It’s hard to believe that New Zealand born Lorde (real name Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O’Connor) is only 20 years old. It’s been four years since debut album Pure Heroine received rave reviews and spawned the international hit Royals which peaked at number 1 on the U.S billboard chart.
The late great David Bowie was said to be a fan of this quirky and seemingly eccentric singer-songwriter. During the four years since her debut, Lorde has learnt to finely hone her craft, including her contributions to the 2014 Hunger Games soundtrack. Her single Yellow Flicker Beat received a nomination for best original song at the 72nd Golden Globe Awards.
The second album can sometimes be a bit of a hurdle for any band or solo artist, as it can label the artists work as formulaic if it retreads too closely to the debut, or it runs the risk of alienating fans by being too diverse if the format is changed too much. Thankfully, Lorde seems to have found a way to cater to fans old and new.
The first track on the album is the first single release Green Light. Lorde appears to have upped the ante with a dance floor crowd pleaser, that wasn’t the obvious choice for a first release, but it shows depth and emotion in what could easily be described as four-minute mills and boon tale of unrequited love and the sweet feeling of rising from rejection. This depth of lyrics is rarely found in music that you can dance to. If you are looking for other dance-floor fillers, fast forward to Supercut which is near to the closing of the album which also feels equally danceable, although not as lyrically fulfilling, and Perfect Places which is the near perfect pop song that Katy Perry probably wishes she could write. Lorde feels at home using the word ‘fuck’ here without it ever sounding crass in a way that Madonna never could. The hunger games soundtrack era influence seems to be heavily at work here, and the album sounds all the better for it.
Sober is a mishmash of African tribal sounding drums complete with reminiscent squeaks and squeals layered cleverly over a free flowing lyrical delivery. I found my feet tapping along relentlessly. Homemade Dynamite keeps up the same tempo unashamedly, and it blends seamlessly. It would have happily been at home on the debut album and did have a similar vibe to Tennis Court. You can now begin to hear Lorde expressing her breathless vocals to the full extent of her range. On paper, it shouldn’t work, but it really does.
The Louvre, despite its pretentiously arty title, is an outstanding number that is equally heavily reliant on pitch perfect vocals and incessant drums to hammer home its message. The vocals really soar over this track blending it into a fusion that is both unexpectely new but that also somehow sounds totally familiar.
If you are looking for a heartbreaking epic, then look no further than Liability. Simple in construction the song is effortless with a slow drum beat and Lorde singing us a lullaby of rejection whilst her lyrics speak of threatening to disappear entirely from view.
Hard feelings/Loveless feels as if it is the bastard lovechild of Royals and Green Light. I could actually feel my face drop as the song ended, as I would have loved for it to carry on for at least another five minutes, but then you realise that it hasn’t finished after all! Instead, Lorde uses the instantly recognisable drum solo sampled from Phil Collins In The Air Tonight to cleverly move the track over from the ego to its alter ego and she talks dirty in one of the sexiest vocals that I have had heard in a very long time.
Sober 11/Melodrama is an epic title track that has a swirling orchestral feel which would quite happily feel at home in the Royal Albert Hall, although at less than three minutes in length, it does feel deliberately understated.
The one true gem in an album full of revelations is Writer In The Dark. This song truly amplifies Lorde’s vocal ability and echoes back to both Kate Bush and Tori Amos at the height of their credibility. She is unashamedly quirky. She doesn’t follow anyones narrative that has been left before. She doesn’t follow a formula, and it’s unbelievable when you realise that her creativity is still in relative infancy. This is an album that will quickly become a fan favourite, and if there is any justice in music, it should appeal to a whole new audience as well. I could not find fault with the album and I listened to it twice on repeat just to confirm it was as good as I originally thought it was.
It’s only now that we can fully begin to understand the true potential of Lorde as a singer-songwriter and her future stature in music, we are witnessing a legend in the making. Flawless.