Friday 7 July 2017

we told you this was melodrama: lorde's coming of age

lately i've been frustrated with a) the generic sound being produced by 99% of pop artists, and b) the direction (or lack of) my life appears to be heading in. 

let's backtrack. a few weeks ago i got my uni result and was disappointed to discover that i would graduate with a 2:1. right from the start, i always wanted to get a first, and it was even worse to discover that i was three marks off an A. then last tuesday  - though it seems like a lifetime ago now - i made the arduous trip down to london with my family to attend my graduation at the royal festival hall. naturally, it was an early start, so i arrived exhausted with only an hour to get from euston to the venue, and had a minor panic attack in the toilets trying to get my stupidly uncomfortable dress to zip up. i also discovered that my brand new "anti-cellulite" tights had a huge ladder in them just as i put them on, and my shoes were horrendously uncomfortable.

arriving at the venue, i was ushered into various queues; one to collect my tickets, then to put on the complicated gown and mortar board which was pulled right down over my forehead, resulting in yet more discomfort and self-consciousness. getting to shake the hand of UCA chancellor zandra rhodes and briefly seeing my friends again were the only highlights, and before i knew it i was back on the train to manchester with a crushing sense of finality. even though my course ended in may, and i've been (unsuccessfully) looking for any kind of work since, it hit me that we'll be seeing a lot less of each other due to the distance.

receiving my first jobseekers payment on wednesday also brought home the reality that i'm Officially Unemployed, and despite applying for several jobs a day, i keep getting rejected from even the most basic of retail roles. what do i need to do to prove that i'm perfectly capable of dealing with difficult customers and folding endless amounts of t-shirts in a particular way, only for said customers to come along five minutes later and ruin all my hard work as they ferret around for a t-shirt right at the bottom of the pile? as for any kind of Serious Journalism, the majority of companies expect a minimum of two years experience in a "similar role".

the only highlight has been volunteering at the manchester international festival over the last two weeks. i didn't expect to enjoy it so much, but it's reminded me just how much i love the city and given me some kind of purpose. i worked the opening day of the true faith exhibition, curated by the man who made me want to start writing about music, jon savage himself, and featuring ian curtis' hand written lyrics to love will tear us apart. the average person would probably find it odd my tearing up when faced with this single sheet of paper, encased in its own glass box, but for those who love music as much as i do, i'm sure they'll all be having a similarly surreal experience. if you're in town, it's definitely worth seeing, and it's free. typically though, on the one day i wasn't working, one of my heroes jarvis cocker made an appearance at festival square, presumably to visit the BBC who are stationed there. not getting to see pulp live is one thing, but to miss seeing the front man himself is something it will take me a while to get over, but seeing new order next thursday will hopefully soften the blow. 

so that just about covers the state of my life so far, but the other pressing matter is the state of pop music lately. artists and producers alike are still riding the wave of tropical-inspired sounds that helped justin bieber's 2015 album purpose convert hordes of people who wouldn't normally listen to the former teeny bopper. that's when they can get a word in edge ways however; first they must break through the mass of SOTS (songs of the summer) being churned out by calvin harris. even artists like dua lipa, with her sultry vocals, has fallen foul to the generic dance-pop sound that can be heard in every revolution up and down the country of a friday and saturday night. i've even found myself disappointed with haim's latest release, something to tell you, which hasn't produced a single Banger. some have argued that it showcases a more refined sound and a body of work that should be listened to all the way through, rather than being judged by its singles, but even lead single want you back, with its half-hearted choreography can't hold a candle to this. (the only stand-out has been the man, the latest single from the killers, which i've had on repeat ever since its release.)

enter lorde, and her second album melodrama, which was released on the 16th june. that weekend ended up being pretty good, as my best friend made a spontaneous trip to manchester and we went out on canal street for the first time in what felt like forever. i also broke the news to him that i got tickets to see lorde herself in september, and he'll hopefully be joining me when she plays the apollo on the 26th. until then, i've been immersing myself in her new sound, and feel like i'm finally ready to share my two cents. having read some amazing reviews prior to writing this, i felt that old wave of self-doubt wash over me, wondering if my opinion is really necessary when other people have written about this album in ways i could never dream of doing, but its lyrics are so painfully relevant to my current situation that i just couldn't resist. 

the other day i found this quote on tumblr that perfectly sums up melodrama, so let's start with that:

"take your time but please tell me the secret on how to be better. i am the night sky and a dimly lit room all in the same sentence and i don’t really know where to put the period. some days i am better and I’m here with this abundance of love in my heart and the other days I am all alone and no way to cope with the sadness. give me the grass stained jeans and give me the love i used to feel but not while in the arms of others. i’m not alone but sometimes i am. let me learn how to cope with the bad days and let me learn how to find comfort in my own arms and my own bed and then i swear i can give them the best parts of me after that."

we already know that the album deals with the events of a single night, which takes place at a house party. it feels wrong to call it a "concept album" - a term that usually means an album is full of cringey gimmicks - but i suppose that's exactly what it is. as someone who likes to have every detail of their life meticulously planned out, i enjoy the structure lorde has given the album, but its sound is anything but systematic. it's bold, brash and messy; the sweaty mass of a nightclub crowd, the burning at the back of your throat after one too many shots and the heat of stranger's body next to your own as your lips touch just as the chorus of your favourite song blares from the speakers. 

powerful opener green light deals with the highs and lows of relationships new and old, while sober is its comedown. i'm queen of the weekend, she sings with all the self-assurance of a 20 year old who thinks she's got the world figured out. it doesn't last long though, as she finds herself asking what will we do when we're sober? 

it reminds me of when i first started drinking, the summer before uni began and life as i knew it would change forever. i recognise that confidence in 18 year old me, who didn't stop to think about what would happen once the party ended and i was walking home in the early morning light, how i'd sustain that high once the alcohol wore off and i retreated back into my shy, scared self. i suspect lorde has undergone a similar transformation; we both went through a breakup, drank to dull the pain, kissed people to fill the void, and eventually came out of it with a sore head and the crushing realisation that the party can't last forever. (side note: i'm seriously put off drinking after perusing the drinkaware website last night, which revealed the full horror of what drinking can do to your mind and body, as well as the revelation that three ciders contain a total of 600 calories.) 

homemade dynamite takes me back to my first night at uni, more specifically to a party being held in a nearby halls of residence, where i would meet all of my closest friends. don't know you super well but i think you might be the same as me, goes the song's opening verse, perfectly encapsulating the rush you get when you combine several vodka and cokes and a blossoming friendship. it's reassuring that lorde appears to be an over-sharer after a drink or two, as she confesses in the pre-chorus. let's let things come out of the woodwork / i'll give you my best side, tell you all my best lies, she sings, and i think we're all guilty of embellishing our lives with tiny white lies to make ourselves sound a touch more interesting to people we've never met.

back in march, i professed my love for liability in a new music friday post, and four months later, it still hits me hard. now i've been home and away from my friends (and acquaintances) at uni, it's given me time to reflect on who i really want to keep in touch with and who was just there to sink a few shots with me every weekend. it's strange to feel like you've got friends but aren't really close to any of them, and there were times where despite having the biggest group of friends i've ever had in my life, i felt like i had nobody to really confide in, a sentiment echoed on this track. lorde is at her most confessional at the start of the second verse; i can just see her sitting down in front of a friend, a few glasses of wine down, ready to release a secret she's kept inside for weeks. then suddenly it all spills out: the truth is, i am a toy that people enjoy / till all of the tricks don't work anymore / and then they are bored of me. again, she speaks of the highs and lows presented by The Night; i know that it's exciting running through the night / but every perfect summer's eating me alive until you're gone / better on my own. and sometimes, that's the best way to end the night, walking the streets as the sun comes up, heels in hand, knowing that you're enough just as you are.

the only song more devastating is writer in the dark, another sprawling piano ballad that sees lorde reach new heights with her vocal range and come to terms with the ending of her relationship. bet you rue the day you kissed a writer in the dark, goes the pre-chorus, and i can almost hear the snarl in her voice. it builds to a spectacular chorus; i am my mother's child / i'll love you till my breathing stops / i'll love you till you call the cops on me - and it's this utterly devastating devotion that's missing from the majority of pop music, which deals only with hook ups in Tha Club. these lyrics break my heart every time, as they remind me of the distance between my best friend and i. going from spending nearly every day of your life with someone for eighteen years to only seeing them every few weeks takes some getting used to, a sentiment echoed in the next line; but in our darkest hours, i stumbled on a secret power / i'll find a way to be without you babe. it doesn't get easier, but eventually you learn to live without the other person, and to depend on yourself, something lorde discusses in hard feelings/lovelesswith the line i care for myself the way i used to care about you hitting me harder than i was prepared for.

in a total contrast, supercut celebrates the best parts of a relationship, as lorde plays a supercut of us / all the magic we gave off / all the love we had and lost. its euphoric sound contrasts with the raw emotion seen in lines like we were wild and fluorescent, come home to my heart. there's clearly some regret too; in my head i do everything right, she laments, and i know how it feels to wish you could go back and fix the mistakes you made, and the frustration that arises when things don't go your way. 

the album's closing track perfect places pretty much sums up the entirety of my three years at uni (i told you i was feeling reflective). every night i live and die / feel the party to my bones, goes the first verse. it goes on: watch the wasters blow the speakers / spill my guts beneath the outdoor light, and it brings to mind endless nights outside in the smoking area consoling my friends over breakups and bad guys. it's the pre-chorus that feels like a blow to the head though; something about that melody and how it's sad and hopeful all at once. are you lost enough? implores lorde. no? have another drink, get lost in us / this is how we get notorious, she continues, and it's me and my friends, recalling anecdotes from days/weeks/months ago that only we find funny, our only common ground when we came from such varied backgrounds. she takes it up a notch with the chorus, the beat so intense it feels like standing right next to a speaker, or the thump in your chest at a concert, perfectly timed to your own heartbeat. all of our heroes fading / now i can't stand to be alone / let's go to perfect places. this is our escape, cause we are young and we're ashamed. i'm not proud of the states i've got myself into, but sometimes it's been the only way to deal with whatever i'm feeling. what the fuck are perfect places anyway? she concludes, leaving me asking myself the same thing. the shine has worn off and away from the temptations of two for one cocktails, i'm finally seeing the damage i was doing trying to run away from my problems, and though i miss those nights, i don't miss coming home and breaking down, the weight of all my hopes and fears pushing down on my chest so hard i could barely breathe. 

all i want now is stability, and i think a few more listens to melodrama will help me purge the last of these negative thoughts that have eaten away at me for such a long time as i try to find a a way to be happy without the bright lights of the dance floor. even though i've never met lorde, i feel closer to her than most of my actual friends, because despite her new superstar status she's just the same as the rest of us; making that transition from teenager to adult and experiencing the same spectrum of emotion. there's days where she's all i want to hear, and others where the lyrics hit so hard it's as if she's torn them straight out of my diaries. but it's comforting to know that it's there when i need it; all the glamour, and the trauma, and the fucking melodrama.

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