Ella Yelich-O’Conner probably isn’t a name which rings any bells, but her moniker, Lorde, certainly should. Her single ‘Royals’ is currently number one on the US Billboard Hot 100, making her the youngest artists to top the chart in 26 years, and the only New Zealand artist to ever do so, but it’s not just the chart hype which is stirring up a commotion over the 16-year-old. Her album hasn’t even been released in the UK yet, but she has already appeared on Later… with Jools Holland next to Kanye West, the day before her first British show, which sold out in less than five minutes. There’s a Lorde storm brewing.
The song that brought her fame actually appears third on the album; the plodding handclaps welcoming in the lyrics “I’ve never seen a diamond in the flesh.” It’s a poignant line, and it is one which the rest of Pure Heroine revolves around. This isn’t an album about going to the club, and drinking patrón, and it’s difficult to think of something further away from that theme, not only because Lorde is underage. Throughout the record, she embodies a more relatable outlook on the world through her youthful perspective, singing about the woes of normal teenage life, in a way which makes her sound far more sophisticated than anyone might expect. Throughout the record, she acknowledges that she lives an easy life, but she sings about the experiences which she, and the listeners experience, as normal people, and not “celebrities.”
It’s for this reason that Pure Heroine makes for an interesting listen. She sings about the “roads where the houses don’t change” in the dreamy ‘400 Lux’ and how “my mum and dad let me stay home” on ‘Ribs’. The best example of this simplicity and realness comes in ‘Team’, as she purrs through the anthemic chorus: “We live in cities you’ll never see on screen / Not very pretty, but we sure know how to run free / Living in ruins of the palace within my dreams / And you know, we’re on each other’s team.” She sings in a ballsy, confident manner but the whole track has undercurrents of melancholy. All she is really singing about is the very innocent concept that at the age of 16, your friends are all you really have.
Lorde’s sassy voice is well-produced on this record, but it is the persona which she is trying to convey which is possibly confusing. On ‘Buzzcut Season’ a delicate, echoing undercurrent of keys provides a suitably sparse and simple accompaniment to her soprano mournings, and likewise on the percussive ‘White Teeth Teens’ her soft backing vocals complement the blunt melody. However, the channeling of despondency and mystery throughout Pure Heroine suggests a slight uncertainty over who she actually is. As a teenager signed to a major label, it must be difficult to assert personality, and it seems like Lorde is trying to convey a Lana Del Rey style character, eager to be more mysterious than she actually is.
Nevertheless, it’s a brilliant record, with catchy, alternative melodies, imaginative lyrics and intelligent production. This is one of the best albums of 2013… but give her a couple of years, and Lorde’s second album is sure to be a masterpiece.
Pure Heroine will be released in the UK by Universal on 28th October 2013.