June's most talked about album gets talked about by four of Earbuddy's writers.Republic / Lava, 2017
8.1 / 10
Welcome to another Earbuddy Roundtable Review. To explain, Earbuddy assembles three or more writers to discuss a new album with each writer giving his/her thoughts on the release and their own personal score. Then an average score is determined for the album overall. For our latest Roundtable, Earbuddy writers Nick Krenn, John Downey, Tom Alexander, and Sami Rahman will be reviewing Lorde‘s sophomore album, Melodrama.
Just a teen when releasing her debut full-length album, Pure Heroine, Lorde is now a woman on her sophomore album, Melodrama. A young woman (just 20-years-old), but almost following a similar trajectory with Adele. While Adele’s songs feel more orchestral and fitting for an opera house, Lorde’s are grand pop statements meant to fill arenas. Melodrama promises to ensure that happens. Already receiving greater critical acclaim than her debut, Lorde is positioning herself as the rare pop star that finds love with listeners and critics alike. And her young age could mean that she’ll eventually be the biggest pop star on the planet. That is, if Melodrama doesn’t make her that already. Will Earbuddy’s writers gush just as much over Melodrama as everyone else?
So when did Lorde become great? I think she was good when singles like “Royals” and “Team” were all over the radio. However, there was a turning point for her as a musician. This came with the release of “Yellow Flicker Beat” from the The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1 soundtrack. Lorde’s music suddenly became epic, evoking a rush of emotions that were empowering.
It was the perfect precursor for Melodrama‘s lead single, “Green Light”. A song that’s simple enough. It’s about a breakup, but it becomes much more than that as the song grows and Lorde sings, “I’m waiting for it/ That green light/ I want it.” She’s a woman ready to move on from a shitty relationship, yes. But she’s also ready to really begin living as a woman; accomplishing her dreams rather than only dreaming.
“Green Light” is as perfect as a pop song you’ll hear this year. Its chorus is thrilling and catchy. Its main subject is easy for anyone to relate to. However, it makes us bite down harder on buying that this Lorde has something to say. And sure enough, she has a lot to say on Melodrama. Not every song matches the intense pace of “Green Light”, but if it did, this album wouldn’t land as heavy.
No, you need the orchestral drama found in softer songs like “Sober II (Melodrama)”. You need the warm anthemic pop found in “The Louvre”. And you need her sometimes snarling anger heard on the piano ballad “Writer In The Dark”. It shows that Lorde isn’t some one-note artist, but one with an ability to shift flawlessly between what her songs demand better than most of her peers. This includes the Katy Perrys, Lady Gagas, and Taylor Swifts.
Nick’s Score: 8.4
Darkroom pop dankness – lovely!
Second half is weird
John’s Score: 8.5
I can’t say that I was looking forward to Melodrama after the relatively tepid Pure Heroine. My thoughts were generally “What is Lorde offering that I don’t already get in Lana Del Rey?” The album was a moody, disillusioned take on youth and pop music, and as much as those themes can provide good material, Lorde’s close vocal range and muted production just made everything so drab. You know what they say: “I like my pop music how I like my crumbling highway motels: drab as fuck and empty.” With the exception of “Royals” (and maybe “Team” on a good day), Pure Heroine was a good album in concept, but not so much in realization. I decided I’d write off Melodrama until the early reviews and buzz came in: this album isn’t just good — it’s great!
Or at least that’s what the buzz was. And Melodrama is a good record — one that avoids the sophomore slump, sees Lorde grow, and all that good stuff. Appropriately titled, some of the best moments are when Lorde dives right into the heightened emotions of youth, like “Writer in the Dark” or “Liability”. There are several times throughout, however, where the “youth” aspect of this equation takes center stage, like “Supercut” or “The Louvre”, where what was previously heightened emotion is transmuted, like a shit Midas, into tripe. If you’re grading Lorde on a pop-music curve, against Katy Perry, The Weeknd, Bruno Mars, or Chainsmokers, sure Melodrama is a cut above the rest. There’s a lot of neat introspection and playful melodies here to enjoy, but it ain’t a Lemonade, a Blonde, or a Pure Comedy.
It’s also a miracle that the record label released this without requiring a rap interlude on a song or two.
Tom’s Score: 7.5
The fact that she has essentially gone full-on pop is pretty rad, I must say. It’s reassuring to know that someone at Lorde’s level is still capable of making such a cohesive statement. Sometimes there are a little too many of co-producer Jack Antonoff’s fun.-isms, what with the swelling harmonies and dramatic piano. But Lorde fits the chart-stylings of today into her own sullen aesthetic beautifully.
“The Louvre” has one of the best pop choruses I’ve heard in awhile. It’s a slo-mo implosion that takes a few listens to fully process, but manages to be celebratory, ominous, melancholy, and danceable all at once (Hey, everyone, add your own adjectives!). The Johnny Marr-by-way-of-Beach House fade-out is a whole world unto itself, and the entire album feels crammed with feeling, color, and sounds. Some of it is kind of garish, like the Katy Perry-esque “Supercut” but when the “melodrama” does kick in, as on “Writer in the Dark”, it can be genuinely heartbreaking.
The gothic sensibilities she made her name on do still remain, though. On “Homemade Dynamite”, when she vividly paints the scene of a drunken car crash, she zeroes in on “all the broken glass sparkling”, romanticizing the morbid beauty of death in the way that only a teenager could. The trap beat that kicks in on “Sober II (Melodrama)” also has a strange way of injecting both joy and darkness.
What’s really groundbreaking throughout is the production. It’s a synthesis of all these recent indie-production methods, with a fuckton of money behind it now. The bonkers breakdown on “Hard Feelings/Loveless” sounds like Ben Allen, who worked on some Animal Collective and Youth Lagoon records. “Liability (Reprise)” sounds just like that Bon Iver album from last year. And honestly, as delightful as “Green Light” is, the best part of the song is that massive, swooning synth line that fires in at the ending. It’s like three notes, but…it kind of sounds like the future?
Sami’s Score: 8.0