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August 20, 2018 | by  | in Podcasts | [ssba]

Lorde: Behind the Melodrama

“‘These are the games of the weekend, we pretend that we just don’t care — but we care.’ And I feel like that is the essence of Melodrama: we pretend that we just don’t care — but we care, we fucking care! and I’m going to show you. This record is a document about that care.”
What is Melodrama? It’s “the vivid nature of all the emotions that connect all of these songs.”

It’s the intense, singular, fucked-up emotions, the brief lightning flashes that had to be captured and crystallised, the element of humour, the Greek piece of theatre, the making big out of small, the royal court out of the domestic house.
The thing is, Melodrama is more than that, and that’s what the Spinoff’s Music Editor Henry Oliver sought to discover when he sat down with Lorde over two afternoons mid last year — the stories, processes, and influences behind the record; the inspirations and the emotions. The series takes the form of a track-by-track exposition in the vein of Song Exploder, each episode devoted to one of the eleven tracks from Lorde’s sophomore album. We are brought along for the noho, and over the course of the conversations also seek to chart the DNA of her process in making a powerful and meaningful record. Of course, we are all aware of Lorde’s undeniable talent; by the end of the series we are left with a rediscovered appreciation of Lorde’s musical thoughtfulness, her voice, we discover, an instrument not only of music but of storytelling too.

An evocative kaikōrero, Lorde is the perfect interviewee, diverting her interviewer’s sometimes uninspiring pātai to tell interesting stories peppered with mellifluous phrases describing the “fog of grief” or “melodic language”, throughout combining words like an experimental chef ingredients. “I am a writer,” Lorde, whose real name is Ella Yelich-O’Connor and whose mother is the poet Sonja Yelich, affirms to her host at one point. “I am a singer and I am a performer and I am an artist, but for the most part I’m a writer.” “You’re your mother’s child,” said Oliver. “I’m my mother’s child.” And at this she laughs.
She’s laughing throughout ngā kōrero; you can see her smile behind the microphone as she’s given the chance to tell some of the stories behind her record. The album is so full of break-up angsty sadness, yet when Oliver says “the bit that I found the saddest,” he’s drowned out by Lorde’s giggles. The record has become her “suit of armour” — as Lorde relates, “I wrote it when I was sad and I’m happy now”.
The editing and technical side to the podcast is decent enough: some quibbles here and there. My major qualm with the show is actually in the use of the songs themselves. The song of the episode will appear intermittently throughout, but arbitrarily: sometimes to demonstrate a point just made, at other times boldly for a wholly inordinate length of time, at others timidly entering before fading away apologetically. Perhaps I’m trained in the school of Song Exploder, but it seems a gaffe that the song isn’t included in its entirety at the bottom of each show: it will surface at the end, but only to be trampled on by the credits, when it could have been allowed instead to stand proud and free on a new pedestal of discovered background and stories each time.
That aside, Lorde herself is a magnetic personality to listen to, and a terrific subject for the patapatai. Evident in her voice are both the joys of the creative process of working with her favourite collaborators, and the anguish when she describes “the big sun soaked dumbness of just falling in love, your whole head like glue”. Provided with entry passes into the conversation, we get to whakarongo to both processes. It’s worth the listen.


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