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Saturday, June 25, 2022

Melodrama Review: honest without being embarrassing

A considered and uncontrived album that makes even the drama of a hangover seem profound

Lorde’s aptly named Melodrama captures the period after clichéd teenage years but before adulthood, taking the neurotic theatrics we associate with millennials and painting them as considered and uncontrived. It makes the drama of parties, break-ups, hook-ups, and hangovers seems profound and finds an honesty you can listen to without feeling embarrassed.

Excluding the maturer “Liability” and “Writer in the Dark”, the album’s subject matter is lyrically jaded with the knowledge of how ‘first world problem’ it is. The lead single “Green Light,” leads into “Sober,” but we aren’t given the party that precedes sobriety till later. All the songs are told in a sort of bitter-sweet hindsight.

Otherwise ‘cheesy’ songs like “The Louvre” and Supercut” are simply too self-aware to be so. Lyrics of young love like “sweetheart,” and “quiet afternoon crush,” are ironised against “psychopathic crush,” and “violent overnight rush,” so as to avoid being too sickly-sweet. These anthemic declarations of love fade into the “Boom Boom Boom” of music heard through club walls onto the street. Even the most tender heartbreak in “Hard Feelings,” fades into a rogue upbeat pop tune – one moment comforting, the next telling you ‘get over it.’ It’s one of many disclaimers that this is not just a Generation Y album. This sentiment is put most bluntly in the album’s eponymous track, the biggest nod to its self-awareness. What did we expect of the album? Lorde reminds us: “We told you this was melodrama.”

These melodramas of twenty-somethings are pitched against the ‘bigger picture.’ In “Homemade Dynamite” a drop coincides with the sound of a fired-gun. But the ‘drop’ is more like a bubble popping than a speaker exploding. The speaker does explode in the final track “Perfect Places,” with a gun being cocked alongside the chorus. Representative of the whole album the song details the familiar house parties we attend to avoid real world problems like those of 2016-17. Instead of being ‘young and free’, Lorde describes a generation “young and ashamed.” Lorde herself wanted to create something “pop and obvious (that also) feels profound.”

Melodrama has a unique ability to make drunk antics sound as deep and unironic as they feel at the time. As far as subdued-pop albums aimed at twenty-somethings go, Melodrama is considered but not neurotic; honest but not whiny; open but not embarrassing, and as far 2017 albums go, commercially successful but deeply underrated. 

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