Lorde’s sec­ond com­ing

Fouryears after she con­quered the world with her song ‘Roy­als’, Lorde has re­turned with ‘Melo­drama’– and she’s only now fig­ur­ing out what it’s all about, she tells Jim Car­roll

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - 5 -

There’s a lyric on Lorde’s new al­bum Melo­drama that catches the ear. It runs “bet you rue the day you kissed a writer in the dark”, and it’s tart, taut and right. It sounds like the work of some­one who has learned the power of words.

Of course, there’s plenty more stand­outs where that one came from. You have the “cou­ple of Top Gun pilots fly­ing with nowhere to be” on Home­made

Dy­na­mite or “I do my make-up in some­one else’s car” on Green

Light. When it comes to lyri­cal snap, the New Zealan­der is truly run­ning things this time around.

It’s taken a cou­ple of long years for Ella Yelich-O’Connor to fol­low up her de­but Pure Hero

ine, but it has been time worth tak­ing. The suc­cess of that de­but changed ev­ery­thing for her, turn­ing the teenager’s uni­verse up­side down, so it’s nat­u­ral that this record seems to be about com­ing to terms with the trans­for­ma­tion.

In the last few weeks since she reached the end of the record­ing and mix­ing hul­la­baloo, Yelich-O’Connor has fi­nally been able to be­gin to make sense of what the songs rep­re­sent. “It’s kind of amaz­ing to look at things now from a place of rel­a­tive calm. I was grap­pling with and fight­ing my way through a lot of things on

Melo­drama as I went along so I can now go ‘oh yeah, that’s what I was up­set about a year ago’ and ‘that’s what I was hy­poth­e­sis­ing about’.”


Melo­drama is a record about many things, but chiefly what hap­pens when young hearts run free in a new city. “This record was born out of me go­ing out and danc­ing a lot and want­ing to write mu­sic that would work in those spa­ces,” she says.

“I hope you can hear the prints of bod­ies and dance­floors and you can hear where the love came from. Pure Hero­ine was much more sta­tion­ary – I was in one town and there were cer­tain pa­ram­e­ters to what I was do­ing – but Melo­drama is some­thing much dif­fer­ent.”

Lorde wa liv­ing in New York for much of the time she was work­ing on this record. For the most part she went un­recog­nised in the city, which al­lowed her to get on with the job of writ­ing, record­ing and ob­serv­ing.

“Part of why I went to New York was for that anonymity. In New Zealand, ev­ery­one knows who I am and while they’re very sweet, I was never able to for­get who I was and what I was do­ing. I’m Lorde and I’m mak­ing an al­bum.

“In New York, I could be Ella, get­ting my sub­way card out, sit­ting in din­ers for hours, eaves­drop­ping on peo­ple and be­ing my­self. Anonymity like that is won­der­ful be­cause you can for­get your­self. Then when some­one recog­nises you, you’re like ‘oh okay, that’s who I am’. But I’ve been lucky, I don’t get recog­nised too of­ten. Even if New York­ers know who you are, they’re chilled and prob­a­bly won’t say any­thing.”

Yelich-O’Connor worked on the al­bum with Jack Antonoff from Bleach­ers, who has also worked with Tay­lor Swift, Te­gan & Sara, Grimes, Sia and many more. “We were all over the place with the record. You might be work­ing on a cho­rus for

one song one day and work­ing on the pro­duc­tion of a song the next. We re­ally bounced all over the place with this one.

“It all de­vel­oped over time. Look­ing back now, I think the rea­son it took so long was that search for a rich and sin­gu­lar sonic world. There’s so much to the songs as I’m sure you can hear. It’s some­thing much dif­fer­ent to Pure Hero­ine and I def­i­nitely had cer­tain kind of prin­ci­ples that I was su­per in­ter­ested in ex­plor­ing. But the sound mor­phed and some things which I didn’t think would be­come so in­trin­sic to the al­bum sud­denly be­came ap­par­ent and true.”


With the writ­ing, she took on the guise of a de­tec­tive. Like a po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tor track­ing a crime and var­i­ous per­sons of in­ter­est, she cov­ered a wall with notes to keep track of where the al­bum was go­ing with its var­i­ous lyri­cal themes. Again and again, like a nov­el­ist at work, she edited and re­drafted what she had to hand.

“I don’t know any other mu­si­cians who write like that, but I’m sure that there are some. For me, that ap­proach worked be­cause I’m very vis­ual and it’s very much about the lan­guage. Be­cause it had been such a long time since I put out an al­bum, there were a lot of emo­tions that

The Lorde book club A med­i­ta­tion on the colour blue

When The Ticket spoke to Ella Y eli ch-O’ Connor back in 2013, she talked about a cou­ple of books. Back then, it was Sam Lips ty e’ s The Fun Parts (“re­ally funny, mean short­fic­tion”) and Claire Vaye W atkins’ Bat­tle born (“she strikes a re­ally good bal­ance be­tween say­ing in­ter­est­ing things and say­ing the mina beau­ti­ful way ”) that had caught her eye.

What does she rec­om­mend for our read­ers this time around?

“I’ ve had areal mo­ment with Blue ts by Mag­gie Nel­son. I’ ve never re­ally read a book quite like it. It’s so strange struc­tural ly and I found it re­ally tran­scen­dent. It’ s a med­i­ta­tion on the colour blue and her re­la­tion­ship with the colour blue but it gives her this op­por­tu­nity to write about so many dif­fer­ent things in her life. “When I was in the midst of writ­ing this record and hav­ing this all en­com­pass­ing thing go­ing on ev­ery­day, I found her writ­ing about her re­la­tion­ship with the colour to be quite sim­i­lar and very in­spir­ing. She’s an amaz­ing writer. I’ d def­i­nitely rec­om­mend that .” I’d ex­pe­ri­enced or wanted to write about that I wanted to squeeze in there if I could.”

Yelich-O’Connor says the al­bum was planned and laid out with pre­ci­sion. “My writ­ing this time was in­spired by records I re­ally ad­mired, the clas­sic al­bums like Ru­mours by Fleet­wood Mac or Grace­land by Paul Si­mon. They were records which have such a great con­fi­dence and com­fort to them.

“They’re not long records, you’re in and out, and they’re taut. It seems to me that the plan­ning was key and they wanted the records to be sim­ple, clear, con­cise state­ments.”

Most of all, Lorde leaned on pop mu­sic in all its giddy glory to push her on. She ad­mits she’s as ob­sessed now by how pop mu­sic works as when she was as a teen back in Devon­port by the har­bour in Auck­land, be­fore Roy­als came along.

“Pop mu­sic is my num­ber one source of in­spi­ra­tion. I’m so in­ter­ested in the guts of it, the in­ner work­ings of how a song can be com­pletely sub­verted, and you can make some­thing dif­fer­ent from it.

“I feel like we’ve achieved just that here. The bones of it are a pop record, but it is much wilder than that and it’s like a weird over­grown gar­den. On the sur­face, it looks tight and suc­cinct but when you delve in, you can see that we’ve pushed the boat out.

“One of the rea­sons I’m still in­spired by pop mu­sic is my re­la­tion­ship to it is that of a fan. Yeah, I’m in the in­dus­try and I make mu­sic but I feel like my main role is still to con­sume pop mu­sic and get ex­cited about it and tear it apart like fans do. Be­ing able to for­get that this is a busi­ness and get away from that is re­ally help­ful and ben­e­fi­cial to me.

“A lot of the last cou­ple of years was about us­ing pop mu­sic to un­pack emo­tions and rec­on­cile things which have hap­pened to me. I ac­tu­ally never had mu­sic help me so much as in the last few years. I def­i­nitely came out of the process feel­ing very grate­ful for it.” Melo­drama is re­leased to­day and is re­viewed on page 12

It’s kind of amaz­ing to look at things now from a place of rel­a­tive calm. I was grap­pling with and fight­ing my way through a lot of things on ‘Melo­drama’ as I went along

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