Lorde’s Melodrama deftly employs a fascinating palette of timbre and rhythm that weaves a whole-album listening experience with a degree of richness that is quite rare in any genre of pop music. Thoughtful rhythmic contrast between vocal and instrumental elements, each evolving, creates remarkable aural interest without heavy reliance on hooks – it’s fresh.
Thematically, Lorde goes well beyond the first-level thinking that dominates pop music – especially on the topic of codependency in relationships. A number of contemporary hits celebrate the emotional roller coaster of unhealthy relationships in a sort of self-immolating frenzy, but (as she previously has with songs like Team on Pure Heroine) Lorde addresses these issues with a more subtle and aware attitude that is very emotionally impactful and cathartic.
While the album does a achieve a whole-album listening experience, there are a few moments where the realities of the pop industry jar the listener; for instance, after the synths of Sober II fade away, the following would-be unplugged tone of the piano at the start of Writer in the Dark is baked with so much compression as to sound quite overpowering. While hits are a mainstay of pop, I question the aesthetic value or even possibility for something designed to stand completely alone without regard to external arrangement or composition; after all, doesn’t the expectation that an infinite train of disjointed stand-alone hits can serve as the energizing music of a society stem from a shallow, short-sighted worldview – an attempt to disregard the deeper natural essence of things, even concatenation? What energy is yielded from blindness and disregard?