No, I’ve no idea what I was doing in 2013, either. ‘Pure Heroine’, while not on the same stratospheric level as ‘Melodrama’, should have been in that year’s list and I imagine it has taken Lorde some time to get over such a public shunning. Apologies. And it’s not entirely surprising to find that Bowie is still influential, even beyond the grave. When the Brit Awards had a rare outbreak of both taste and understatement when organising their tribute to Mr B in early 2016, they turned to an artist of whom he was rather fond and had described as “the future of music.” Sure, I’d liked the singles but I hadn’t been paying attention properly. As I attempted to piece myself back together after her deeply moving take on ‘Life On Mars’, I realised that I had been remiss. By the time the campaign to unveil ‘Melodrama’ was underway, I was a fully paid up member of the fan club.
While plenty of these songs adhere to the contemporary pop playbook, there is a lightness of touch, a constant sense that there’s more than just a decent melody going on and a commanding personality at the heart of this frankly brilliant album. I loved it on first listen. Honestly, how often does that happen? There is light and shade, there are artistic nods to influences and there are choruses to tickle the soul…oh, the choruses! ‘Writer In The Dark‘ is a pretty remarkable, sub-four minute, occasionally Kate Bush evoking, mainly low-key, piano-driven account of how difficult being in a relationship with her can be. It’s a useful point upon which to focus if you’ve breezed past, dismissive of a couple of radio bangers.
‘Liability’ is an obviously gorgeous song, again slow and accompanied by the keys, which reflects on her intensity and how it affects people’s perception of her. The intimacy of the performance coupled with the unflinching phrasing makes for something genuinely affecting. As good as those two tracks are – and they are very, very special – it’s not a case of several triumphs carrying the album. The pace of the verses on ‘Homemade Dynamite’ is gloriously lively, accompanied by impressive usage of the perfect pop pause. ‘Supercut’ starts with a euphoric piano line and gradually intensifying beats before exploding euphorically into a chorus that seems to project an image of Lorde’s utterly uninhibited dancing before the listener.
Much was made of how Max Martin was unimpressed with the structure of ‘Green Light’ in the media coverage when it was offered up as the first taste of ‘Melodrama’, but it’s a welcome reminder that even those artists working with the people creating the 2017 pop straightjacket know when something different is needed. ‘Perfect Places’ is a rather conventional end to proceedings but it features one of the magical but minuscule details sprinkled across the album, with a little ‘chick-chick’ before the chorus, almost as enjoyable as the quiet, hilariously deadpan attempt at an explosion sound during ‘Homemade Dynamite’. However, the most deliriously giddy little personal touch on the whole thing comes during other highlight ‘The Louvre’, with its swelling synths and sense of tenuous restraint. In the middle of this wonderful song come these lyrics: “We’re the greatest. They’ll hang us in the Louvre. Down the back, but who cares: still the Louvre.” There are those who remain immune to Lorde’s charms, but I can’t for the life of me think how.