If you’ve been grounded for sneaking that glass of wine at Grandma Ethel’s 80th birthday party and haven’t had much Internet access lately, I’ll forgive you for not knowing who Lorde is. The rest of you have no excuse.
Lorde is a 16-year-old singer/songwriter from New Zealand. Her first album Pure Heroine came out last week, but I’ve listened to her since her single “Royals” came out in June. I love her because she’s kind of like the cool, older friend I never had. She just has a one-word name, like Madonna (her real name is Ella Yelich-O’Connor, which, sorry, isn’t as chill.) Lorde is an awesome stage name because it sounds powerful and feminine at the same time. Take Lana del Rey’s voice and Tavi Gevinson’s brains and Haim’s trendiness and you have Lorde. All the lyrics are smart and poetic and her voice floats in this dreamy, ghostly way over percussion.
“Royals” is the obvious favorite off the album. It’s kind of like when you’re in English class talking about Fahrenheit 451 and you forgot to read chapter five for homework last night, so when your teacher calls on you, you’re just like, “Uh… books? Censorship?” Basically, people who don’t really know much about Lorde can get by with a casual, “OMG, I loooove ‘Royals.’” Today, it became the No. 1 song in America, making Lorde the youngest person with a No. 1 hit since Tiffany’s “I Think We’re Alone Now” in 1987.
Anyway, The lyrics are really cool — it’s basically like the anti-pop pop song. Most pop songs are about the singer trying to tell everyone how cool and rich and famous they are. (My big sister just popped in to my bedroom to say that’s what Britney Spears did in “Lucky,” but I’ve never heard that song. I just like to watch Britney’s facial expressions on The X Factor.) Lorde does the exact opposite. In “Royals,” she’s really down-to-earth about the fact that her family doesn’t have a ton of money (“in a torn-up town, no post code envy”) and that she’s just your average girl (“But everybody’s like Cristal, Maybach, diamonds on your time piece / Jet planes, islands, tigers on a gold leash / We don’t care, we aren’t caught up in your love affair”) And the best part? Lorde isn’t stereotypically “cool,” which just makes her so much cooler.
Sometimes I listen to her album and think she’s singing directly to me and my friends. Like this chorus from “Tennis Court”:
“Baby be the class clown
I’ll be the beauty queen in tears
It’s a new art form showing people how little we care (yeah)
We’re so happy, even when we’re smilin’ out of fear
Let’s go down to the tennis court, and talk it up like yeah (yeah)”
That’s the type of song I’d play on repeat when eighth grade sucks and I just want to hang out with my friends and gossip about Jake Walker’s boy-girl pool party. Then there’s “White Teeth Teen,” where she explains cliques aren’t all they’re chalked up to be “Impress the empress, take a shot now”). She gets me.
I think it’s sad that a lot of music is automatically disqualified from being artistically “good” or “serious” just because it’s by teenagers. Look at One Direction. Look at Justin Bieber. And I think it’s twice as hard for girls, because there’s all these pressures to be beautiful and sexy, but also not too beautiful and sexy, because then you’re a slut. (This is why I don’t understand people who are so worked up over Miley Cyrus. She was great as Hannah Montana and now she’s great in a different way, but she’s still just being Miley.) What’s so cool about Lorde is that she’s not considered just a teen singer. She’s seen as a really good musician who happens to be young, not just a teen who writes cutesy songs that some other teens squeal and scream over. I think that’s really empowering for teens everywhere. Just because teens like something doesn’t mean it’s worthless. Even the New York Times cares about Lorde. That’s a big deal.
The only downside I can see to Pure Heroine so far is the sheer number of horrifyingly bad renditions of Lorde songs at the eighth grade talent show. But after all, Lorde was first discovered at a talent show — so maybe I’ll let it slide.