash hit almost seemingly overnight, and I will be the first to admit that I was swept in her image.

However, possibly the most shocking part about Lorde’s debut was just how quickly she retreated into solitude. Following the release of her debut album, Lorde produced only a handful of singles over the course of a four-year hiatus. She maintained some semblance of a high-profile in her celebrity friendship with Taylor Swift and her active Twitter presence, but her music came in bursts and even then to mixed reactions. When Lorde finally announced her second album in the beginning of 2017, I had already bitten my nails to the quick.

Here is where I need to be frank: Melodrama disappointed me. For all of the tangible, relatable personality that Lorde had exercised in Pure Heroine, it seemed like she had lost touch in her five years in the limelight. The lyrics that she crafted weren’t about capturing the multidimensionality of youth anymore—they had largely devolved into songs about being in love and half-hearted attempts at reflecting on millennials as a generation. I suppose it’s difficult for a person to write music that speaks to the layperson when you’re fabulously wealthy and high-profile. After listening to the album once, I couldn’t help but ask myself where the insight had gone, and who Lorde was trying to brand herself as.

That being said, I still haven’t quite managed to stop listening to Melodrama. I had hoped for the smooth harmonies that Lorde had perfected with Pure Heroine, but her newest album presents a much more industrial feel. Songs like “The Louvre” play on clichéd themes about self-consciousness in the face of romance, but capture the listener with an entirely new, upbeat, and decidedly catchy undertone that comes largely out of left field. While the lyrics of her music seem to have lost some momentum in terms of impact, she has managed to create an entirely new, remarkably catchy sound in her newest album. “Hard Feelings” is a relatively typical breakup song, but captures attention in the painstaking detail of its grungy, emotional production. What Lorde has created in her newest album didn’t have the emotional impact that I was hoping for, but it does serve as a perfectly respectable evolution for an artist I am perfectly respectful of.

For all its disappointments, I have to admit that Melodrama is full of surprises. Maybe this isn’t an album that was meant for me; I’m not the person that I was when I fell in love with Pure Heroine, and that might explain why Melodrama doesn’t resonate with me. Whatever it may be, the album is thoughtful and constructive, and I don’t hesitate to recommend it.