Welcome to Hook & Reel, a series showcasing music that’s guaranteed to catch your ear.
“But what will we do when we’re sober?” New Zealand pop super star Ella Yelich-O’ Connor (known by her stage moniker Lorde) muses morbidly in the song “Sober,” a standout in her already supreme, critically-acclaimed sophomore record Melodrama, which landed at #1 on the Billboard 200 album charts within a week of its release. The question she poses is truly two-fold – will she and her ex-lover survive the come down after re-igniting the flame in a night swimming in liquor and lingering lust? And will a generation of youth, drowning themselves in every and any attempt to escape the current terrifying and tumultuous social, political, and economic climate, survive when the buzz fades away and reality hits like the hardest hangover?
This lyrical double entendre runs like a vein throughout the entirety of Melodrama. It’s also only a small part of what has made, and will continue to make this era of Lorde’s career notable not just in the popstar’s own journey, but in pop music in 2017 as a whole. Melodrama is specifically an album about a break-up, through O’ Connor’s eyes as she struggles with ending her teenage years amidst international superstardom, and taking the first few steps towards her 20s.
But it’s also, on a much more universal level, about the chaos of becoming an adult. Melodrama is about dealing with real heartbreak, going out with friends and drinking too much, grasping onto short-lived highs before crashing to head-spinning lows. There are the party anthems you can blast with your friends before heading to the bar, like “Perfect Places” and “Homemade Dynamite.” Then there are the tracks you would only listen to in the comfort of your own solitude, like the stark and skeletal “Liability” and “Writer in the Dark.”
Last but not least, there’s Lorde’s penchant for creating pop with big “WHOA!” moments – a penchant shared by the album’s executive producer Jack Antonoff (of fun. and Bleachers fame). Each time you listen to a track, you pick up a sonic element or a turn of phrase that you missed last time, and it makes each listen to the album more enriching than the last. There are five “WHOA!” moments laid out below for your reference.
- The end of the pre-chorus of “Perfect Places,” where Lorde claims “I’ll blow my brains out to the radio,” then pauses the pre-chorus to make a sound like a gun being cocked before the percussive synthesizers of the chorus blast in like a gunshot.
- The image of Lorde slow dancing alone in the living room after her lover leaves her in “Liability,” softly stroking her own cheek.
- The breakdown in the chorus of “The Louvre,” where Lorde shows the world the frenzied, tumultuous music that she hears within her own soul.
- The blossoming symphony that fleetingly surrounds Lorde in the second verse of “Writer in The Dark” as she briefly basks in the freedom of moving on from her ex.
- The shift in the second verse of “Sober,” where Lorde croons amongst the bright, angelic choral harmonies, locking eyes across the crowded room with a former beau and losing herself in longing, before remembering why they split and striking the instrumentation from the song, leaving only her voice as she damns their breakup with a raspy growl.