A Lyrical Journey Through Lorde's Melodrama
Lorde doesn't walk on stage during the concert—she skips. Her performance takes me back to my grade school days when I would go zooming down the block on a scooter, barefaced against the wind, unbothered by the quiet pedestrians I flew by. As I watch her perform, I realize that Lorde–as an artist and as an individual–has perfectly encapsulated this youthful aspect of living. She seems unburdened and unembarrassed, having reached a point in her life when judgments have become inconsequential.
Her skipping on tour is probably the equivalent of us humming during a job interview. I wonder if the world seen from skipping on stage looks as good as the flashing, gusty world seen aboard a scooter. She dances in a girlish and lighthearted fashion; the skipper doesn’t take herself too seriously. I remain quiet for a couple minutes, there in the bobbing crowd, sandwiched between inclinations of amusement and admiration.
The Lorde audience is young, and wears hot pink velvet coats. Even though it’s a cold March day in Chicago, I see people wearing fishnet tights, and many sport swipes of dark lipstick. Hairstyles are varied but always deliberate.
Lorde wears a double French braid that almost reminds you of the girl-next-door; you rarely see this hairstyle in celebrity photoshoots. There is a natural flair to her mannerisms and concert wardrobe that caters to the Chicago concertgoers. “It must be exciting coming from the same place as Kanye West,” her famous voice comes through the microphone, awash with a cool New Zealand tinge; “Now we come to Chicago and I just assume everyone’s best friends with Kanye.”
She gets to the last note of an a cappella song, and tilts her head at an angle looking up. For a split second, everyone takes an anticipatory breath. As the first claps of praise ring out, there’s a look in Lorde’s eyes that changes from expectancy to what is unmistakably: “I know I made it.” She knows that she’s famous, but she’s still too young to appear jaded about celebrity.
“I can’t believe this is my life; I can’t believe this is my tour,” she says. “Maybe somebody’s paying these people to come, but no, you’re paying to see me.” To assure her, the whole arena of paying audience members erupts into a huge cheer. I think the line is quite cheesy, but in those surroundings, you take up every opportunity to shout and cheer like snatching up popcorn at a movie.
Amid Lorde’s skipping, dancing, and jumping up and down, there come moments in her singing when you think she’s going to run out of breath. But she pulls from some inner reservoir and doesn’t even take a deep breath or make an effort, simply pulsing her arms by her side like she’s grabbing the air around her, and brings in the volume. How can she still be jumping in the second half of the show (like she’s at karaoke), when even figure skaters get bonus points for jumps in the second halves of their programs?
Melodrama is Lorde’s heartbreak album about her first love, and as the title suggests, there are sad and dramatic elements to her songs. “Liability” and “Green Light,” the two bestsellers on the album, unmask the pain of love lost.
In particular, “Liability” paints a picture of the world in retrograde, her ex retreating fast from Lorde’s life, leaving her under a kaleidoscope of deep blue feelings. The previously effortless singer wears a labored and searching expression as she sings, “So they pull back, make other plans, I understand.” Her eyes are downcast when she delivers the line, “I’m a liability.”
Lorde saves “Green Light” for the finale, when green light floods the stage. The energy in the arena crescendos with: “But honey I’ll be seein' you wherever I go. But honey I’ll be seein' you down every road.” As I see it, this green light is partly Gatsby’s perception of the future, an ageless dream reflected across the creasing waters of love and fate.
It is also partly the green stoplight that washes the pavement with a rain-like afterglow, giving the audience an alright signal to go on ahead. Staring at the green beams of light, we feel like drivers behind the wheel, or a youngster on a scooter, sandal pounding the asphalt.
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