No longer the outsider peering down on the glitz and glamor of pop music—as she was on her hit single “Royals”—Lorde now critiques from the inside with her latest, Melodrama. The music itself reflects this change. Gone are the days of her raw, hip hop-inspired beats and simple melodies. She’s now finely tuned and produced, while her lyrics have taken on typical pop-music themes of love lost and partying. Overall the album feels complex, robust, and eclectic.
Though she’s converted to a stronger pop vibe, Lorde has retained some of her edge. “Hard Feelings/Loveless” opens with her soft, throaty voice leading to harder electronic screeches. Then there is an almost silent interlude before the song breaks down into a dance beat, as her voice turns brighter and lighter. The new album features people looking for lasting pleasure or happiness in romantic love, one-night stands, partying, and substance abuse. The transitory nature of life is referenced in certain phrases: “summer afternoon,” “overnight rush,” and “the games of the weekend.” Melodrama shows us we tend to look for lasting things in transitory moments. On “Sober,” Lorde tries to see this pop world for what it really is: “It’s time we danced with the truth … we’re sleeping through all the days … I know you’re feeling it too, can we keep up with the ruse? … What will we do when we’re sober?”
King Solomon, the likely author of Ecclesiastes, would have appreciated the restlessness of Melodrama. Like Lorde, he was on the inside of a luxurious life that offered much pleasure, yet he found it “meaningless.” Or, to borrow Lorde’s term, “melodrama.” She echoes these concerns with “Sober II (Melodrama)”:
And the terror and the horror
Gotta wonder why we bother
All the glamour and the trauma
And the f***ing melodrama
All the gunfights and the limelights
And the holy sick divine nights
They'll talk about us, all the lovers
How we kissed and killed each other…
You wanted something that we offered
We told you this was melodrama.
On Melodrama, Lorde seeks something more. This is the subject of the last song on the album, “Perfect Places”:
Now I can't stand to be alone
Let's go to perfect places
All the nights spent off our faces
Trying to find these perfect places.
It would be easy to say that God offers just this “perfect place.” After all, even Solomon concludes that one should “fear God and keep his commandments.” But the truth is even those of us who rest in God find it difficult to live the perfect life God requires of us. Our melodrama continues. That’s where the good news comes in. Jesus came to earth as a perfect man, to die a perfect death, and to rise again so that we can be declared perfect in him. Trusting in this truth, we can find solace as children of God, saved by grace. Pursuing melodrama instead, we’re reduced to what Lorde describes as “just a supercut of us.”