Tone Deaf: What Does The Program Director Listen To?

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Melodrama’s cover art features a striking portrait of Lorde by Brooklyn-based artist, Sam McKinniss. (Photo: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Emotional, complex, intense—Melodrama by Lorde is an album you shouldn’t miss, even as the summer comes to an end. As a fan of Lorde’s prior work, it was exciting to hear she would be dropping a new album after almost four years of hiatus, and she did not let her fans down in the slightest.

Melodrama is a rollercoaster of emotions, with each song taking on a unique sound, telling a story of love, loss, and partying.

The album starts with a vengeful pop song, where Lorde battles her feelings of sorrow from ending “Green Light” her relationship with someone and her new freedoms as she is given the  to do whatever it is she pleases without limits. She is excited to be rid of her lying ex lover, but the sensation of not-so-fresh heartbreak is still holding her back.

The next song on the Melodrama is set at a party where Lorde is on top of the world, “queen of the weekend,” but is about to come down from her high and is worried about the consequences. The concept of worrying about what is to come next, but still trying to enjoy the now, is an experience most college-age people share.

In this song, she also criticizes some of the behaviors commonly seen at a party, by not only mentioning the “what now panic” one experiences when things are coming to an end and one has to face reality, rules, and responsibilities again, but also touching on careless interpersonal exchanges by referencing the phenomena of only feeling comfortable interacting with people in an altered state of consciousness.

Her next song in the album, “Homemade Dynamite,” also touches upon similar topics, but now in the tone of the reckless party-goer just looking to have fun and get into trouble.

“Louvre” takes a different turn, and presents the topic of summer romance. The beginning lines “Well summer slipped us underneath her tongue/our days and night are perfumed with obsession” automatically gives cues to the listener about the exact emotions that would go into an all consuming albeit fleeting enchantment.

Clearly enamoured with her lover, this light catchy tune would make anyone who has shared a similar experience look back on it with rose-coloured lenses and reminisce on the pleasantness of a perfect romance between not so perfect people.

After “Louvre” comes one of the most moving songs on Melodrama, “Liability.” Lorde describes what it feels like to be only seen as an object of entertainment and exuberance while still a human being that experiences heavy emotion, and how that makes her feel unlovable, unworthy, too much.

Lorde opens the song by describing an encounter with an ex lover who “made the big mistake of dancing in [her] storm”, so she goes home and retreats into herself, caring for herself like she would another lover. This tune truly pulls at the heartstrings of anyone who has had a like experience.

The song following “Liability” is definitely one of my top two on the album. “Hard Feelings/Loveless” is evidence Lorde has grown up from her last album. Instead of the glorification of dramatically tragic endings in romantic relationships, Lorde offers something more real and substantial.

“Please could you be tender, and I will sit close to you/Let’s give it a minute before we admit that we’re through” resonates with everyone who has had a love that slowly withers as people grow and become different, but is simultaneously comfortable enough to postpone its termination. She goes on to describe how she “remembers the rush” of their love at the beginning of it, but now it’s “the winter” and all the passion has run as cold as the season.

Falling out of love after an intense electric affair, like the romance illustrated in “Louvre,” is hard to swallow and accept because of the scramble, the surge, the flood of summer-like love. But when the infatuation ends, one must let go and move on.

The second part the song satirically criticizes a modern dating phenomena of essentially trying to ruin your lover’s life. Lorde plays the part of the sadistic partner who manipulates and abuses her significant other for kicks and giggles. This fun two minute song calls out those who find pleasure in messing with their lover’s heads, while still being musically exceptional.

“Sober II” is almost an interlude type song, where Lorde questions why the listener, the partier, the person taking part in the melodramatic journey that she’s taking us on wants to stop and reverse back to the fun. Why now do we want to back out of what was originally fun and light, why now can’t we handle, or are too afraid, to move ahead and finish the story even though we knew at the beginning what were getting into, why now do we want to turn back because she’s made us feel something unpleasantly real. Sobering up for the second time leaves the mind uneasy.

Sobering up for the second time, she seems to realize love lost is doubtlessly love lost. The heartbreaking song “Writer in the Dark” tells a tale of Lorde’s full realization that her ex lover will remain that way, but still must deal with the fact she is still in love. Obsessed with wanting to know if her past lover still thinks about her, she asks them if they “rue the day [they] kissed a writer in the dark,” if they still think about her, miss her, love her and professes that “she’s gonna play and sing and lock [them] in her heart.”

“Supercut” the quintessential song of Lorde’s new sound. Heavily emotional, musically exceptional. In the context of the song, a dance pop rhythm veils the pain of nostalgia in flashes. Lorde does a marvelous job at keeping emotions raw and real whilst having the energy of the song high and fun.

“Liability (Reprise)” is not unlike “Sober II” when it come to being a sort of interlude song. “Liability (Reprise)” looks at the entire album, the love, the rush, the high, the crash, the loss, everything this album had to offer and brings it back down to one point. This is just how life goes, it’s perfect then it’s everything but, and we have to deal and move forward. It’s how one deals with what life throws at one that actually defines them. This is the lesson Lorde is trying to give us in the end.

“Perfect Places” reminds the listener even though it feels like it’s all over, it’s not. There is so much more to be taken, so much more to be conquered, so much more to find. Lorde reminds us that everything doesn’t have to be taken so seriously because we most likely don’t even know what we want or what we’re looking for yet, “what the fuck are perfect places anyway?” We just have to go out, try, and fail or fly.

Lorde grew so immensely as an artist and a person in those four years she was away from the music scene, and all that can be said is welcome home. As she said herself when asked by Chris DeVille from Stereogum about Melodrama: “Writing Pure Heroine was my way of enshrining our teenage glory, putting it up in lights forever so that part of me never dies, and this record- well, this is about what comes next.”

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