“The truth is I am a toy that people enjoy,” “Let’s give it a minute before we admit that we’re through,” “I overthink your punctuation use.” These are only some of the lyrics in Lorde’s album “Melodrama” and just by reading them you can safely — and correctly — assume it’s about a breakup. But it’s not just that. It’s about youth and friends and getting a taste at independence. It perfectly encompasses what your early 20s feel like. And it’s especially at this age that we need someone to put those emotions into words to make us feel heard and less alone. Lorde makes sure of that in “Melodrama.”
Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O’Connor, or Lorde, is a New Zealand singer and songwriter. She had her big break when her single “Royals,” appearing first in her EP “The Love Club” and then in her freshman album, “Pure Heroine,” gained international chart success. It reached the No. 1 spot in New Zealand, Canada, the United Kingdom and the U.S. “Billboard Hot 100” — all when she was only 16. In both the lyrics and the video, she sings about how the upper class appears to her and how she’ll never be able to live a life like that: “jet planes, islands, tigers on a gold leash.”
After a very successful album debut, Lorde took four years to live outside the spotlight and gain material to write a new album. And gain material she did. She’s always been a private person, deciding to basically drop off the side of the Earth in between album promotions, but after “Pure Heroine,” a relationship ended, resulting in heartbreak. And then a piece of art.
“Melodrama” was released in June 2017. The New York Times Magazine called it “… a testimonial to heartbreak and solitude.” It was her own experience that inspired it, but it was her ability to share that feeling with the world that made it a success. It’s the acceptance of leaving your teens behind and the confusion of entering your 20s. And in those teens, you’re leaving behind more than just your age. Whether it’s a boyfriend, friends or your hometown, entering your 20s is about getting used to living without all of that and realizing the only thing you will truly have forever is yourself.
Lorde expresses that self-love in one of the most moving pieces of the album: “Liability.” It’s a piano ballad that’s sad, relatable and deeply poetic. I remember listening to it for the first time. There are the incomparable lines “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.” My head was already gushing at the fact that Lorde was coming out in a song, maybe saying she had fallen for a girl. But then, the song continues: “We slow dance in the living room/but all that a stranger would see is one girl/swaying alone stroking her cheek,” and instead of gushing, I began crying.
It felt like an important moment, listening to an artist tell you that the person she’s going home with is herself. I would even call it an inspiration. If you listen to any mainstream music, you would know that it’s always about bringing home “that hottie” or “the guy at the bar.” But that’s not the only thing this particular song talks about. It’s mainly about how other people have seen her as a toy, as “too much,” as someone who would just be annoying to another person or a group. She calls herself a liability.
But don’t be fooled by me going on and on about this slow ballad. “Melodrama” has other tracks that make you want to jump out of your chair and dance around your room. “Green Light,” her first single and track number one on the album, is the perfect song to be embarrassingly caught dancing to by your roommate. Lorde told Genius that it was about the “drunk girl at the party dancing around crying about her ex-boyfriend who everyone thinks is a mess.” And that’s how it feels like listening to it. I guarantee it’ll take you back to the moment you were that girl.
“Supercut” is another highlight-worthy song (although, who am I kidding, they all are). It talks about how a relationship should be. How all good moments play in your head like a compilation, but they’re not always accurate. It could come across as the way things should have gone, instead of how they actually went: “In my head/I play a supercut of us.”
The album finishes out with “Perfect Places,” which can also be a song to dance to (Lorde definitely does in her music video), but it’s actually much more profound than that. She told The Spinoff: “Hating the headlines and the weather and feeling like … I don’t want to alone in my house with Twitter and it’s all so f–ked. Let’s just try and convince ourselves there’s a perfect place we can go to, even just for an evening.” And if there’s anything we can relate to in 2020, it’s this. If only there was a perfect place to escape politics and the virus and our country’s casualties.
It’s been three years since the release of this album. Fans are anxiously waiting for Lorde to release new stuff and, thanks to the emails she sends her subscribers, it looks like they’ll only have to wait until next year. Hopefully, COVID-19 won’t delay it. Until then, though, we can continue listening to the timeless masterpiece that is “Melodrama.”