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The Magic Of 'Melodrama': How Lorde’s Second Album Solidified Her & Producer Jack Antonoff As Global Stars
The writing and production of 'Melodrama' — released on June 16, 2017 — turned Lorde into a relatable icon of the late 2010s and Antonoff into the producer pop artists are now clamoring to work with.
The New Zealand singer/songwriter first made a name for herself at just 16 with her GRAMMY-nominated debut album, 2013's Pure Heroine. Aside from the 2013-2014 Pure Heroine Tour, Lorde spent much of the intervening four years living a mostly secluded life — until Nov. 6, 2016, the eve of her 20th birthday, when she revealed that her sophomore album did in fact exist.
"Writing Pure Heroine was my way of enshrining our teenage glory, putting it up in lights forever so that part of me never dies, and this record — well, this one is about what comes next," she wrote in a Facebook post, as she left her teenage years behind.
At the same time, Jack Antonoff had gone from fun. guitarist/drummer and Bleachers frontman to producing songs for major pop players like Carly Rae Jepsen and Taylor Swift. (Antonoff has credited Swift for getting his production career off the ground; he has two Album Of The Year GRAMMYs thanks to his work on 2014's 1989 and 2020's folklore). But until Melodrama, Antonoff had yet to take on a lead producer role for another artist.
Antonoff and Lorde shared a friend in Swift, and after hitting it off at a GRAMMY party in 2014, they tried out their chemistry in the studio. As detailed in a 2017 New York Times profile, Antonoff's innate balance "between the intimate and the outsize" was a perfect fit for the musical world Lorde was looking to create with Melodrama — and the result was massive.
Melodrama — released five years ago today, on June 16th, 2017 — not only cemented Lorde's legacy as a defining voice of pop's new generation, but altered pop around the sound Antonoff and Lorde created together.
The Lorde of Melodrama is very different from the Lorde of Pure Heroine, not only in sound but in demeanor. In 2013, Lorde was not that far removed from just being Ella Yelich-O'Connor, a kid from a suburban New Zealand town of less than 10,000. Early singles like "Tennis Court'' and "Royals" emphasize Lorde's humble upbringing, noting how she'd never seen a diamond or even been on a plane.
Even on tracks without such direct acknowledgements of her youth, Pure Heroine found Lorde wide-eyed and eager to explore the world opening up to her, with its Joel Little production matching the starstruck, humble demeanor of the lyrics. The charming honesty about her lack of worldliness combined with simple, sparse production resonated, with the album going triple platinum by 2016 and earning Lorde two GRAMMYS, including Song of the Year for "Royals."
As the title implies, Melodrama isn't quite as jubilant. The late teenage years can often be a tumultuous time for anyone, and Lorde is no exception. In the four years between albums, Lorde's long-term relationship with photographer James Lowe ended, and she had to suddenly grapple with being one of the most famous people on the planet before she even turned 18.
As Lorde expressed in her birthday-eve post, she was "reckless and graceless and terrifying and tender." This shows up immediately on "Green Light," the album's opening track and lead single. Thematically, it unveiled a Lorde who was in a more liberated and mature, yet messy part of her life. Emphasized by a triumphant chorus, the song's message of getting the "green light" to simply live freely welcomed listeners into a more complicated world than the one she inhabited in 2013 — one that was also quite beautiful.
While "Green Light" opens with simple piano chords that wouldn't be out of place on Pure Heroine (notably, it's one of only two tracks that Little co-produced), it quickly ramps up into something so much more. By the time the first chorus hits, it's clear something new is happening with Lorde's music on Melodrama. The piano has given way to a dense jungle of euphoric production, built around synths and a looping melodic hook as she proclaims, "I'm waiting for it, that green light, I want it." It's a tone-setter both emotionally and musically for Melodrama as a whole, and a perfect introduction to this new era for both its pop star and producer.
The album also marked new territory for Antonoff, as he was deeply ingrained in the entire process of Melodrama. Antonoff co-wrote and co-produced 10 of the 11 tracks alongside Lorde, the only exception being the more club-oriented "Homemade Dynamite" (which still featured a heavy-hitting co-writer, indie-pop darling Tove Lo).
Antonoff's production style can be described in two simple words: catchy and more. He finds a great hook and builds a towering sound in support of it, like on the richly nuanced "I Wanna Get Better" from Bleachers' debut LP, 2014's Strange Desire. In that way, the pairing of Antonoff and Lorde came at the perfect time for both of them: While Antonoff was beginning to push his production towards higher aspirations, Lorde was also wrapped up in the idea of more.
Throughout the album — and her life as a young adult — the singer strives for doing more, feeling more, and just being more. Some of the album's most touching moments are her journey towards more, as well as the moments of doubt on whether more has become too much, like on "Liability" and "Writer in the Dark." Antonoff deftly dialed back his production on these tracks, though his rich layering still shines.
The often-complicated quest of Melodrama reflects the journey of a teenager finding themselves — particularly, those in the late 2010s. As social media became a ubiquitous part of everyday life and the news, it simultaneously gave everyone more room to explore who they are and exposed them to more adult, existential issues. The climate crisis, which later inspired Lorde's trip to Antarctica in 2019, loomed large even in 2017; it's hard not to hear the urgency to live life in the face of looming disaster on Melodrama, especially on tracks like "Perfect Places."
Lorde treats these issues with the same weight as the fraught relationships and breakups of the late teenage years — because for a teenager, they can carry the same weight. "All the glamor and the trauma/ And the f<em></em>*in melodrama," she growls on "Sober II," an encapsulation of the entire project.
Upon its release, Melodrama was immediately lauded by critics and fans. The album received glowingreviews, earning both Lorde and Antonoff a lot of praise, including a GRAMMY nomination for Album of the Year in 2018. And even five years later, Melodrama still proves to be a pivotal moment for each of their careers.
The acclaim for the sounds of Melodrama resonated across the industry, and it certified Antonoff an in-demand collaborator. While he'd still be recruited for singles from artists like BANKS, his role became much more prominent on some of pop's biggest albums that were to come.
Swift had Antonoff produce six tracks on her experimental 2017 album, reputation, the majority of her 2019 LP Lover, and a handful of folklore tracks; he produced almost all of Lana Del Rey's universally acclaimed 2019 album, Norman F</em>cking Rockwell!, and its followup, 2021's Chemtrails Over The Country Club; the Chicks put their 2020 comeback album, Gaslighter,* in his hands.
Across all of these albums, Antonoff brought his big, layered sound along with him, melding it with the often disparate styles all of the artists had previously employed. It can be heard in the constant buildup and stacking of instrumental lines on Del Rey's sprawling "Venice B<em></em><em></em>," the way the vocal harmonies resonate on the Chicks' "Gaslighter," or on the towering "King" from Florence + The Machine's latest album Dance Fever. Antonoff and Lorde also reunited in 2021 for her third album, Solar Power, proving their collaboration could work across a brighter sound palette as well.
As pop packed in more production for sounds to become bigger and bolder going into the 2020s, it can certainly be traced back to Melodrama. The pairing of Lorde and Jack Antonoff raised both of their stars immeasurably — at the same time, spawning an album that captured the mood of growing up in a fast-moving world, and coining a sound that the biggest names in pop are still chasing today.
Exclusive GRAMMY.com Interview With Lorde
Rising 16-year-old singer/songwriter opens up about her forthcoming debut album, Pure Heroine, and writing her hit single "Royals"
Rising 16-year-old singer/songwriter Lorde recently visited The Recording Academy's headquarters in Santa Monica, Calif., to participate in an exclusive GRAMMY.com interview. Lorde discussed her upcoming debut album, Pure Heroine, the common themes in her music, how her music stands out from other teenage artists, and writing her hit single "Royals."
"I feel like there aren't that many people my age with a realistic view of what's it like to be my age," said Lorde. "A lot of the teenagers in the entertainment industry maybe aren't as accurate. … I talk about social situations and the nature of feeling lonely and feeling [nostalgic]."
Born Ella Yelich-O'Connor on the North Shore of Auckland, New Zealand, Lorde cites artists such as James Blake, Etta James, Fleetwood Mac, and Otis Redding as influences. Discovered by her current manager and Universal Music New Zealand A&R rep Scott Maclachlan at age 12, Lorde was subsequently signed to the label at age 13. In 2012 Lorde released her debut EP, The Love Club EP. The five-track EP reached No. 23 on the Billboard 200, spurred by the hit "Royals," which peaked at No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Lorde's debut solo album is set for release on Sept. 30. Produced by Joel Little, Pure Heroine features 10 tracks co-written by Lorde, including "Royals" and "Tennis Court." Lorde is currently in the midst of an international tour with dates scheduled through February 2014.
Photo: Daniel C. Sims/Getty Images
Solange To Play Benefit Show For Hurricane Harvey Relief
GRAMMY winner adds her name to the list of artists who are helping to raise millions in relief efforts for victims
GRAMMY winner Solange has announced she will be performing a benefit show to raise money for Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. The performance, called Orion's Rise, will be held at Boston's Orpheum Theatre on Sept. 8.
"I'm committed to partnering with organizations on the ground in Houston and making contributions to uplift the city that raised me with so much love," said Solange, a Houston native.
This announcement comes on the heels of other artists pledging their support, including Solange's sister, Beyoncé. But they are certainly not the only ones.
Comedian Kevin Hart pledged $50,000 to relief efforts, and the fund he organized has earned nearly $2 million in additional financial support, with contributions from artists such as the Chainsmokers. All funds will go to the American Red Cross.
The Kardashians and Jenners, Nicki Minaj, and DJ Khaled have also announced they will make donations. Jennifer Lopez and her partner Alex Rodriguez joined in the fundraising efforts, pledging $25,000 each to the Red Cross.
In addition, GRAMMY winner Jack Antonoff is matching donations up to $10,000 for the Montrose Center in Houston, an LGBT community center. Chris Brown will donate $100,000 directly to "the people," and T.I. will donate $25,000 to relief efforts.
Jay Z Tops 56th GRAMMY Nominations With Nine
Kendrick Lamar, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Justin Timberlake, and Pharrell Williams earn seven nods each; other top nominees include Daft Punk, Drake, Lorde, Bruno Mars, and Taylor Swift
Nominations for the 56th GRAMMY Awards were announced tonight by The Recording Academy and reflected one of the most diverse years with the Album Of The Year category alone representing the rap, pop, country and dance/electronica genres, as determined by the voting members of The Academy. Once again, nominations in select categories for the annual GRAMMY Awards were announced on primetime television as part of "The GRAMMY Nominations Concert Live!! — Countdown To Music's Biggest Night," a one-hour CBS entertainment special broadcast live from Nokia Theatre L.A. Live.
Jay Z tops the nominations with nine; Kendrick Lamar, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Justin Timberlake, and Pharrell Williams each garner seven nods; Drake and mastering engineer Bob Ludwig are up for five awards.
"This year's nominations reflect the talented community of music makers who represent some of the highest levels of excellence and artistry of the year in their respective fields," said Neil Portnow, President/CEO of The Recording Academy. "Once again, The Academy's awards process and its voting membership have produced an impressive list of nominations across various genres promising music fans a spectacular show filled with stellar performances and unique 'GRAMMY Moments.' We are off to a great start and look forward to GRAMMY Sunday as Music's Biggest Night takes the stage."
Following are the nominations in the General Field categories:
Album Of The Year:
The Blessed Unrest — Sara Bareilles
Random Access Memories — Daft Punk
Good Kid, M.A.A.D City — Kendrick Lamar
The Heist — Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Red — Taylor Swift
Record Of The Year:
"Get Lucky" — Daft Punk & Pharrell Williams
"Radioactive" — Imagine Dragons
"Royals" — Lorde
"Locked Out Of Heaven" — Bruno Mars
"Blurred Lines" — Robin Thicke Featuring T.I. & Pharrell Williams
Song Of The Year:
"Just Give Me A Reason" — Jeff Bhasker, Pink & Nate Ruess, songwriters (Pink Featuring Nate Ruess)
"Locked Out Of Heaven" — Philip Lawrence, Ari Levine & Bruno Mars, songwriters (Bruno Mars)
"Roar" — Lukasz Gottwald, Max Martin, Bonnie McKee, Katy Perry & Henry Walter, songwriters (Katy Perry)
"Royals" — Joel Little & Ella Yelich O'Connor, songwriters (Lorde)
"Same Love" — Ben Haggerty, Mary Lambert & Ryan Lewis, songwriters (Macklemore & Ryan Lewis Featuring Mary Lambert)
Best New Artist:
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Following is a sampling of nominations in the GRAMMY Awards' other 29 Fields:
For Best Pop Solo Performance, the nominees are "Brave" by Sara Bareilles; "Royals" by Lorde; "When I Was Your Man" by Bruno Mars; "Roar" by Katy Perry; and "Mirrors" by Justin Timberlake.
The nominees for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance are "Get Lucky" by Daft Punk & Pharrell Williams; "Just Give Me A Reason" by Pink Featuring Nate Ruess; "Stay" by Rihanna Featuring Mikky Ekko; "Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke Featuring T.I. & Pharrell Williams; and "Suit & Tie" by Justin Timberlake & Jay Z.
For Best Dance/Electronica Album, the nominees are Random Access Memories by Daft Punk; Settle by Disclosure; 18 Months by Calvin Harris; Atmosphere by Kaskade; and A Color Map Of The Sun by Pretty Lights.
The Best Rock Performance nominees are "Always Alright" by Alabama Shakes; "The Stars (Are Out Tonight)" by David Bowie; "Radioactive" by Imagine Dragons; "Kashmir (Live)" by Led Zeppelin; "My God Is The Sun" by Queens Of The Stone Age; and "I'm Shakin'" by Jack White.
For Best Alternative Music Album, the nominees are The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You by Neko Case; Trouble Will Find Me by The National; Hesitation Marks by Nine Inch Nails; Lonerism by Tame Impala; Modern Vampires Of The City by Vampire Weekend.
The nominees for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration are "Power Trip" by J.Cole Featuring Miguel; "Part II (On The Run)" by Jay Z Featuring Beyoncé; "Holy Grail" by Jay Z Featuring Justin Timberlake; "Now Or Never" by Kendrick Lamar Featuring Mary J. Blige; and "Remember You" by Wiz Khalifa Featuring The Weeknd.
For Best Rap Album, the nominees are Nothing Was The Same by Drake; Magna Carta…Holy Grail by Jay Z; Good Kid, M.A.A.D City by Kendrick Lamar; The Heist by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis; and Yeezus by Kanye West.
The Best Country Album nominees are Night Train by Jason Aldean; Two Lanes Of Freedom by Tim McGraw; Same Trailer Different Park by Kacey Musgraves; Based On A True Story by Blake Shelton; and Red by Taylor Swift.
The nominees for Best Americana Album are Old Yellow Moon by Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell; Love Has Come For You by Steve Martin & Edie Brickell; Buddy And Jim by Buddy Miller And Jim Lauderdale; One True Vine by Mavis Staples; and Songbook by Allen Toussaint.
This year's Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical nominations go to Rob Cavallo, Dr. Luke, Ariel Rechtshaid, Jeff Tweedy, and Pharrell Williams.
This year's GRAMMY Awards process registered more than 22,000 submissions over a 12-month eligibility period (Oct. 1, 2012 – Sept. 30, 2013). GRAMMY ballots for the final round of voting will be mailed on Dec. 11 to the voting members of The Recording Academy. They are due back to the accounting firm of Deloitte by Jan. 8, 2014, when they will be tabulated and the results kept secret until the 56th GRAMMY telecast.
The 56th Annual GRAMMY Awards will be held Jan. 26, 2014, at Staples Center in Los Angeles and once again will be broadcast live in high-definition TV and 5.1 surround sound on CBS from 8–11:30 p.m. (ET/PT). The 56th Annual GRAMMY Awards are produced by AEG Ehrlich Ventures for The Recording Academy. Ken Ehrlich is executive producer, and Louis J. Horvitz is director.
For updates and breaking news, visit The Recording Academy's social networks on Twitter and Facebook.
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Lorde Announces Run The Jewels As 2018 U.S. Tour Opener
The GRAMMY winner's U.S. tour dates will include an unexpected list of exciting support acts
GRAMMY winner Lorde's 2017/2018 world tour in support of her critically acclaimed sophomore album, Melodrama, lands back in the U.S. next spring, and today she announced an unlikely, but impressive, list of support acts.
Leading the charge is the explosive underground hip-hop duo Run The Jewels, but equally anticipated are Swedish electropop singer/songwriter Tove Styrke and Japanese-American indie rock songwriter Mitski. A fourth supporting act remains to be announced for eight of the tour dates.
The U.S. leg of Lorde's 2018 Melodrama. World Tour returns to stateside on Mar. 1 in Milwaukee, and will include 31 show dates before wrapping on Apr. 15 in Nashville. Tickets are still available via Lorde's website.