Now that Lorde has officially secured her first number one album with Melodrama, it goes without saying that the only subject matter that will forever and always continue to appeal to the masses is suffering from and, at times, feeling as though never being able to recover from heartbreak (just look at The xx’s I See You). And try as she might to insist that it’s not a breakup album, but rather “a record about being alone. The good parts and the bad parts, dealing with themes of heartbreak and solitude,” there can be no denying that such content would never have been inspired without an untimely and unwanted relationship demise. With the first song and single from the album, “Green Light,” Lorde straight away establishes a tone at once filled with anger and sadness. But then, those are the joint emotions of losing the person you know you’ll love the most in your life. Or at least the person with whom you will never share quite the same intensity of love with because, well, only the first person you fall for can truly stick with you in this way. Perhaps this is why the majority of Melodrama features songs about drinking as an escape or coping mechanism.
Hence, Lorde doing her “makeup in someone else’s car” before ordering “different drinks at the same bars.” As the track that most clearly elucidates the combination of telling yourself you’re better off in the wake of a breakup paired with the rage that comes with disappointment over being lied to by your significant other (“Thought you said that you’d always be in love. But you’re not in love no more.”), “Green Light” is dichotomously ebullient in sound, while morose in lyrics. As Lorde stated, “It sounds so happy and then the lyrics are so intense obviously. And I realized I was like, ‘How come this thing is coming out so joyous sounding?’ And I realized this is that drunk girl at the party dancing around crying about her ex-boyfriend who everyone thinks is a mess. That’s her tonight and tomorrow she starts to rebuild. And that’s the song for me.”
Rebuilding, however, is most certainly not without its growing pains. Thus, “Sober,” the second song on Melodrama, explores the complexities of trying to feel things in any real way as a youth in the modern epoch. After all, the generation that has never known a world without internet has grown so accustomed to everything being infused with deliberate irony and awkwardness that to actually express a genuine emotion has been deemed terminally uncool. This is why Lorde’s theme (much in the same way Alessia Cara did with “Here”) throughout the record centers on being at a house party–the ultimate emblem of juvenescence and alienation (see Thirteen Reasons Why for visual evidence). And the only way to articulate or engage in intimacy of any kind is to get progressively drunker. Lorde sings, “We’re King and Queen of the weekend/Ain’t a pill that could touch our rush/But what will we do when we’re sober?” It’s a valid question, for what comes after is nothing but an often unpleasant and long-lasting hangover (in more than just physical respects).
“Homemade Dynamite,” the most danceable and carefree song on Melodrama was, not surprisingly, co-written with Tove Lo, someone who knows all too well about the pleasures of partying to mask and obscure the pain of losing an ex. The title, intended to reference that explosive first moment when you see a person at the party you’re inexplicably drawn to, also speaks to the initial phases of attraction before everything about one’s true persona comes to the surface, with Lorde remarking, “So let’s let things come out of the woodwork/I’ll give you my best side, tell you all my best lies.”
“The Louvre” is a continuation on the exuberant motif of “Homemade Dynamite,” with Lorde comparing this still new relationship to a great work of art that ought to be hung in the Louvre (“down the back, but who cares?–it’s still the Louvre”). And yet, like most of the art in said museum, the relationship becomes old–stale even, and possibly lacking in the innovation it possessed at the outset of its creation. And so, by the end of the song, with Lorde declaring, “Our thing progresses/I call and you come through/Blow all my friendships/To sit in hell with you,” it’s evident that Melodrama is about to make another shift in sentiment. Ergo the seemingly abrupt dolefulness of “Liability.” Yet isn’t that the nature of many a great love–causing an impossible-to-describe high one minute and a deadly low the next? In the case of “Liability,” Lorde addresses, for the first time, the monster of fame that infects and so often has the potential to taint any rapport–romantic or otherwise–she engages in. Lamenting the fact that anyone who comes into her life will compromise his privacy, Lorde reflects, “Baby really hurt me, crying in the taxi/He don’t wanna know me/Says he made the big mistake of dancing in my storm/Says it was poison.”
This makes for a natural segue to the contempt of “Hard Feelings/Loveless,” featuring a narrative that sort of delineates how a girl can go from Juliet Capulet to Alex Forrest in zero to sixty seconds if not treated correctly by her heart’s desire. Being that it’s already challenging enough without the constrictions of the twenty-first century sexless male to find someone, it’s no wonder Lorde is left particularly crestfallen in the aftermath of losing her loved one, crooning, “These are what they call hard feelings of love/When the sweet words and fevers all leave us right here in the cold/Alone with the hard feelings of love.” And alone is exactly what a girl usually will be after giving all of herself to that guy she thought she would be with forever. In the fallout, everyone else just doesn’t seem to compare, especially when memories, like so many unwanted acid trip flashbacks leave Lorde in a constant state of recalling the good and bad times as she says, “But I still remember everything, how we’d drift buying groceries, how you’d dance for me/I’ll start letting go of little things ’til I’m so far away from you, far away from you, yeah.” However, once she does start to “let go,” her despondency turns to ire with “Loveless,” a track in which she chirpily warns, “Bet you wanna rip my heart out/Bet you wanna skip my calls now/Well guess what? I like that/‘Cause I’m gonna mess your life up/Gonna wanna tape my mouth shut.” Alex Forrest indeed. Moreover, this song further iterates Lorde’s feelings on “Liability” in that any guy she dates will invariably become writing fodder. With this in mind, the eighth track, “Writer in the Dark” (we can skip over talking about track seven, “Sober II (Melodrama)”), touches on this unavoidable concept of a girl turning her lovers into inspiration for their work–they might as well be useful for something, right? Consequently, Lorde goads, “Bet you rue the day you kissed a writer in the dark/Now she’s gonna play and sing and lock you in her heart/Bet you rue the day you kissed a writer in the dark.” Nonetheless, even with the satisfaction of using her ex for her work, the pang of loss–that feeling that she would rather have the guy than the career–is present with “I’ll love you till my breathing stops/I’ll love you till you call the cops on me.”
The concluding “Perfect Places” (again, we can skip over talking about the song in between: “Liability (Reprise)”) is a fitting bookend not just to the album, but to Lorde’s teenage years. In that endless house party-related/puerile quest to feel higher and higher, drunker and drunker, Lorde realized (with the wisdom of age–yes, even twenty is wiser than nineteen) that she “couldn’t shake the feeling that everyone [she] knew or saw was searching for something–trying to transcend the news and the screaming pavements, drinking that one drink hoping it’d get them someplace higher.” But so often, the only thing that can get a person higher is what currently seems almost inconceivable to obtain: lasting love–a connection that won’t leave you feeling as though you’re perpetually alone in the ether that is life. That’s why Melodrama so adeptly captures how awful it feels when you lose it for the first time, most likely never to recapture it again in quite the same way.