Last April, when I was mourning the end of Little 5 and the start of final exams, I found myself reading a Buzzfeed article proclaiming that Lorde was my next favorite musician. Curious as to how Buzzfeed seemed to know my future binge listens, I proceeded to read the article and listen to the two embedded Soundcloud links of Royals and The Love Club.
To be clear, I am no pop-music aficionado. A quick browse through my iTunes library prove this; an eclectic mix of mostly indie music, a sprinkling of country, the entire Kanye West discography, and little pop or female vocalists.
However, since that fateful day, I eagerly anticipated the release of her first album, Pure Heroine.
Unsurprisingly, it exceeded my expectations.
Lorde, also known as Ella Yelich O’Connor, is 16-years-old and although she has been a pretty big deal at home in New Zealand, she is just starting to make her rounds in the United States. She writes her own lyrics, already setting herself apart from other pop artists (cough, Taylor Swift, cough) and it is nearly impossible to find another musician in the pop music scene with a voice as unique as hers. However, what truly makes Lorde unique is her apparent rejection of the pop star lifestyle and her repeated desire to stay true to herself and not get swept up in the fame.
It is easy, and correct, to label Pure Heroine as the soundtrack to 2013. Lorde represents the new generation entering the mainstream, a generation that is comfortable with technology and understands the consequences of it, even going as far to reject it to an extent. In the album closer, A World Alone, she considers “maybe the Internet raised us/or maybe people are jerks.” At 16, like much of her audience, Lorde has grown up in a culture that is cluttered with retweets and favorites and likes and subtweets and the “importance” of getting at least 11 people to “heart” your Instagram photo. It’s no wonder that she feels comfortable with singing about it in her music; after all it is her life.
In Royals, the song that caught most people’s attention in the first place, Lorde sings about the inanity of the ostentatious pop star culture. She sings “But every song’s like gold teeth, grey goose, trippin’ in the bathroom/ Blood stains, ball gowns, trashin’ the hotel room,/We don’t care, we’re driving Cadillacs in our dreams,” suggesting that not only is the pop star life not for her, but it is not something that anyone should aspire to attain.
Listeners are reminded by her relatively young age on the second track on the album, 400 Lux as she sings about her love interest buying her orange juice, however it could be replaced with a mimosa and audience will get the same message. Similarly, in Ribs, she contemplates growing up and the complications that come with getting older. However, at 16, these qualms seem a bit too premature.
Team, the second single from the album, is an ode to her friends and with her soaring vocals against a steady beat; the song proves to be one of the highlights. It introduces a different style of a successful pop song, one that contrasts with the Top 40. Lorde is obviously aware of that, as she takes a dig at pop music lyrics as she admits, “I’m kind of over getting told to throw my hands up in the air/So there.”
Like the most successful artists, whether through photography, words or music, Lorde effortlessly reveals her uneasiness with certain parts of society. For example in Glory and Gore, she admonishes our fascination with violence, in Still Sane, the issues concerning fame and living a normal teen life are discussed. It is in this vein where we can argue that despite her sound, Lorde is not a pop artist of today, she positions herself as an outsider, someone that was not produced in the Pop Music-Industrial complex, a la Britney Spears or Katy Perry. This unique position allows her to essentially be a trailblazer for this fusion of minimalist-pop-alternative music and she executes so well.
Pure Heroine is an album made for the people she refers to in the line fromTennis Court, “It’s a new art form, showing people how little we care,” a generation that is slightly skewed off-center, prematurely feeling disconnected and mature, yet still overwhelmingly vulnerable.
Reach Jessica at email@example.com or follow her on twitter @yarvsy