Teen phenom Lorde follows up her Pure Heroine hit album with an at once moodier and more dance friendly disc

by Tia Kim

Being described as “the voice of a generation” is arguably the most overused marketing trope in the music business, and almost inevitably embarrassingly inaccurate, but when Ella Marija Lani Yelich- O’Connor, aka Lorde, released the mid-2013 single “Royals,” a collective nod of understanding was shared among late teens and early twenty somethings that hasn’t happened in more than a decade. The bittersweet ballad questioned social status, the future of capitalism, and yes, royalty, but didn’t leave out of its sites consumers more interested in style than substance. At an astonishing 16 years old, she topped the Billboard Hot 100 charts with the track, and the associated studio album, Pure Heroine, topped the national charts in her native New Zealand and Australia, and reached number three on the US Billboard 200. Though doubtless placed under enormous pressure to follow up both
quickly and successfully, Lorde instead took to songwriting and studio work over 18 months in anticipation of her next full-length release (though she did write “Yellow Flicker Beat” with fellow New Zealander Joel Little, the first single from the The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 soundtrack).

Released on June 17, the new album, Melodrama, marks a partial departure from Pure Heroine’s gorgeous dirges in favor of slightly more nightlife-friendly beats. Still, it’s very much a think piece, inspired, as so many great works of art have been, by a breakup. The first track, “Green Light,” if one doesn’t listen too closely, seems all dance-friendly anthemic empowerment, but then the plotline wanders in, as the protagonist journeys from club to club seemingly in pursuit of an ex. The journey’s end doesn’t look hopeful. A second single, the slow ballad “Liability,” begins with the lyrics “baby really hurt me, crying in a taxi. He don’t want to know me,” and continues apace. Then there’s “Homemade Dynamite,” in which she fantasizes about crafting better lies while deconstructing the silliness of a party, both actually and metaphorically.

This might all amount to little more than standard issue teenage angst, but Lorde is far beyond her years in ability, and pens tunes of such wit, loveliness, and grace that it’s easy to forget to be critical.

“Writing Pure Heroine was my way of enshrining teenage glory, putting it up in lights forever so that part of me never dies,” Lorde explained in a press release. “This record—well, this one is about what comes next. …The party is about to start. I am about to show you the new world.”