It’s Just Another Graceless Night: On Melodrama

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Words || Lydia Jupp

There’s always been something about Lorde.

I’m fourteen years old and listening to Buzzcut Season. It’s the perfect combination of suburban teenage frustration and the hope that there is something much bigger out there. I watch as a sixteen year old Lorde wears dark makeup and flowy outfits, and dances around on stage the way teenagers do in their bedrooms.

I’m sixteen and bursting with pride as I read about the amount of work Lorde’s been putting into the soundtrack for the final Hunger Games movie. Her words make their way onto journal pages in the middle of the night, and I begin to find power in a teenage girl singing “I’m locking up everyone who’s ever laid a finger on me.”

Now I’m eighteen and it feels strange calling her Lorde because I feel as though we’re friends. I have to remind myself that this four-year relationship is entirely one-sided while I cry on the train with pride listening to Tavi Gevinson interview Lorde, just hours before the Melodrama listening party I was attending that night. I was buzzing. Pure Heroine meant so much to me during the last few years of high school, and I was about to go on that entire journey again as a uni student. I would be listening to songs for the first time that night that I had no doubt would be there for me the next time I fall in love or depression or inspiration. It was a whole new era of my life.

I listened to Pure Heroine on the way to the party and it felt like an out of body experience. Something that had been so Lorde and so me suddenly wasn’t anymore. We were both so different: we had grown and loved and lost and she had been there for it all. I was about to meet the new baby of this artist that I absolutely adore on such an intrinsic level and I was bursting.

Here is what I imagined: a room full of Lorde die-hards, listening in rapt silence (as I planned on doing), some of them crying occasionally. Maybe there’d be Melodrama inspired drinks.

This was the reality: the party was lacklustre, full of business type people who were there to network rather than listen to the album. I could bop along to Green Light but the lyrics of the other songs washed over me and suddenly, three free ciders deep and in the midst of a conversation about Ru Paul with what appeared to be the only other people who cared about Lorde in the room, the album had finished. The entire thing was over and I hadn’t even been there for it. My friend turned to me saying, “quick, give me your thoughts right now,” and I told him that it felt like I had unsatisfactorily lost my virginity: there was such a build up and anticipation and I was expecting so much emotion but everything ended too quickly and I felt a bit confused and drunk. Lyrics are such an essential aspect of Lorde’s art- she said that she agonised over every single word of Melodrama, thinking of three other words and why they were wrong- and I heard none of it. I still felt it, though. I felt the highs and lows of a drunken house party, the quiet d-and-m’s in the corner of the room, and the feeling of freedom and invincibility. Perhaps I had to learn to walk before I could run, feel it before I heard it.

I listened again, properly, the next night. It was just me and Ella and stories between us. It felt so intimate, two friends talking properly for the first time in four years, with all that growth and pain and knowledge. There was so much emotion packed into Melodrama- Liability, Writer in the Dark (oh, god)- these are the sort of songs you’re not supposed to speak in, the sort that have to remain untouched by the outside world when you’re listening to them. Liability combines the incredible imagery Lorde is so brilliant at creating, with the sudden “oh” that comes with realising someone is abandoning you to preserve their own emotional wellbeing. It’s nostalgic and melancholy, and I know that myself and so many other people can relate to that feeling. It’s a scar rather than an open wound. Writer in the Dark on the other hand, is so emotionally raw. We never hear Lorde hit high notes and this new aspect of her music creates such an atmosphere of vulnerability and pure exposure. However I can’t help but think that the addition of instruments dulls this – it’s an emotional barrier. I saw a performance of Writer in the Dark that was completely acapella and it was breathtaking. I had never seen her like that before. Lorde is so infinitely ethereal and vibrant. There aren’t many people who can make my heart feel so full that it pushes up into my throat. Words fail me. She makes me scrunch my hands into fists and press them into my collarbone.

While writing this, I can’t help but remember that some of these songs are going to hit me in a few months, maybe even years. I’ll listen to them at another point in my life and go “shit, so that’s what that means.” The thing about Lorde’s music is that it evolves as you grow. I can listen to Pure Heroine and smile now, but fourteen year-old me was so caught up in the absolute angst of being a teenager stuck in a small town with Lorde as one of my only lifelines that there wasn’t time to appreciate the moment I was living in and the way this was being expressed in the music. I have the rest of my life to listen to Melodrama and every time I do, it’ll be a different experience. That’s the thing about Ella: she’s always going to be there. There has never been another artist like her and there never will be. She has created her own calibre of uniqueness, unapologetic weirdness and creativity.

Love and pride are not strong enough words. I bet she could think of something that would fit, though.