Roar, Lorde; it suits you best

Los Angeles Times - - CALENDAR - MIKAEL WOOD POP MU­SIC CRITIC

“Melo­drama” Lorde (Lava/Repub­lic)

Well, she’s cer­tainly seen a di­a­mond in the flesh by now.

When Lorde ap­peared four years ago, the idea that drove the young New Zealan­der’s mu­sic was a pride­ful alien­ation from the sup­pos­edly hol­low pageantry of pop cul­ture. In “Roy­als” she sang about not re­lat­ing to rap­pers’ dis­plays of the type of bling she’d glimpsed only in the movies; in “Team” she said she was “over get­ting told to throw my hands up in the air.”

At a mo­ment when so­cial me­dia was be­gin­ning to rear­range the way fans re­late to their idols, Lorde’s propo­si­tion was an ef­fec­tive one — so much so that pop cul­ture wel­comed her in spite of

her dis­dain. “Roy­als” topped Bill­board’s Hot 100 and won a Grammy Award for song of the year, while “Pure Hero­ine,” the singer’s 2013 de­but, went triple plat­inum.

Sud­denly, sparkly things were a fact of Lorde’s life.

Yet the out­sider re­mains a pow­er­ful archetype, which is why even su­per­stars like Tay­lor Swift — who quickly struck up an oft-pho­tographed friend­ship with Lorde — try to present them­selves that way. So on her fol­low-up al­bum, “Melo­drama,” Lorde, 20, still wants us to think of her as some­one in a state of op­po­si­tion.

“I hate the head­lines and the weather,” she sings in “Per­fect Places.” In “Li­a­bil­ity” she re­counts be­ing re­jected by some­one, then zooms out to de­clare that “I’m a lit­tle much for ev­ery­one.”

And the ex­pe­ri­ence of pop star­dom? “Hated hear­ing my name on the lips of a crowd,” she in­sists in “Writer in the Dark,” whose ti­tle says plenty about how she wants us to see her.

None of this is es­pe­cially be­liev­able. What made “Roy­als” work, of course, wasn’t the awk­ward­ness that Lorde was de­scrib­ing but the strength with which she de­scribed it.

And she’s be­come only more force­ful a per­former since then: At April’s Coachella fes­ti­val, she started her ex­cel­lent set a few min­utes be­hind sched­ule, then openly taunted or­ga­niz­ers to cut her off be­fore she was fin­ished.

She knew they likely wouldn’t.

Yet “Melo­drama,” which Lorde made pri­mar­ily with pro­ducer Jack Antonoff, is full of mo­ments in which she claims she’s fall­ing apart, barely able to keep her­self to­gether — a self-styled alternative to the glama­zons that rule Top 40 ra­dio (many of whom, it hap­pens, of­fer the same kind of per­formed vul­ner­a­bil­ity).

“Per­fect Places” goes down on “just an­other grace­less night”; in “The Lou­vre” she’s “just the sucker who let you fill her mind.”

It’s not that Lorde can’t sell this story line. She’s a re­mark­able singer with a range of vo­cal tones and dra­matic ap­proaches, in­clud­ing the gor­geously ten­der croon she sets against the stripped-down pi­ano of “Li­a­bil­ity.”

And Antonoff is a great match for her: His cin­e­matic pro­duc­tion — lush with echoes of Prince and Kate Bush and 1980s New Wave — matches the burrs and scrapes in her voice in a way that draws out far more emo­tion than she got on the com­par­a­tively min­i­mal “Pure Hero­ine.”

But “Melo­drama” is so much more po­tent when Lorde is own­ing her new­found au­thor­ity, as in the al­bum’s dizzy­ing open­ing track, “Green Light,” in which she urges a lover to fol­low her “wher­ever I go” over a surg­ing house groove that keeps es­ca­lat­ing in in­ten­sity.

She’s equally con­vinc­ing in “Su­per­cut,” a fizzy electro-pop jam about a re­la­tion­ship that was “wild and flu­o­res­cent.” Lorde says she’ll “be your vi­o­lent overnight rush, make you crazy over my touch,” then re­veals that she’s merely look­ing back at mem­o­ries of a bro­ken ro­mance.

What you hear, though, are a win­ner’s re­grets.

Vic­tory suits her. She should em­brace it.

Lava Records

“MELO­DRAMA” is the new al­bum from Lorde.

Brian van der Brug Los An­ge­les Times

NEW ZEALAN­DER Lorde projects an as­sured pres­ence at the Coachella fes­ti­val in Indio back in April.

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