Words by Mary Varvaris
Ah, heartbreak. There’s nothing quite like your first heartbreak. The intensity, confusion, feeling like you’re the only one who’s ever had a broken heart. It’s all so… dramatic. This is where Lorde’s Melodrama comes in. Melodrama is a record I wish was in my life when I went through my first heartbreak. Lorde is only 20 years old – a few months younger than I am. When you’re exiting your teens and turn 20, everything becomes a colourful blur; and you ask yourself so many big questions: “Will I achieve my dreams? Will I ever get past this?” Melodrama isn’t about those big questions, it’s about the rawer aspects of ourselves and our pain. Lorde has acknowledged her pain and shared her emotions with the world. I can’t imagine what that’s like. Melodrama has only been out for a week, and it’s already making an impact on my life. Lorde makes me want to write about music and write my own music again. This record demands my attention every day, and draws me back in to its universe frequently. She told us this was melodrama. She offered us something we wanted.
From the opening piano chords of the exuberant Green Light to the closing beats and chants of Perfect Places, Lorde takes us on a highly personal journey. She’s dancing on the taxi driver’s car in the Green Light music video. The lyrics are sometimes vengeful (“She thinks you love the beach / you’re such a damn liar“), and sometimes completely cathartic when she yells “that green light, I want it!“. The Green Light is closure. The Green Light is leaving the hurt behind. Green Light is a perfect pop song: undeniably catchy and relatable. Green Light sets the tone for the rest of Melodrama magnificently. But, the essential part of Green Light is how Lorde describes this song in her Beats 1 interview: “I realized this is that drunk girl at the party dancing around crying about her ex-boyfriend who everyone thinks is a mess. That’s her tonight and tomorrow she starts to rebuild. And that’s the song for me.” What an important message to send to herself and everyone listening. Yes, we all become a mess when we hurt the way Lorde does throughout this album, but we need to allow ourselves to feel all the emotions, and then rebuild.
Heartbreak is messy and unkind. Heartbreak likes to show our old lover through a nostalgic lens, and the challenge is fighting nostalgia and reminding ourselves that the relationship wasn’t rose-coloured like our brains suggest. The Louvre – named after the iconic Paris museum of the same name – cleverly uncovers this. She’s singing “they’ll hang us in The Louvre / down the back, but who cares / still The Louvre“. Her relationship was like art and worthy of being up in a famous museum, at one point. But now it’s old and taken down. Lorde has always used metaphors in her lyrics, and Supercut is another example. Look at the first verse, unveiling the meaning of the song immediately:
“In my head, I play a supercut of us
All the magic we gave off
All the love we had and lost
And in my head
The visions never stop
These ribbons wrap me up
But when I reach for you
There’s just a supercut“
The refrain (which has some of my favourite lyrics Lorde has ever written) reiterates just how tempting and dangerous a supercut can be:
“We were wild and fluorescent, come home to my heart, uh
‘Cause in my head (in my head, I do everything right)
When you call (when you call, I’ll forgive and not fight)“
In our heads, we try to figure out what happened. Why did the relationship end? Can we view it as a highlight reel to avoid pain? Can we view ourselves as completely innocent and devoid of blame? Can our ex be better than we think? Supercut is upbeat and joyous-sounding, like Green Light. It’s one of the most powerful pop songs I’ve ever heard. Lorde allows her raw voice to come through in this track, and we hear her yell “come home to my heart UHHHH“. Supercut is a song that makes you dance. Supercut is also a song that might make you cry. And that’s okay.
Something extraordinary happens when Liability starts. We’re transported to the second half of Melodrama. The second half of Melodrama is where Lorde strips off layers and we see her at her most vulnerable. Take Liability, beginning softly and honestly:
“Baby really hurt me, crying in the taxi“
When Lorde discusses the making of Liability, she talks about a moment of sadness she still remembers vividly. She had convinced herself that she would always feel this way. However, this song started to protect her and keep her safe. As she made it, she had come to the realisation that she needed to nurture herself (also in her Beats 1 interview). Liability isn’t an easy song to listen to. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been told that I’m too much before. I talk about music too much. I’m too nice. I’m too sad or too vulnerable. Being told that you’re too much drags you down – and it takes a long time to realise that there isn’t such thing as “too much”. Liability is one of the songs I wish I heard a long time ago. I can see my 15-16 year old self screaming at my ex: “I am not a god damn liability. I am not too much, you just can’t love me the way I am.” I hope Lorde is telling herself and everyone around her that she is not a liability. What a toxic thing to make someone believe.
Writer In The Dark is the quintessential song on Melodrama. It’s another song just with Lorde and a piano, like Liability. It’s just as raw and powerful as Liability. Writer In The Dark also contains Lorde’s best and most interesting vocal performance, the chorus is sung completely in her higher register, which she doesn’t do that often. Her voice is so layered and she uses it like instrument that it is – singing however the song commands her to. Lorde channels Kate Bush and Björk in the chorus, and we feel our hearts break with her.
“I am my mother’s child, I’ll love you ’til my breathing stops
I’ll love you ’til you call the cops on me
But in our darkest hours, I stumbled on a secret power
I’ll find a way to be without you, babe“
That’s the thing about the end of a relationship with your first love: you truly believe you’ll love them forever, and maybe you might. It doesn’t matter if it’s wrong, over the top, or if you make them call the cops on you. Writer In The Dark is what happens when anyone hurts an artist. You are now immortalised in Lorde’s art. She’ll find a way to be without you, and you’ll rue the day you kissed her in the dark.
As you near the end of Melodrama, it’s important to remember that this album takes place in one party-filled night. We’ve all been drunk at a party, and before we know it, we’re crying over our ex. We were just trying to have a good time but the sadness keeps creeping back in. We’ve all written or ranted about our ex and did anything we could to get over them. It feels like we never will. But we all do – eventually. Let Melodrama sweep you off your feet and protect you. Let Lorde help you acknowledge that you’re hurting, but rebuild when you’re ready. Melodrama is the album we all need. Melodrama isn’t a break-up album, it’s an album about heartbreak and moving forward from that pain. “Trying to find these perfect places / what the fuck are perfect places, anyway?” is what Lorde asks us at the end of Melodrama. There is no perfect place. We all search for answers, for something bigger, for the right place, for the right person. A perfect place, answers you want that you weren’t necessarily searching for, and the love you crave will find you. You just have to let it. When Lorde first performed Liability live, a young girl in the crowd started crying. Lorde jumped off stage when she finished the song and hugged her. I hope she remembers to let others hug her, too. In her head, she does everything right. She did everything right with Melodrama.