At age 16, most people think about getting their driver’s license, enduring standardized testing, or holding the eye-contact of the love interest in 7th period. Meanwhile, Ella Yelich-O’Connor (otherwise known as Lorde) questions the aristocracy of current culture and wonders whether her debut album will hit #1 on the charts; with a little luck, it just might. Even at such a young age, our Artist To Watch shows remarkable talent, and her fresh take is just what music needs right now.
Let’s disregard the back-story for a moment; it wouldn’t be hard to mistake Lorde for a seasoned veteran. On her new LP, Pure Heroine, she shows great poise and promising talent as a songwriter. Sure, listeners will come for the runaway single “Royals,” a slow-paced anthem denouncing materialism, but there’s much more to the picture than what you see at first glance.
Lorde doesn’t simply create pop music, she adds influences from hip-hop to minimal electronica into a mellow concoction of grooves. Her music conjures comparisons to Lana Del Rey, but Lorde actually seems to push the limits a little further than her predecessor. Distorted vocals, synths, and adventurous production are embraced here.
During “Royals,” Lorde vows not to become another celebrity flaunting a lavish lifestyle. Such maturity makes it all the more difficult to remember that she was born in 1996 (yes, you read that correctly). But don’t let her age fool you. Her album is filled with mature lyrics that describe “fake friends” and a generation raised by the internet. The album closer “A World Alone” repeats the line “I know we’re not everlasting / we’re a train-wreck waiting to happen.” It’s an idea that’s so much more human than you’ll ever find in the ego-driven antics of Lady Gaga or Nicki Minaj.
What’s admirable is the New Zealander singer could have easily become the next “it girl” of pop music with her voice and background alone (which she still might). Instead, Lorde’s chosen the pursuit of something she deems greater, and even turned down an opportunity to tour with Katy Perry and receive a steady springboard to radio ubiquity. On Pure Heroine, club-ready “bangers” and formulaic gimmicks are exchanged for thoughtful meditations on a youth culture obsessed with status—or what she calls “White Teeth Teens.” Effectively, Lorde is the “anti-popstar.”
Ella Yelich-O’Connor is an artist who can shed the title of musician and achieve the prestige of an influential cultural voice. She’s the compelling artist that the stale blueprint of pop music so desperately needs, and she achieves it all by breaking down the gold veneer that covers pop’s very foundation; at the same time, Miley Cyrus rides a wrecking ball into a concrete wall buck naked.
Lorde blurs the image of what a young female pop musician is “supposed” to be—a bubbly caricature slathered in sex appeal—and she does it all with grace beyond her years. Not bad for a 16 year old.
Get tickets to the next Lorde show
Article by Nicolas White