Songs for a grown up Lorde

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The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - MUSIC REVIEWS - TONY CLAY­TON-LEA

LORDE Melo­drama ★★★★★ Republic/Uni­ver­sal

Be­ing ex­posed to al­most im­mea­sur­able lev­els of scru­tiny from peo­ple who don’t al­ways have your best in­ter­ests at heart is par for the course for many young pop stars these days. What at first seems grat­i­fy­ing and flaw­less, how­ever, can even­tu­ally lose its charm. As Lorde her­self sings on

Per­fect Places, the clos­ing track on Melo­drama, “what the fuck are per­fect places, any­way?”

Ac­cept­ing de­fects, ne­go­ti­at­ing the in­ten­sity of her teenage years (“cry­ing or laugh­ing or danc­ing or in love,” as she notes in a re­cent Van­ity Fair in­ter­view), twist their way through

Melo­drama with­out be­com­ing en­tan­gled. Ev­ery song is re­mark­ably fo­cused, and while Lorde still re­tains a ten­dency to use a dozen words where six would suf­fice (the open­ing lines to Green Light be­ing a case in point), she has the keen sen­si­bil­ity of a good prose writer to make sure that she at least sets the scene for (and sub­se­quently tells) a great story. “I know about what you did and I wanna scream the truth” ( Green Light) and “In my head, I play a su­per­cut of us… the vi­sions never stop” ( Su­per­cut) are merely two ex­am­ples of itemised plot-teas­ing that the New Zealan­der ex­cels at. The re­quire­ment to ex­cit­edly fill in blank spa­ces has been with Lorde since her 2013 de­but al­bum, Pure Hero­ine, but here – in co-writ­ing/ co-pro­duc­tion ca­hoots with Jack Antonoff – she has di­vided her re­cent per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences into re­flec­tive, cap­sule-sized vi­gnettes charged with sig­na­ture stac­cato de­liv­ery. Com­bine these with grace­ful, glid­ing hooks and you have dis­tilled cat­nip for ra­dio play.

What makes Melo­drama even more fas­ci­nat­ing, how­ever, is how ob­ser­va­tional and adult it is. In semi-con­cept mode – through songs as vivid as Li­a­bil­ity, Hard Feel­ings, Writer in the Dark, Per­fect Places, and Home­made Dy­na­mite – Lorde writes of love, sex­u­al­ity, heart­break and self-aware­ness. It’s a brave, glo­ri­ous pop al­bum from a real-deal song­writer and ac­ci­den­tal pop star – thank­fully, not the other way around. lorde.co.nz

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