The last lyrics on Lorde’s debut album ‘Pure Heroine’ read: “People are talking / Let ‘em talk”. In the not-quite four years since, the chatter hasn’t really stopped, with the singer pushed over the edge into stardom while barely releasing any music. A Disclosure collaboration and a TV soundtrack are all we’d heard before her full comeback with new album ‘Melodrama”s opening track and first single ‘Green Light’.
The single - a euphoric, intense stab at trying to move past her first true heartbreak - was the pop smash expected from Ella Yelich-O’Connor’s return, but ‘Melodrama’ gets a lot more complicated and involved from there. Revealed by the singer to be an album that tracks the progress of a house party, it takes the downs as cleverly and emotionally as the ups, with huge, crippling consequences occasionally reaching her, piercing through the hedonistic exiting of her teens.
On her debut, Lorde stood on the edge of the world, peering inside with wide eyes. “I still like hotels but I think that’ll change,” she sang on ‘Still Sane’, and ‘Melodrama’ serves as a re-evaluation of her status, and on the four years since her debut in which she buddied up with Taylor Swift and swapped her native New Zealand for New York and LA.
‘Writer In The Dark’ is flooring, showing her to be one of the most emotionally intelligent pop songwriters around, if one who succumbs to overwhelming feelings out of her control. Maybe her finest moment yet comes on ‘Supercut’ though. The track carries a pummelling momentum, distilling the many twists, turns and downside of a relationship into a highlights reel of the euphoric highs. “In my head I do everything right / When you call I’ll forgive and not fight,” the breakdown yells, and it’s Lorde’s openness with admitting quite how messy these formative years of your life can be that makes her stand out quite so brightly.
There’s also an overwhelming positivity to ‘Melodrama’, whether it’s the playfulness of ‘Homemade Dynamite’, in which the singer manages to make whispered vocals sound like hurricanes, or ‘The Louvre’, in which a rushed lyric half way through the second verse epitomises the whole record. “We’re the greatest, they’ll hang us in the Louvre / Down the back, but who cares, still the Louvre,” she sings, and it’s a striking acknowledgement that the moments that aren’t perfect can still be the ones that make you feel on top of the world.
It’s a sentiment that carries through to final track, ‘Perfect Places’. “What the fuck are perfect places anyway?” she concludes, and ‘Melodrama”s acceptance of taking what you can get while never failing to reach for the stars makes it one of the smartest pop records of the decade.