New Zealand born songstress Lorde, whose meteoric rise to fame had jaws dropping over this past year, has in one swift move, beginning with her debut album release in September and culminating in her double Grammy win this past January, stolen the metaphorical tiara from the pop princesses of yore. For example, Miley Cyrus’ miasma of embarrassing public performances and cringe-worthy music videos left her reputation resting precariously on the edge of oblivion. Subsequently, the public seemed ready for a new, slightly more serious face of the teen pop cohort. Lorde was there at precisely the right moment to step into the shoes vacated by her contemporaries, who all seem increasingly more interested in partying than making music. Lorde rocketed into the stratosphere and bewitched the public at large with a collection of songs that are pure pleasure for the ears and the mind. Let’s not forget that the seventeen-year-old Lorde, real name Ella Yelich-O’Connor, pens all of her own songs, and does so without a hint of any superficial, attention-grabbing lyrics in them which, for a teenager, is an amazing achievement in and of itself.
Lorde’s pied piper effect on the world is a wonderful thing. With the exception of Lady Gaga and Lana Del Rey, it’s been a while since we have seen such a young pop star emerge that wasn’t fashioned together by industry giants such as Sony or EMI. Lorde, rather, is a lone star and entirely self-created. She’s regularly been hailed as the antidote to sexual provocation and materialistic glorification that pervades the world of pop. For many, Lorde is difficult to dissect because she doesn’t fit into the category of over-sexualized and under-talented teen sensation. Not to say that she’s a mystery wrapped in an enigma, but her personal and professional style are unlike anything we’ve seen. There’s been some tongue-in-cheek debate going on as to whether this seventeen-year-old is in fact a thirty-five-year-old woman in disguise, thanks to her alarmingly level-headed and astute demeanour. In interviews, when she retreats from being Lorde and becomes Ella again, she is ever the introspective and sensible young woman, someone who genuinely understands the capricious and often vicious world of pop music, which can galvanize one’s crash down to earth as quickly as it can their ascension to the pedestal.
The public eye, along with the bigwigs of the music industry, have seen something in young Lorde. Recently she won two Grammys, one for Song of the Year and the other for Pop Solo Performance, beating out competition from the likes of Macklemore, Bruno Mars, Katy Perry and pop veteran P!nk. In a note posted to The New Zealand Herald titled “Holy Crap” she went on to say, “It was a crazy day & my friends & family over here are still freaking out. I just wanted to say thank you for the time you’ve given me these past 14 months…finding out about me online or in between these pages or in your headphones. …Without your support, there’s no way I would ever have gotten to stand in the middle of the Staples Centre & perform in my school shoes. …I can’t wait for tonight’s show. Together, we’ll make it magic. i’ll see you there. … xxx L.”
Since the release of Pure Heroine, not only have her fans danced for joy but some of the living legends of pop, like Elton John, David Bowie and Katy Perry, have joined in. Elton John specifically praised the song “Tennis Court,” describing it as “One of the most touching, beautiful things on earth.” With the Grammys already in the bag, 2014 has seen the awards and nominations coming fast and in large quantities for the young muse. Lorde was nominated for Favourite Breakout Artist at the People’s Choice Awards, winning Song of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance, along with scoring nominations in two other categories. To top it all off, the singer bagged the award for international Female Solo Artist at the Brit Awards. It’s not just the studio wherein the singer works her magic, but on stage as well. Her recent tour stops in the US have been hailed as “a show not to miss.” Fans and critics alike have been clamouring to find out whether the teenage star can truly cut it on stage; the answer is yes, yes she can.
It’s obvious that Lorde is no Britney or Christina; she doesn’t have the traditional pretty pop-girl look. Her physical beauty isn’t some superfluous creation structured by Maybelline and Yves Saint Laurent, it’s natural and earthy, a teen version of Tilda Swinton. Her maturity extends above and beyond her look, as she takes on heavy subject matter in her songs as well. In “Royals,” for example, the feisty teenager lambasts hip-hop’s perverse obsession with luxury culture, giving its vacuous elements a proper rollicking. Clearly, she doesn’t hold back on biting social commentary. Other songs of hers both revel in and revile the drama of teenage angst and life in general. The musical arrangements can go from melodic and almost economically stripped down to powerful and ear-clanging: a true microcosm of the schizophrenia we all suffer during our teenage years. The lyrical motifs that occur throughout Pure Heroine cop a stern wisdom that most people her age don’t possess. Yet on the other hand, the album as a whole brings to mind all of the impulses and fragility of youth.
Lorde has changed the tides of today’s pop world on enumerable fronts, most notably in terms of artistic freedom, fearlessness to tackle the contradictions of the genre, self-confidence that doesn’t stem from a team of makeup and hair stylists, and the ability to speak directly to her audience. These things are so very often plastered over or left in a corner to rot away. However, she has taken it upon herself to make sure that their prominence shines brightly through the work that she produces.
The New Zealander’s legendary status has already been sealed. Even if one were to take away Lorde’s musical genius and just look at her as a young woman, they would still say she got it right. With her freedom from record label interference when it comes to her looks, style and opinions, she’s achieved something which no other female pop star of her age has.
The big question that people will soon be asking is: will the songstress’ sophomore album be able to surpass Pure Heroine? If she keeps up her current attitude then the answer is a definite yes.
Article by Ben Mirza for The Untitled Magazine “Legendary” Issue 7