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My name's Clifford Stumme, and I explain the deeper meanings of popular songs. Let's have a conversation about what you think about the songs and go deeper together. Feel free to email me at clifford@popsongprofessor.com with questions or ideas!

What does "Sober II (Melodrama)" by Lorde mean?

What does "Sober II (Melodrama)" by Lorde mean?

"Sober II (Melodrama)" Lyrics Meaning

This song is one of the eeriest and saddest from Lorde's new Melodrama record. "Sober II" includes some interesting and eerie vocal gymnastics and a paired down but powerful sounding instrumental background. I think it gets most powerful when the drumbeat kicks in over Lorde saying things like "They’ll talk about us, all the lovers / How we kiss and kill each other." The intensity here is certainly a quiet, understated one, but it may be present on the album no more anywhere than here on "Sober II."

"We told you this was melodrama"

"Sober II" comes after the story of "Sober" actually. Lorde tells us about it in an interview with NPR:

So this song sort of maps the course of a party. In the first part, it’s very much like the party’s in full swing, and maybe sort of tipping over into that area where it might be a little too much, and then [this song] is sort of singing from the perspective of the deflated room. There’s such a sadness to the lights being on after a party, you know, this whole room has sort of been washed in this dark, and to see the corners of the room again can always be a little bit heartbreaking.

But more specifically, "Sober II" seems to be about the "melodrama" or empty meaningfulness of the events of the night before. Even as she's staring around at this now empty party room, all that others would have her to believe was meaningful about the events of the night before pale in the light of day. Melodrama refers to the practice of conflating the emotions of a situation in order to appeal to listeners without the story necessarily being able to hold the weight of interest that the story-writer is asking for. (Personally, it reminds me of watching six seasons of The Walking Dead and then realizing that the entire thing had involved more soap opera scenarios than scenes focused on zombie survival.)

Verse 1

You asked if I was feeling it, I’m psycho high
Know you won’t remember in the morning when
I speak my mind
Lights are on and they’ve gone home, but who am I?
Oh, how fast the evening passes, cleaning up
The champagne glasses

In the first verse of "Sober II," Lorde speaks in the past tense about the night before--the night of "Sober"--when her friend asked if she "was feeling it" and told her that she was "psycho high." Lorde knew the friend wouldn't "remember it in the morning when / I speak my mind." Her friend was likely drunk enough that he or she doesn't remember anything from the night before and may be so hungover now that he's not paying focused attention to Lorde.

Lorde, for her part, is left with some rather existential questions. Now that the "[l]ights are on and [everyone has] gone home," she wonders, "[W]ho am I?" She thought she was a partier and a thrill-seeker, but now that the party over, who is there left for her to be? The time when she felt whole--the "evening"--"passes" quickly, and now she's "cleaning up / The champagne glasses," sad and perhaps lonely.

Chorus

We told you this was melodrama
(Oh, how fast the evening passes
Cleaning up the champagne glasses)
Our only wish is melodrama
(Oh, how fast the evening passes
Cleaning up the champagne glasses)

In the chorus, Lorde seems to be reminding herself about once having told herself that this lifestyle was full of "melodrama" and that she wouldn't enjoy it, but after thinking about the champagne glasses again, she concludes that her "only wish is melodrama" in what appears to be an inner conflict between wanting and not wanting what partying to escape loneliness entails. Later in the outro, she's going to add to these lines the idea "You wanted something that we offer." And it turns that the melodrama--the conflation of emotions--was perhaps what she wanted, that ability to escape from reality to "perfect places" for a little while. 

Verse 2

And the terror
And the horror
When we wonder why we bother
And the terror and the horror
God, I wonder why we bother
All the glamour and the trauma and the fuckin'
Melodrama

In the second verse, Lorde contemplates the "terror" and "horror" that comes "[w]hen we wonder why we bother." The "glamour and the trauma and the fuckin' / Melodrama" appeal to her when she's looking for something to do for the evening--something to distract her from loneliness and the inside of her own mind as she's mentioned in interviews--but afterwards it all feels empty her, and she wonders why she spends her time on something so pointless.

Verse 3

All the gun fights
And the lime lights
And the holy sick divine nights
They’ll talk about us--all the lovers
How we kiss and kill each other
They’ll talk about us, and discover
How we kissed and killed each other

In the third verse of "Sober II," Lorde gives some very interesting word pictures. She refers to "[a]ll the gun fights / And the lime lights / And the holy sick divine nights." These metaphors seem to refer to the melodrama and highs of the parties that she attends. They are "divine" because they feel so euphoric in the moment, and they are "gun fights" because people will get angry or lose control of themselves. 

Lorde tells us that others will "talk about us--all the lovers / How we kiss and kill each other / They'll talk about us, and discover / How we kissed and killed each other." And this appears to be the melodrama she seems so weary of. Whatever happens at the party turns into a rumor or a story that gets repeated over and over. And perhaps the people telling those stories confer too much importance to the stories and make it seem like these events are one of the most important things in their lives, which would cause Lorde to feel tired of the small-minded melodrama of the situation. 

Deeper Meaning of "Sober II": I'm Tired of Melodrama Too

This song makes think of my hate of celebrity gossip particularly when it comes to song lyric analyzing. Even though I'm sometimes curious about which of Taylor Swift's boyfriends could have inspired her latest song, I find it hard to understand folks who get obsessed with celebrities, and I think Lorde is talking about something similar here as well. "Sober II" seems to be about seeing it from the otherside though. She's in the midst of the drama herself, and she can't take it anymore either. It's an interesting perspective and, I think, and a profound topic for a song for the anti-pop queen. 

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