Lorde: Pure Heroine

17 Dec

Pure Heroine

“Don’t you think it’s boring how people talk?” begins the opening line of the debut by 16-year-old New Zealand wunderkind Lorde, a.k.a. Ella Yelich-O’Connor. An introspective teenager too frank and frugal for the feigned opulence of today’s youth, Lorde awes through all 37 minutes of Pure Heroine through poignant lyrics that often overshadow her beautiful voice. Throughout the album, almost-poetess Lorde uses many motifs – the cusp of fame often coinciding with the cusp of adulthood, pulsing veins and white teeth, and the overarching theme of aristocracy – but it never gets repetitive. In fact, the repeated themes only highlight the fact that the young singer wrote all the lyrics on the album, giving it an artistic integrity that most artists, let alone teen-aged female pop musicians, fail to achieve. In a world where Miley Cyrus’ twerking makes it to the front page of the Huffington Post, it’s a relief to know that true talent still exists.

Picture courtesy Billboard.com

Picture courtesy Billboard.com

Lorde may be best known for her sparse, chart-topping “Royals”, but album opener “Tennis Court”, the follow-up single, is menacingly good in its own way. In a voice that echoes Adele’s honesty, vulnerable-Lorde talks of impending fame at a young age (“How can I fuck with the fun again when I’m known?”) even as confident-Lorde sneers at her supposed contemporaries (“I’m doing this for the thrill of it, killin’ it”), setting the tone for the main thematic elements of Pure Heroine.

Her cynicism of modern pop culture resurfaces on “Royals”, an almost-gospel gem where she embraces her low-key lifestyle that, sadly, may soon disappear. “We count our dollars on the train to the party,” she says of herself and her suburban friends, before going on to explain, “We didn’t come from money.” Sure, she may never be pop royalty, but that isn’t the kind of royalty she wants anyway. “We don’t care/ We’re driving Cadillacs in our dreams,” says Lorde, in a showcase of the maturity that lets her separate reality from fantasy. In a way, she’s the anti-thesis of Lady Gaga, and that alone puts her on the throne in my book.

“Team”, her third single, is a brilliant critique of club-oriented pop music that cleverly meta-references the same by using a club-ready beat. “I’m kind of over getting told to throw my hands up in the air,” she confesses, conspicuously putting herself in the everyman ‘us’ as opposed to the larger-than-life ‘‘them’.

Of course, being a teenager, famous pop musicians aren’t the only group of people that Lorde fails to fall in with. “White Teeth Teens”, a cleverer cousin of Lana del Rey’s brand of youthful angst, talks about Lorde’s incongruity with the (seemingly) picture-perfect teens around her. “I tried to join but never did/ The way they are, the way they seem is something else, it’s in the blood,” she explains, pulling to attention her own “royal” blood.

“400 Lux” is essentially a carefully-crafted love song about teenage romance in suburbia. “Got a lot to not do/ Let me kill it with you,” asks Lorde, elegant in her lyrical prowess. The almost-spoken-word second verse, reminiscent of Natasha Khan, is a jumble of thoughts and emotions that reveal her worries all too clearly: much like on “Ribs”. There, a non-sequitur lyrical phrase (“The drink you spilled all over me/ ‘Lover’s Spit’ left on repeat”) paints a picture of a kid whose adult-like nonchalance belies her true nature.

In a lot of ways, Lorde is just a teenager – albeit gifted – from a sleepy town at the edge of nowhere, and her charm lies in the way her background consciously or subconsciously permeates through her music. It’s refreshing, to say the least. To me, it also brings to mind to a riotous album in 2006 that made stars out of four young Sheffield lads talking about chatting up girls in clubs and getting turned down. Whoever she does or – more importantly – doesn’t sound like , it’s clear that Lorde is indeed royalty in her own, unadulterated way.

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3 Responses to “Lorde: Pure Heroine”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The Top Five Songs of 2013: Neeharika | Top Five Records - December 23, 2013

    […] View our full album review here. […]

  2. The Top Five Songs of 2013: Nikhil’s List | Top Five Records - December 26, 2013

    […] think of the last time that things have been quite this interesting. There have been stellar debut albums and big name comebacks (including a return to Blue Note bandleader after no less than 43 years). […]

  3. The Top Five Albums of 2013: Neeharika’s List | Top Five Records - December 31, 2013

    […] imminent rise to fame can only cause further confusion. Lorde’s Pure Heroine (full review here) is a meditation on this theme, a sort of commentary piece to the young New Zealander’s sudden […]

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