Death of the Critic

Melodrama - Review

Written by: Tom Blaich


With Pure Heroine, Lorde brought a unique voice to pop: smoky, honest, but also (most importantly) young and real. She was only 16 years old with the release of her debut album, and the tracks bounced back and forth between surprisingly mature and refreshingly juvenile, bringing a perspective to pop that we don’t normally see.

In the four years since, her music has had an impact, and we can see how others have attempted to mirror that rugged, pared-down style (like this year’s
American Teen by another young artist, Khalid). So I was intrigued to see how she would come back, and in what way her music would change.

Unfortunately, it seems to have become generic. The production feels much more “Taylor Swift”, more radio friendly, and that is probably intentional. She worked with Jack Antonoff, who helped with and produced tracks for Swift and Sara Bareilles, both excellent artists in their own rights, but not what I want when I listen to Lorde. It leads to a rather familiar sounding album, far from the out-of-left field impact that
Pure Heroine had on me.

This isn’t to say that the production is bad. They are all technically good songs, but they lose power by being something we’ve heard before, gaining an almost generic feeling. Lorde has some fantastic lines here, and explores her own self-doubt and failed relationships in a way that we can pall partially relate to. This is where she shines, when she connects to us, and to capture that confused feeling of being a teenager. It was about our experiences as much as it was about hers, and it was special.

A few times this same feeling managed to shine through. “Let’s give it a minute before we admit that we are through.” It explores the aftermath of a relationship, those dark hours before dawn that we become more familiar with as we grow up. It has lost some of the bright-eyed outlook of her older music, and with it has come a more jaded sense of exhaustion. Her only respite comes from herself:

“So I guess I’ll go home into the arms of the girl that I love
The only love I haven’t screwed up
She’s so hard to please but she’s a forest fire
I do my best to meet her demands, play at romance
We slow dance in the living room, but all that a stranger would see
Is one girl swaying alone, stroking her cheek”

She acknowledges her part in all of this, but it isn’t as much about empowerment as it is about acceptance. She knows that she is partially to blame for what happened, and that’s just how it is.

It is tracks like these that presents an almost odd divide between the extraordinarily personal tracks, tracks about things that happened to her, how she felt and what she did, and tracks that could be about anyone. She managed this balance rather well, but a part of me wishes that she dove all the way over the edge from
Pure Heroine and made an album about Lorde as a person.

Melodrama, similarly is an album caught in the middle. It’s mainstream pop stylings focuses on catchiness and replayability, combined with slower lyrics and darker themes that don’t entirely seem to fit together. It’s stuck between being pop and being something more, and doesn’t know where to go.


Green Light
Homemade Dynamite
The Louvre
Hard Feelings/Loveless
Sober II (Melodrama)
Writer In the Dark
Liability (Reprise)
Perfect Places

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Tom has been writing about media since he was a senior in high school. He likes long walks on the beach, dark liquor, and when characters reload guns in action movies.

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Images courtesy of Vince Staples

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