On June 16, it finally happened: Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O'Connor, known to the public as Lorde, dropped her second album, “Melodrama.” Fans everywhere eagerly awaited the release, as her debut album “Pure Heroine” came out almost four years ago in Sept. 2013. On “Melodrama,” Lorde pulls off a feat rarely achieved by pop artists: releasing a second album that lives up to its predecessor. While the album is beautifully put together as a musical statement, Lorde also uses “Melodrama” to display the emotions and confusions associated with growing up.
“Green Light,” the first single off of “Melodrama,” was released in March and already set the standards high for Lorde’s second album. While sticking to Lorde’s moody and soulful style, the chorus of “Green Light” is more poppy than a typical Lorde song. It is also the least substantive song off of “Melodrama,” as Lorde sings to a past lover and her desire to move on from him instead of taking a look at herself. The song still marks a promising start to the album and sets up a perfect beginning to what appears to be a breakup album.
Lorde did indeed break up with her longtime boyfriend over a year ago, and that experience could be what makes “Melodrama” feel so authentic, though an artist’s work is not always directly inspired by real experiences. The album is about not merely a breakup, but a chance for Lorde to examine the entire young adult experience and where relationships fit into it. It is not a bratty rebuke against any past lovers; instead, the focus is on the internal and what growing up means to oneself.
The primary difference between “Pure Heroine” and “Melodrama” is in tone. Lorde carries over her eclectic, otherworldly sound, but amps up the level of pop in most of her songs. With this increase in pop comes a change in Lorde’s attitude. Many of “Melodrama’s” songs give the singer more confidence, describing her dancing at a party or pursuing a potential love interest. The singer sounds more sure of herself throughout the album, at one point informing the listener, “Oh, you’ll be dancing with us.” The album is still clearly Lorde, but a more mature Lorde who has had time for self-reflection and come out stronger because of it.
One of Lorde’s many gifts is giving the emotions teenage girls feel more depth than they often receive in any form of media. In “The Louvre,” she writes, “I overthink your punctuation use / Not my fault, just a thing that my mind do.” In two simple lines, Lorde makes obsessing over a text message sound meaningful, just as it often is to many young people first navigating crushes and relationships. “Melodrama” as a whole excels in offering a voice to experiences that may feel trivial but often become central to one’s own development.
Lorde also creates vivid vignettes through which listeners can gain a peek into the tumults of growing up. In “Green Light,” she sings, “I feel grown up with you in your car.” She writes, “Oh how fast the evening passes / Cleaning up the champagne glasses” on “Sober II (Melodrama)”. The strong images in these lines allow listeners to access emotions Lorde conveys through her songs, even if they cannot relate to them personally. The memories release a combination of confusion, longing and pride that are so integral to entering adulthood.
Lorde does not only confront the exciting parts of adolescence. On “Liability (Reprise),” she addresses a common realization: “But you’re not what you thought you were.” The singer displays a sense of bravado for most of the album, but it is these moments of reflection that give the album its depth and its ability to connect with listeners. Lorde realizes she is not perfect or immortal, but she presses on into her future despite her fears.
In her own indie way, Lorde provides the perfect antidote to an emotional young adulthood: self-love and a refusal to buy into the idea of perfection. Lorde declares, “I care for myself the way I used to care about you” in “Hard Feelings/Loveless,” expressing the ability to move on from one’s past. She ends the entire album with the line, “What the f**k are perfect places anyway?”—shattering any idea of a quintessential teenage experience. The four years that followed the release of “Pure Heroine” gave Lorde the time she needed to come into her own and start questioning the world around her instead of merely acting as a bystander. In “Melodrama,” Lorde creates a voice not only for herself, but for all of those who are coming into their own.