If you haven't heard of Lorde, we're here to catch you up. Despite her desire to retain an enigmatic profile in an industry of media obsessed pop-stars, the 16-year-old Lorde, real name Ella Yelich-O'Connor, took the world by storm when she released The Love Club EP in March of 2013. Not only did this highly talented Kiwi artist become the first woman to top Billboard's Alternative Chart with her hit single “Royals,” she also recently claimed the #1 spot on the US iTunes singles chart over Miley Cyrus' “Wrecking Ball.” Now the hype surrounding Lorde is reaching it's peak with the release of her first full length album, Pure Heroine on September 30th.
While it might seem as though Lorde went from relative obscurity to superstardom in the blink of an eye, this is actually something she has been striving towards for a large portion of her life. Ella was born in Auckland, New Zealand and was first spotted by the music industry at a school talent show when she was just 12 years old. From there she spent the next few years channeling her love for short story writing into a more lyrical structure, even saying in an interview with the New Zealand Listener, “I started writing songs when I was 13 or 14 because I’ve always been a huge reader. My mum’s a poet and we’ve always had so many books, and that’s always been a big thing for me, arguably more so than music.” Finally, at the age of 15 the nervous teenager entered the studio to begin recording with music producer Joel Little, unaware that she was about to become an international sensation.
Now she is living many 16-year-old girls' fantasy and doing so with a sense of maturity and self-awareness that belies her age. While she may look like a shy, innocent teenager, Lorde has a quietly commanding presence, and remarkably confident voice to back it up. Her lyrics offer intelligent critiques of popular culture and consumerism, and almost every song on Pure Heroine is delivered with with the grace and poise of an experienced artist. Lorde sings with a sort of introspective bravado as she opens with the line “Don't you think that it's boring how people talk?” in "Tennis Court," and concluding the album by boldly stating “Let them talk.” on “A World Alone.”
Yet all of this raw talent and lyrical creativity would be for naught without the help of her producer Joel Little. Using minimalist pop beats that mix ghostly harmonies, big percussion snaps, and hip-hop/rap influences, Little builds a remarkably sparse soundscape for Lorde's lavish, smoky voice to flourish within. The result is something that sounds remotely like a cross between Lana Del Ray and electronic artist SBTRKT, a resemblance that is most evident in songs like “Team.” Despite the inevitable (and slightly unfair) comparison to Del Ray and other female pop-stars, Lorde's desire to let her music speak for itself and brilliant songwriting have helped her create a sound that is undeniably her own.
For those who think that the hype surrounding Lorde is due simply to her age, consider this: sure Pure Heroine may not be anything groundbreaking, or even particularly surprising to those who spent some time with The Love Club EP, but it does reflect an enormous amount of potential. Her insightful, self-aware commentary speaks to a generation who is no longer content to sit idly by and conform to societies expectations, and her song writing abilities will only improve over time. With Lorde's meteoric rise to pop royalty she should have plenty of new subject matter for future songs, and it will be interesting to see where she goes from here.
About the Author: Tristin Weber is a freelance writer and student at UC Santa Barbara, pursuing a degree in Film and Media Studies. He has followed his passion for music by contributing to the music blog Addicted to Shows and becoming involved with the electronic music scene in Santa Barbara, specifically through OnSlaught Productions.