I really wanted to hate Lorde when she released her debut album. I was a senior in college and her suburban teenage malaise was not compatible with where I was at in my life. But lo and behold, her music was inescapable, I heard her croon at parties and her influence hit me regardless of what I wanted. I thought: here is a white teenage girl complaining about the minutia of her privilege. How I wanted to hate her, therefore Lorde sucks.
Wanted. I automatically despised Lorde and the fact that every girl at every party sang along emotionally to all of her lyrics. Deep down I knew I was judging her for what she looked like: a white, teenaged woman. The ingrained sexism that I try to dismantle within me everyday triumphed, and I was both pride and prejudice simultaneously.
Deep down I saw how empowered all these women were, and what I was experiencing was disempowerment. I was on the outside looking in. Jealous. I was left out of a circle of women who were singing at the top of their lungs, and as a male identifying person, that is a rare occurrence.
Whatever the thematic and conceptual differences between Lorde’s two albums, the ultimate takeaway from her sophomore effort Melodrama, is that her music is about the emotional difficulty of being a young woman in the world. “Not easy” at its most understated, fucking impossible at its most real. “In my head I do everything right,” she sings, but it does not matter if it is in her head or in actuality, some man is going to come around and dismantle all that is seemingly right. “I am a liability,” she laments on not one, but two songs on Melodrama.
“You’re not what you thought you were……..a liability….”
An enormous part of Lorde’s appeal comes from her maturity. At 17 years of age she was singing about high school like someone in their late 20’s, early 30’s looking back with wisdom and painful catharsis. Every time I listen to Pure Heroine, I wish it had come out when I was in high school because it would have staved off so much angst and stereotypical bullshit. Melodrama doubles down on that, except now she is an adult. At 19 when the bulk of it was written and at 20 now, she is much wiser than I ever was at that age. At the very least her art is, and it doesn’t matter if I listen to her music with the lens of a millennial working two jobs and in enormous debt, it speaks volumes to the human experience.
That experience may still be a white privileged one, and that should be noted. Not often does an artist expose so much and create so much discourse by the age of 19. Lorde’s music enlightens in such a way that is healthy for progress and empowering to girls everywhere all the while managing not to sound contrite. I may be older than Lorde by six years, but wisdom isn’t acquired through age, but through experiences.
The most beautiful thing about art is that it is open to interpretation, but it also helps to understand the space and frame of mind the artist was in when they created. In her interview with the New York Times, Lorde insisted that Melodrama is not a break up album, but rather “it’s a record about being alone. The good parts, the bad parts.”
For someone young and fresh out of a long term relationship, “being alone” is essentially the same thing as a break up. But Lorde is not your normal young person fresh out of a break up. She knows that one must come to terms with ones self when alone and embrace that identity. The good and the bad. Once you learn to love all of that about yourself, then you can move on to better things. Lorde ghosted for a year, and the pop world is better off because of it. Melodrama suggests loving is better than not loving at all, and that reflecting on life encourages amelioration.
“But in our darkest hours, I stumbled on a secret power
I’ll find a way to be without you, babe”