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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Moglia

Retrospective Review: Four Years Ago, We Told You This Was “Melodrama.”

It’s rare that an artist is so incredible that a piece of their work defines a generation of young people for multiple years. Some albums that come to mind might be “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” by The Beatles, Elvis Presley’s self-titled LP, “Nevermind” by Nirvana, Prince and the Revolution’s “Purple Rain”, or even Taylor Swift’s debut full-length. While all of these are undoubtedly iconic albums, I’m here today to give another artist and another record seat at the table; Lorde’s “Melodrama.”

While adults will sometimes be quick to say that teenagers (particularly teenage girls) are easy to please and will listen to everything, I vehemently disagree. As a teenage girl myself, we are some of the pickiest, most judgmental people in the world, so if we collectively love an artist, that’s saying something about that artist.

While we as an age group may be known for our love of boy bands or pop princesses, teenage girls have accepted Ella Yelich O’Connor, better known as Lorde, with open arms since she burst onto the scene in 2013 with her debut album “Pure Heroine” and its smash-hit single “Royals.” That song sold over ten million copies, peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, and was certified platinum, making her the youngest artist to do so since Tiffany’s “I Think We’re Alone Now” did it 26 years earlier in 1987. Both artists were only 16 years old when they accomplished this feat.

Perhaps we as young girls were drawn to Lorde from the beginning because we always just felt like she was one of us, growing up alongside us, singing about the same troubles we would rant to our friends about. I was ten years old when “Pure Heroine” was released, and though I was six years younger than O’Connor, many of the album’s messages resonated with me.

I listened to “Team” when I was hating my hometown but loving my friends, “400 Lux” when I was falling for the older boy from another school, “Ribs” when I thought graduating middle school was the scariest thing that would ever happen to me and “Glory and Gore” when I wanted to feel like a badass, even if I was just walking home from school. The closing track, “A World Alone”, was my favorite Lorde song for years; the first time I realized how perfectly it bookended the album with opening track “Tennis Court”, its ending lines of “People are talking / Let ‘em talk” serving as a response to the record’s first lyric “Don’t you think that it’s boring how people talk?”, my jaw dropped.

I have so many vivid memories associated with “Pure Heroine”, whether it was dancing around my kitchen to “The Love Club” or crying in my bedroom to “Buzzcut Season.” There really is something so special about an artist who can produce such profound pieces of work at such a young age; she was bringing so many of my own feelings to light in ways that I could never have formulated on my own, reading my mind and relaying the thoughts back to me in magical poetry.

Fast forward four years later, it’s 2017, and now I’m 14 years old, not 10 anymore. Lorde has just dropped her second studio album, titled “Melodrama.”

While “Pure Heroine” was centered around feelings of fleeting youth and individuality, it was clear that the artist’s sophomore effort was, at its core, a breakup album. O’Connor herself has described it as a loose concept album that takes place over the course of one night, at a house party, chronicling the countless different emotions one feels in that situation; "There’s that moment where a great song comes on and you’re ecstatic, and then there’s that moment later on where you’re alone in the bathroom, looking in the mirror, you don’t think you look good, and you start feeling horrible."

Whether you think the songs are about her ex-boyfriend from her hometown or you’re a conspiracy theorist who thinks they’re about her collaborator Jack Antonoff, these are songs about heartbreak, complicated feelings, and, eventually, happiness found in being alone. It’s clear that Lorde had matured quite a bit in the years between her debut and her second full-length; she grew from a 16-year-old to a 20-year old, a sophomore in high school to a young woman, a breakout star to a household name.

However, if you thought that newfound fame would change O’Connor’s work, you’re absolutely wrong; her emotional maturity does not invalidate the intensity of her feelings. Each track is packed with so much vibrancy and passion that you’re reminded that she’s still a young girl with volatile emotions, yet her masterful writing and delivery show that she’s learned a thing or two since her first outing.

From the moment the first notes of lead single and opening track “Green Light” start to ring out, there’s a sense of magic in the air. The lyrics make you want to cry, but the beat makes you want to dance, establishing this record’s role as a heartbroken, pollyannaish narrator.

The one-two punch of “Sober” and “Homemade Dynamite” establish the party theme perfectly, both sonically and lyrically, with the latter focusing on the fun and the former allowing consequences to start to creep in. “The Louvre” expands on those concepts of the downfall after the high, the comedown after driving home from the house party.

“Liability” and “Hard Feelings” are much slower tracks, with self-deprecating lyrics about feeling like you’re too much and not enough for the people you love all at the same time. In deep contrast, “Loveless” and “Sober II (Melodrama)” feel more like a call-out, screaming “I know what you did and everyone else is about to know too”, daring those who have hurt you to even breathe the wrong way just to see what you’ll do in response.

Potentially the title track’s most memorable lyric is a warning - to listeners, to fans, to future friends and past flames - “we told you this was melodrama.” You pressed play on an album written by a teenage girl...did you expect anything but a melodramatic, all-flags-flying, knock-down-drag-out experience of a record?

“Writer in the Dark” is where the breakup starts to fade and solitude works its way in, as O’Connor sings “I stumbled on a secret power / I found a way to be without you...I let the seasons change my mind / I love it here, since I stopped needing you.” The next track reduces the relationship to a “Supercut”, a kaleidoscope of memories, mere blips and flashes of someone you once knew after years of ups and downs and back and forth.

There’s a brief reprise of “Liability”, the album’s darkest and most vulnerable moment, before its final track “Perfect Places” takes over. As soon as I listened to this record for the first time, I knew that this was my new favorite Lorde song - sorry “A World Alone”, but I guess that means I have a thing for album closers?

“Perfect Places” fuses “Pure Heroine”-esque subject matter with the booming, sugary-sweet production of “Melodrama”, bringing things full-circle with that heartbreak meets pollyanna attitude once again; “I hate the headlines and the weather / I’m 19 and I’m on fire / But when we’re dancing I’m alright / It’s just another graceless night.”

As the song progresses, things get more chaotic, with Lorde threatening to “blow her brains out” if people keep trying to tell her what to do, claiming that her heroes have gone to hell and she “can’t stand to be alone”, all along dreaming of running away from it all and going to “perfect places.” The final stretch of the song sees her contemplate the now-iconic question, “All the nights spent off our faces / Trying to find these perfect places / What the fuck are perfect places, anyway?”

The entire album culminates in this question, putting everything into perspective. What the fuck are perfect places, anyway? Are they found in house parties? The car of your ex-lover? The subway car with the windows big enough to read every sign in the city? An art museum in Paris, France?

When “Melodrama” draws to a close, one thing is evident; your perfect places are found wherever you want to find them, you just have to look for them. This message has helped me with so many things throughout the past few years, pushing me to make the most of every situation I’m in, reject the norm, and make my own happiness, despite anything else that’s going on around me.

It almost feels wrong to call “Melodrama” an album (an album with not a single song that should be skipped, to be fair). “Melodrama” is an experience.

“Melodrama” is glitter in your hair and tears in your eyes, hair matted to your forehead with sweat and high heels about to break if you take one more step. “Melodrama” is star-shaped confetti and dancing all night with your best friends, knowing you’ll regret it when you have to wake up early the next morning but not caring.

“Melodrama” is taking the train alone for the first time, knowing that you’ll be more than alright now that he’s left you, the same way that you were more than alright before you met him. “Melodrama” is making yourself the main character of your own coming-of-age movie, being scared to death but excited to live, not letting your teenage years run away before you’ve beaten them to a pulp, exhausted every option and sung every song at the top of your lungs.

And “Melodrama” doesn’t end. “Melodrama” makes a mark on your heart and mind that will stay there forever, long after you’re “all grown up.” This, at the end of the day, is what “Melodrama” is.

Wishing a very happy (albeit belated) fourth birthday to Lorde’s second LP, “Melodrama!” This, along with the rest of her discography, including her latest single “Solar Power”, is available to stream wherever you listen to music.

If you enjoyed this piece, you can check out my review of “Solar Power” on the site here. You can support Lorde by picking up some merch from her online store, including pre-ordering a copy of her upcoming new album “Solar Power”, due out later this year.

Lorde can be found on social media @Lorde on Facebook, @Lorde on Instagram, and @Lorde on Twitter. Be sure to let me know how you celebrated the birthday of “Melodrama” by tweeting me @JENSESSlON!

To be the first to know when new articles are posted, including a review of Lorde’s third full-length whenever it is released, you can follow the blog on social media @StrawberrySkiesBlog on Facebook, @StrawbSkiesBlog on Twitter, and @StrawberrySkiesBlog on Instagram. Stickers of our website's logo and title are also now available via our graphic designer Erika Nissen's RedBubble store!

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