By Hayden Wright
When Lorde released her debut album Pure Heroine in 2013, she quickly established herself as pop’s greatest prodigy. She was, after all, a 16-year-old who wrote and recorded her own dazzling, GRAMMY-winning music. At the time, she wrestled with disaffection and puppy love in songs that were relatable yet virtuosic—articulating the tribulations of youth with a lyrical and musical vocabulary beyond her years.
After a four-year-break, Lorde returns at the start of her third decade (she turned 20 in November) grappling with new questions about love, life and surviving late adolescence under the glare of public scrutiny. On her sophomore album Melodrama (out today), the singer-songwriter took a more hands-on approach to producing. She and Bleachers’ Jack Antonoff collaborated on all 11 songs, from the spellbinding “Green Light” to the somber “Writer in the Dark.”
Here are the five best songs on Lorde’s new album Melodrama:
Lorde’s best material has a transcendent grace about it: When she sings about disappointment and melancholy, it’s like she’s packed centuries of wisdom into her 20-year-old mind. “Liability” is a kind of theme for the album (it appears twice) and Lorde shows herself at her most vulnerable. She describes herself as a toy that doesn’t work anymore, with whom people have grown bored—the perfect metaphor for sophomore album anxiety.
Could “Green Light” be Song of the Summer 2017? We think it’s a contender. It’s no secret why Lorde led the album’s promotion with this triumphant track with a sophisticated message. Its complex arrangement leverages a cool keyboard hook to introduce a wailing chorus and Lorde’s vocal oscillates between whispers and screams.
Lorde’s strongest songs like “Team” and “Royals” always rely on a confident, organic rhythm and “Homemade Dynamite” is no exception. On the verses, Lorde nearly raps over smacking percussion and a flutey hook. On Melodrama she veers closer to synth pop than ever before, but “Homemade Dynamite” takes her back to basics (with a twist).
This is one of the songs where Antonoff’s eclectic, left-of-center sensibility is on best display. Its thrilling heights recall his work with Fun. and Bleachers, as a groovy electro sample bubbles under. It doesn’t have the structure or simplicity of a radio pop hit (and let’s face it, that’s rarely been Lorde’s thing) but it’s one to file under Lorde’s best deep cuts.
For the YouTube generation, “Supercut” could be Melodrama‘s most relatable breakup anthem: Lorde describes flashbacks to a former lover in terms of a viral video she can’t get out of her head. And while that premise might sound hokey, Lorde’s steady hand never wavers. She layers the lyrics of doubt and heartbreak over a thrilling, pulsing electro riff that recalls The Pet Shop Boys. Best of all, the keyboard arrangement from “Green Light” is back.