Junkee Roundtable: First Reactions To Lorde’s Epic ‘Melodrama’

Melodrama could be the perfect anthem for 2017.


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It’s finally happened! After months of online teasing, a trickle of single releases, and an unconfirmed secret onion rings Instagram account, we have reached the highly anticipated moment. Lorde has dropped her first full studio album since 2013’s Pure Heroine: the inextricably 2017 epic, Melodrama.

The album is Lorde’s first full-length output in four long years, and this time she’s teamed up with Pop Producing Hot Property (and Lena Dunham’s boo), Jack Antonoff. And, now that it’s out there, first reactions are flooding in. There are glowing reviews up already from Variety, the Sydney Morning Herald and Pitchfork, which aptly described Melodrama as a “masterful study of being a young woman”. And Twitter is also spewing out very. emotional. reactions.

The album dropped early in NZ and Australia, which means we had first access to it early this morning before the rest of the world (the album has since dropped worldwide). This was a big moment for the Junkee office. Our staff-wide adoration of Melodrama — which is a heartfelt, dramatic, fragile pop epic — began with this comment, posted in our music chat thread at 8am: “I’m crying at new Lorde”.

In light of all the supremely appropriate and fierce ~emotions~ our team are expressing, we have collected some slightly longer first reactions to Lorde’s Melodrama from the Junkee staff. Enjoy!

“Bizarre, Bittersweet Frenzy Of Millennial Frustrations”

Music being one of my many great cultural blank spots, I still don’t think anyone has expressed the bizarre, bittersweet frenzy of millennial frustrations as beautifully as Lorde has.

No one in human history has had the opportunities that our generation (very broadly speaking!) can access, yet none have had the crushing pressure borne from globalised mass communication, an increasingly warming planet, or — more specific to Lorde’s music — celebrity culture we’re now comparing ourselves against. Her expression of the joys, sorrow and general frenzy of partying in the 2010s; an exploration of youth as the universal underdog Lorde waxed about in ‘Royals’, and has reinvented as a tragic, triumphant exploration of a single house party in Melodrama, is honestly why I think her music has struck such a chord.

It’s beloved by pretty much everyone under 35 because it’s meant for everyone under 35.

I’d also like to say that, judging by both her music and Twitter presence, Lorde just seems like the one of the kindest, most sincere fucking people in music, full stop. We’re lucky to have both her and this album, imo.

Favourite song: ‘Green Light’ is the album’s undisputed banger, and ‘Hard Feelings/Loveless’ the biggest emotional gut-punch, but for favourite I’ll have to go with ‘Sober’, which taps into that late-night anxiety so common at parties but so rarely discussed.

Chris Woods is a contributing writer for Junkee.

“It Is Blistering In Its Honesty”

Pop has always been about freedom of expression. I think this is why it makes some people so uncomfortable – the naked way it expresses universal experiences like love, lust, grief and pain. Simple, pure, and intimately identifiable, pop often doesn’t feel very sophisticated, but I don’t know anything more refined than total honesty about the trickiest parts of being a human. If there’s any pop star in our new Platinum Age of Pop who understands this, it’s Lorde, who has already proven she has impeccable taste and an infinite capacity for wholeheartedness.

Melodrama is so painful it’s been hard to listen to at work, in the office, feeling tears pricking my eyelids. It’s painful because it is blistering in its honesty, capturing that contemporary condition of anxious emotion. Lorde was always more sophisticated than people thought she should be as a young woman of 16 releasing her first, brilliant album, Pure Heroine. What I like most about Melodrama is that it doesn’t feel like Lorde has “grown up”, as so many are saying; it’s more like she’s discovering how foolish and messy, how much like a child you can be when you are in your twenties. Welcome, Ella, to the promised land.

But, god damn, in construction alone, this album is a masterwork. It’s up there with Carly Rae Jepson’s E.MO.TION, certainly the best pop album of the new millenium. It’s everything you loved about Taylor Swift’s 1989, plus one or two dainty, drunken tiptoeing steps forward. It’s a series of professional love letters between Lorde and her new producing partner, the man with pop’s golden touch, Jack Antonoff.

It’s sitting in the back of a cab with your two drunk friends, while ‘Perfect Places’ plays on the radio and each of you hides your mascara-streaked tears from each other. It’s fiercely singing along (off-key, but who cares) to ‘Sober’ as you scrub last night’s tequila from your puffy face and wash the stale cigarette smoke from your hair. Guys, it’s a banger; hit after bloody hit.

Favourite song: Lorde released the singles she released for a reason; they’re all solid stand-alone pop anthems. But my favourite song has to be ‘Sober II (Melodrama)’, for the way Lorde pouts “it’s fucking Melodrama”.

Matilda Dixon-Smith is Junkee’s Staff Writer.

“The Kind Of Pop I Want: Not Just Neat Stories, But The Full Feelings”

Confession: I’ve only really listened to Lorde properly since the release of ‘Green Light’. That is an extremely weird thing to say considering she is a legendary, world renowned pop star who became inescapable a full four years ago. But it’s borderline illegal because I’m from her hometown. We grew up 20 minutes across town from one another and, in New Zealand, that’s basically a blood pact to be a #1 fan for life.

It’s not that I didn’t like her stuff — I did! The big singles like ‘Royals’ are fun and hooky and entrancing, but they never grabbed me like that first gut on the floor, fist in the air shift from verse to chorus in ‘Green Light’. Like Shaad d’Souza wrote for us earlier the year, it feels like “stepping from the street into the club, from the elevator into the party, from tiny Auckland to big, bright New York City”.

Melodrama feels adventurous in that same way, and I’ve been listening closely all day. It’s full of earworms and poetry and wild gestures; it feels alive with the energy of someone who really did just get “psycho high” for the first time and kiss people in the dark. That’s the kind of pop I want: not just neat stories, but the full feelings. I want that feeling of slipping your hands under someone’s shirt and getting confused when the lights come on at the end of the night and watching your heart get all fucked up and swimming in the good and shitty memories of it all.

Now, I really am a #1 fan. I’m listening to Pure Heroine too and soaking it all in. But I’m not just a fan because someone from my hometown made it big; it’s because I can hear all these feelings and experiences, so much like my own, clash up against each other in new and exciting ways. Getting fucked up and pouring over your life’s weird daily melodramas is worthy of great art, and I’m glad someone as crazy talented as Lorde is making it.

Favourite song: I choose ‘Hard Feelings/Loveless’ because it made me cry on the tram.

Meg Watson is the Editor of Junkee.

“This Is An Album About Insecurity, And That’s What Makes It So Powerful”

Let’s get the easy stuff out of the way. Musically this record is a masterpiece. The production, the lyrics, Lorde’s ability to take a song that sounds like something you’ve heard before and mould it into a track that transcends everything else going on in pop right now. It ticks all the boxes.

But there’s something deeper going on. The theme of Melodrama, and the exquisite way it’s portrayed across all 11 songs propel the album into generational anthem territory. This is an album about insecurity, and that’s what makes it so powerful. Sure, there’s all sorts of topics covered that traverse common pop territory: breakups, post-breakups, going out and having fun. But underlining all of this is a feeling of self-doubt and uncertainty.

It might sound strange given Lorde’s enormous, enormous success, but that’s the thing about insecurity. It’s often irrational. It’s something she’s spoken about before but by weaving it into her music, and making it such a defining theme, she’s doing something pretty rare for modern pop stars.

The album isn’t about escaping from her feelings, or trying to follow a formulaic path for success. We know the challenges celebrities face in terms of dealing with the pressure of life and expectations. But often their music is juxtaposed against that. It’s an escape from what they’re really feeling, or a projection of what they wish they were.

Outside of maybe Kanye West and Sia, it’s hard to think of musicians on the same kind of platform as Lorde who blend their insecurity and self-doubt into their artistry.

On ‘Liability’, Lorde sings:

The truth is I am a toy that people enjoy
‘Til all of the tricks don’t work anymore
And then they are bored of me

It’s an extraordinarily pessimistic perspective from an artist with two critically acclaimed albums under her belt before the age of 21. But at the same time, it’s understandable. Lorde has always been hyper-aware of the nature of celebrity and how fleeting fame and success can be. ‘Liability’ channels that.

What does this have to do with us mere mortals? You don’t need to be a celebrity to relate to Lorde’s self-questioning and self-doubt. Something that frequently saddens me about our generation is how almost everyone I know has some experience of anxiety, depression and insecurity.

There isn’t a simple explanation. Our job prospects are insecure, the housing market is insecure, the climate is insecure, the pressures of social media make us insecure. It’s not really surprising that so many of us struggle with modern life when it’s a relatively bleak grind, without much cause for optimism.

But that’s precisely what makes Melodrama a perfect anthem for us. Whether it’s the insecurity of high expectations on ‘Liability’, the insecurity we feel in our relationships on ‘Green Light’, or the sense of hopelessness and chaos on ‘Sober II (Melodrama)’ (“And the terror / And the horror / When we wonder why we bother”), all of it captures something we can relate too.

The magic of Lorde is that she’s produced an album that is brilliant and fun, while being deeply honest and raw, in a way that allows her to connect to an entire generation.

All hail Queen Ella.

Favourite song: ‘The Louvre’ pls.

Osman Faruqi is Junkee’s News and Politics Editor.