Lorde's Melodrama (and five key tracks from her career so far...)
New Zealand's young singer-songwriter extraordinaire Ella Yelich-O'Connor – better known as Lorde - was a mere 17 years old when her self-released debut EP The Love Club began making waves. Spotted at the age of just 13, Lorde had been kept under the watchful eye of Universal Music for several years already, but the success of her self-released EP convinced the label to re-release its lead single, 'Royals', on a global scale. Since then, Lorde has been on an uninterrupted upward trajectory and after the success of her debut album Pure Heroine, she's back this week with its hotly-anticipated follow-up.
Melodrama arrives in stores today and marks another stride forward for the New Zealander. Lorde herself and Bleachers mainman Jack Antonoff act as executive producers on the album, but there are also production and writing credits for a list of others including Air's Jean-Benoît Dunckel, Flume, Tove Lo, Frank Dukes, Andrew Wyatt, S1 and a returning Joel Little, who co-wrote and co-produced her debut.
Recorded over an 18 month period at Antonoff's New York studio, Lorde has described Melodrama as a concept album telling the story of a house party, but lyrically the album also addresses a break-up and themes of loneliness, heartbreak and solitude. You might think that would make for quite a downbeat album, but while there is an undercurrent of melancholy running through the whole record, Melodrama – as the name suggests – is far from being a one-note experience and the album twists and turns from tender intimacy to outright catharsis.
The already-released single 'Green Light' embodies this, juxtaposing intensely personal lyrics about a failed relationship with an upbeat dance vibe and a hook that seems to arrive out of nowhere. It's a similar story across the rest of the album; from the stuttering brass of 'Sober', through the self-depracating lyrics on party banger 'Homemade Dynamite' to the unrestrained, shimmering joy of 'The Louvre', Lorde's sophomore album really does conjure up the feeling of a house party gone slightly awry. The danceable grooves are all present and correct, but you can never quite escape the feeling that Lorde is dancing alone.
That won't be the case for long though; Melodrama is every bit as exciting and engaging as fans would dare to hope and if at times it's difficult to believe that this is only Lorde's second album, that's partly because, even at a young age, this is an artist with all the time in the world to perfect her craft.
The other reason of course is that even though Melodrama is only her second full-length offering, Lorde has kept herself busy with plenty of other work in the three years since her debut, including contributions to the Hunger Games soundtrack, standalone singes and guest appearances with other artists, so to celebrate the arrival of Melodrama we've picked out five of her best moments so far....
First released on The Love Club EP, but later included on her debut, 'Royals' is one heck on an opening gambit for any artist, let alone one so young, and established her as not just one to watch but already a force to be reckoned with.
Despite hitting the top of the charts in her native New Zealand, a glance at the singles charts in other countries – including the UK – might lead you to believe that 'Tennis Court' was somehow a flop, but while it didn't have quite the same impact as 'Royals', a song that barely grazed the UK charts has still ratcheted up more than 93 million views on Youtube, which tells you all you need to know.
'Yellow Flicker Beat'
Written for the Hunger Games soundtrack, which Lorde curated, 'Yellow Flicker Beat doesn't appear on either her debut or its follow-up, but it's well worth owning and one of the highlights from a soundtrack that's hardly short on great tunes.
One of our favourite Lorde vocal performances appears not on one of her own songs, but instead on this cut from Disclosure's superb sophomore album Caracal, in which Lorde's lyrics of jealousy and paranoia foreshadow the things to come on her second album.
A standout track on an album filled with standout tracks, 'Green Light' somehow manages the tricky feat of making an instant impact, but still being a song that grows on you with every listen. At its core it's a song about recovery from heartbreak, but damn if it doesn't make you want to dance away the blues.