Lorde’s introspective debut, 2013’s Pure Heroine, turned her into a global star—a turn of events she all but predicted: “How can I fuck with the fun again when I’m known?” she sang on “Tennis Court,” seemingly aware that her primary inspiration up to that point—namely, boredom in suburbia—would be rendered inaccessible by her imminent fame. Four years later, she answered that question with her second album, Melodrama. While Pure Heroine concerned itself with the minutiae of teenage life in Auckland, Melodrama is broader in its reach, detailing heartbreak and hedonism following her first serious breakup. Lorde’s musical themes underwent a big change on Melodrama—as did her music-making process. Pure Heroine had been written and produced by a two-person team consisting of Lorde and Joel Little. For Melodrama, she’d recruit such top-tier producers as Kuk Harrell, Malay, and S1. Most significantly, all but one of Melodrama’s 11 tracks were cowritten with Jack Antonoff, best known as Taylor Swift’s right-hand man since 2013. But even with all those new names by her side, Lorde remains as idiosyncratic as ever on Melodrama. The lead single, “Green Light,” begins as a piano ballad before revving into a house track—only to finally explode into a euphoric chanted chorus accompanied by drums, handclaps, bass, and strings. It’s a chaotic and unexpected finale, capturing the agony and ecstasy of being newly single. Elsewhere on the album, “Supercut” is similarly bittersweet, retracing the happiest moments of a failed relationship with help from a driving house piano and overlaid vocals. “Liability,” meanwhile, strips things back, harnessing a simple descending chord sequence and lyrics about being “too much” to devastating effect. And “Writer In the Dark” is a spare ballad about alchemizing heartbreak into art, with a cracked soprano vocal recalling mid-career Kate Bush. As a sophomore effort, Melodrama is as unexpected as it is triumphant—the first indication that this is an artist uninterested in retracing her own steps. After all, Lorde works in mysterious ways.

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