Melodrama is a different animal than the haunting Pure Heroine, which was built around pared-down production and Lorde’s thrillingly unique—dreamy, but still muscular—voice. The new album keeps her voice front and center, but this time the production is built around R&B grooves and danceable pop beats.
Post-breakup anthem “Green Light” captures the building emotion of seeing an ex you’re not quite over through building, exuberant harmonies that escalate to the high end Lorde’s vocal range. But the song also allows the cello-like melancholy low end of her voice to become its own instrument in the quieter verses.
We get the sense, as the album progresses, that Lorde is—as one might predict—living in the world she described being on the outside of in “Royals.” With boozing as a sustained metaphor for excess and false grandeur, it’s perhaps no surprise that this album features two songs with “sober” in the title. “Sober,” ostensibly a party anthem, asks the listener, repeatedly, what we’ll do when we’re sober. In “Sober II (Melodrama),” she reflects, “how fast the evening passes/cleaning up the champagne glasses.”
Lorde’s still on the outside in her new world, but not because she doesn’t belong—because it’s transient, and when it fades away, she isn’t sure whether it’s real or worthwhile. It’s an unapologetically melodramatic sentiment, shaping an album that feels true to its title.