Review by Nick Erickson, Assistant Features Editor
Photo from odysseyonline.com
Change is inevitable, as is artist progression. However, it’s not often when an artist reaches a level of maturation so early in their career where it would be easy to mistake them as older and more seasoned. Such is the case with Ella Yelich-O’Connor, known by her stage alias as “Lorde.” The 20-year-old New Zealand singer had a breakthrough with her 2013 debut electropop release “Pure Heroine” at the mere age of 16. With her teenage years concluding, Lorde has now emerged again with “Melodrama.” Encapsulating all the vigorous charm of its predecessor, the album is her moodiest, wisest and most impactful work to date.
It’s undoubted that a strong suit of “Pure Heroine”was Lorde’s crafty lyricism which distinguished it from a plethora of 2010s pop,. Displaying a level of self-awareness far above her competitors, she dissected human ideals and materialism all the while. With “Melodrama,” she intertwines introspection with a new wave twist. By now, it’s clear that Lorde is not afraid to exploit her raw thoughts and take hold of creative liberation. She even turned down the advice of infamous award-winning producer Max Martin, who had dubbed her artistic method as “incorrect songwriting.”
Attentive listeners can tell Lorde does not abide to Martin’s notions when opener “Green Light” hits. Kicking into gear with singing so direct one would imagine she was aiming it at the listener, over some swelling synth. An arsenal of pounding piano leads to a drop no one could expect, developing into one of the catchiest singles of the year.
“Sober” begins with electronic chord stabs imitating a synthesized brass ensemble. As it builds, Lorde graces listeners with a timbre treading a fine line between silk and rasp. Coupled with a woodblock-driven chorus and bright ambience, it will be hard not to bob a head to. With a pulse rivaling the intensity of her 2013 hit “Royals,” “Perfect Places” holds its own weight in being remarkably infectious. “It’s just another graceless night,” she sings before an explosive chorus with loaded harmonies strikes full-force.
When production is stripped to its purest form, Lorde shines brightest. Piano ballad “Liability” is Lorde’s heart-wrenching testimony to a falling out of love, clocking in at just under three minutes. “The truth is I am a toy that people enjoy / ‘till all of the tricks don’t work anymore,” she sings soft enough to break easily. The modest, minimalistic guitar and vocal couplet introducing “The Louvre” further paints her romantic downfall for listeners via colorful metaphors. The spacious guitar plucking that fades to the songs end is downright mesmerizing.
Before his untimely death, David Bowie voiced his belief that Lorde was “the future of music.” While being a subjective claim, one could objectively look at the artistry and passion in Lorde’s work and think “you know, he might’ve been onto something.” Only an EP and two full-length releases under her repertoire, Lorde has made a name for herself as a visionary and game-changing artist. “Melodrama” is the next step in her method of madness, and it’s a masterful one at that.