Young people, eh? There’s always an inherent superiority complex whenever the media writes about them. We’ve seen it recently in the UK with a huge underestimation around the election and, hell, we’ve been guilty of it ourselves when writing about a newcomer and exclaiming “look how bloody young they are”. As if age is inversely proportionate to talent. As if it’s surprising that younger people have something more real, more pertinent, and way more essential to say than anyone gives them credit for.
Lorde epitomises this new movement of millennials who could not give less of a fuck about what you might think, doing what they need to and getting their point across in ways that would only seem diluted with the interference of tradition. It could have gone either way thanks to her early success, but rather than caving under the pressure of major label too-much-too-soon stardom, she sticks to her guns as an auteur and cements herself as the pop voice of a generation.
But more on that later. Melodrama is filled to the brim with moments of high-octane emotion, wax-sealed with Jack Antonoff executive production. The singles have been impeccable: Green Light stops and starts as if waiting for that signal itself, constantly surprising even as it puts its foot down and hurtles towards banger status. Sober dials it down, again eschewing whatever we expect of pop and blending dark comedown beats with the spiky brass of hedonism. It’s hard to imagine anyone having the audacity to do this, let alone pulling it off the way Lorde does.
If anything holds Lorde back, even in just a small way, it’s probably that very involvement from Antonoff. Too reliant on piano as he was on the Bleachers album, there’s a distinct weight around the middle – see the weaker balladry of Liability and Writer In The Dark – that the album finds hard to shake. For a record that’s about being alone after a break-up, there’s a lot to be said for Lorde standing up and realising that a lot of what makes her special might not rely on external factors.
Still, the writing is razor-sharp, even if references alternate between genius and clunky. ‘Top Gun pilots’ doesn’t quite sit right on Homemade Dynamite, which otherwise is Lorde’s greatest moment to date (special shout-out to the homemade ‘boom’ sound effect, pyromaniac tendencies which extend into The Louvre). Elsewhere, describing a relationship as a supercut on, er, Supercut makes it sound a little bit too slight to care about, just like a throwaway montage in a bigger motion picture.
But Lorde conveys the very essence of what it means to be young at the moment, living an entire life in the space of a weekend with no apologies, waiting to find Perfect Places or the next crescendo and exciting flourish that’ll change the course of the whole conversation. That’s the definition of Melodrama though, isn’t it? Larger-than-life emotions that we can all relate to, with the occasional moment of cringe and plenty of cinematic wallowing. And whatever unfolds, one thing is always certain: you won’t be able to take your eyes off it.