Swap Showdown: Lorde’s “Melodrama” Review

When Oviya first recommended that I review Lorde’s “Melodrama” album, I expected it was an elaborate reference to my “admirable” attendance record to last year’s Melodrama literary magazine meetings. After all, Lorde has been all but silent since a handful of chart-topping hits from the early 2010s. But I was wrong. As it turns out, this 2017 album is very real and one of Oviya’s favorites. So, I sat down and listened – cover to cover. 

If I had to capture “Melodrama” in its entirety with one singular word, I’d choose “art.” The beautiful album cover summarizes it all: it’s an artistically complex canvas of deep shadows and vibrant hues, creating a truly unique, almost ethereal atmosphere. But as a person who listens to contemporary music for its rhythm and melodies, it doesn’t strike me as anything extraordinary. I can tell “Melodrama” is quite the artistic creation; but, I don’t have the ears to fully appreciate it. To me, it’s analogous to an art museum gallery. I know the paintings on the walls are beautiful and profound, but as an “uncultured” spectator, I struggle with grasping the meaning itself.

Take the music itself. I found a select number of songs to be truly enjoyable: “Green Light” is a powerful and interesting introduction, “Sober II (Melodrama)” is odd but dynamic, “Supercut” is a soft yet hard-hitting anthem, and my favorite, “Homemade Dynamite,” has an airy but fiery feel. But, while I enjoyed these songs, all but “Homemade Dynamite” felt truly memorable. Everything else, including the softer, less energetic tracks, was a bit anticlimactic. There was no bad song, but many fell short of being special. For most of the album, I was left yearning for just a bit more – for Lorde to take the song to greater melodic depth or a more dynamic chorus. This is the case for “The Louvre,” for example (Oviya’s favorite). The song starts with very “poppy” and compelling exposition, but its chanted chorus felt odd and unfulfilling. It was an artistic choice I really don’t understand, and as an average listener, this element transformed what could have been a great song to one that is bit jarring (for lack of a better word). 

Additionally, there is no shortage of the unconventional in this album. Throughout a number of tracks, Lorde ingrains… weird noises. On my first listen, I was deeply confused with the sounds bubbling out of my laptop speakers. At some point, it sounded like a rusty door was being opened or a balloon was being rubbed against a whiteboard. Again, artistic elements that I didn’t grasp.

My overall impression? I like it, despite my seemingly critical remarks. This album is definitely outside of my traditional taste in music, but I was pleasantly surprised with how decent it was. Would I recommend it? If what you normally enjoy is more than the “Global Top 50” playlist on Spotify (unlike me), I would give it a go. Maybe you’ll find the almost spiritual experience Oviya described. But be warned. “Melodrama” isn’t an easy album, and its value (I suspect) is deeper than what I can understand.


Oviya’s Response:

When you read Ryan’s review, I want you to remember that his favorite artists are (unironically, 100%, completely-true) Macklemore and the Imagine Dragons. Also, I promised I wouldn’t tell anyone this, so don’t tell anyone, but he also (once again, 100%, completely-true!!) listens to the Star Wars instrumental soundtrack for fun. Sorry, Ryan.

Melodrama, Lorde’s sophomore album, is an 11-track, bittersweet half-love-letter, half-farewell to adolescence. Written in her final years as a teenager, Lorde explores growing up, coming-of-age and (primarily) first heartbreaks. The album itself has songs for every situation, mood, emotion, and person: Homemade Dynamite is (as Ryan would say) “poppy” and fun. Liability is a somber reflection on love and likeability. Green Light is an energetic, scream-along breakup song, while Perfect Places is similarly catchy to sing, with a different theme of forever trying to live inside fonder memories and running away from the now. 

Ryan’s biggest issues with the album really boil down to two main issues: first, it’s too indie and “meaningful” to fit his style, and second, most songs either lack something or have an added element that prevents him from truly enjoying them. Let’s discuss! 

First: the meaning and lyrics. The lyrics are easy to take in and understand at first listen, but still beautiful and poetic; the strength in Lorde’s songwriting (which she does herself!) is that it remains relatable and easy-to-grasp while still conveying a deeply personal narrative, and with every listen, there is a new meaning or play on words to discover and appreciate. If you feel like there’s something missing by the first listen, it’s likely by design; Melodrama is meant to make you think––it’s the kind of album you return to over and over again over the years and find new meaning in as you get older. 

Onto the second complaint, about the music itself. The instrumentals for every song on the album––regardless of message––carries a feeling of nostalgia and (agreed) ethereality. There are periods of long instrumental intros or outros that can get a bit dull when you’re waiting for your favorite part of the song, but on the whole, I think Ryan’s earphones (or ears, since he didn’t use earphones) are malfunctioning, because these strange noises he’s complaining about simply do not exist. 

It’s fitting that Lorde’s Melodrama is my nostalgia album considering the Melodrama is now my favorite––and Ladue’s only––student literary magazine. (By the way, if you have any art or writing you really like, submit it here to see it published in the spring!) In conclusion, Ryan’s review is nitpicky, but slightly fair at times––like he did, give it a chance (or two, or three), and let it surprise you. 


***Also, a fully-functioning pair of ears is recommended for the best listening experience.