lorde's melodrama offers justice for the party girl
Across her second album, the Kiwi singer captures the power of partying and the majesty of party girls.
This article originally appeared on i-D Australia
One of the first things we knew about Lorde's new album was its very specific inspiration: house parties. The singer promised it would be a love letter to "fun, scummy house parties in Auckland," the kind you "can't really do in LA." In the context of her 2015 break-up, many anticipated either a broken-hearted look at painful excess, with a "red cups and sweaty bodies everywhere" drink-until-you're-over-him refrain. In a sense, before we'd heard a single track off Melodrama, it felt like a reflection on "party girls."
Through art and music, there's a very big difference between how we see creative men with a drink in hand and how we see women doing the very same. From Bob Dylan to Ed Sheeran, the image of a man lost in the bottle is infused with emotion: their references to whisky, wine and moonshine are often taken as meditations on creativity. When Dylan sings "The whole world's a bottle, A life's but a dram, When the bottle gets empty, It sure ain't worth a damn" it's a viewed as picture of elegant destruction. Even the Gallagher brothers, who are infamous for their drunken messy moments can be seen as tragic and poetic figures on tracks like Champagne Supernova and Cigarettes And Alcohol.
Women, especially young women, are seen differently when they sing about having a few too many wines. Drunk girls in music are here to party and say things like "we danced on tabletops, And we took too many shots, Think we kissed but I forgot." From Saturday Night Live sketches to Judd Apatow movies we're more familiar with them demanding to do a body shot than attempting to dissect what it is to feel confused with a beer in your hand.
All this makes Lorde's offering feel so vital: across Melodrama's 11 tracks the party girl is elevated and humanised. She's not here to justify or explain why a 20-year-old woman might want to have all her friends over and drink everything in sight; she's here to prove that the thoughts crowding our minds aren't the ramblings of idiots. You're never more honest than when you've had a few drink, so why wouldn't an album looking at the hazy moments around midnight be anything less than searingly relatable? Or as one friend reflected after listening to the record, "We are not just two dimensional characters wanting to go to a party to put-our-hands-up-in the-air-like-we-just-don't-care." It's fitting, considering this is the girl who previously sang, "I'm kind of over getting told to throw my hands up in the air."
Nowhere is this affection and consideration for the drunk girl more apparent than on album opener Green Light, when Lorde sings "I do my make-up in somebody else's car, We order different drinks at the same bars." In two lines, Lorde uses the simple action of getting a drink as a cutting image of loss and loneliness. The woozy girl is a soulful, but not tragic, figure.
Later, on Homemade Dynamite, she turns toward the dance floor and the people who flock to it. "A couple rebel top gun pilots. Flying with nowhere to be, Don't know you super well, But I think that you might be the same as me," may be the best line to ever recognise the fleeting friendships you make when people push the couches back to dance.
Finally, consideration is saved for the party girl when the music ends — "Oh, how fast the evening passes, Cleaning up the champagne glasses" — and life goes on. She isn't left asleep in some forgotten corner, or hungover. At the close of the record, on Perfect Places, she reminds us that for all the trouble she's still "19 and on fire," and "when we're dancing I'm alright, It's just another graceless night." Lorde, like pretty much every "party girl" will still exist when the sun comes up, and happily return when it sets again.
We're so often presented the idea of partying away pain as a bad thing, a last ditch effort when other emotional balms have failed. But as Lorde reflected on Lyric Genius, she wrote a party album because she didn't want to sit at home. This, and other stories like it, aren't sad. They're not ultimately about loss, but about being strong enough to make yourself feel better by seeking out fun and distraction. Parties aren't happy or pathetic places. They're just places, full of emotions and complicities. The same goes for the girls who frequent them.
Text Wendy Syfret