Lorde conquers charts, questions standards

Lorde's debut EP has sold 60,000 copies since its release in March 2013.

Lorde's debut EP has sold 60,000 copies since its release in March 2013.


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Less than a year ago, Lord-with-an-e wasn’t a word, and “royals” meant William and Kate.  Now, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t heard of the New Zealander and her hit single.

Ella “Lorde” Yelich-O’Connor of Auckland, New Zealand has risen to fame at the tender age of sixteen.  She is the youngest artist to reach the top of the US Billboard chart since 1987, and the first New Zealand act to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100.  And with the end of the year rolling around, there’s speculation that Lorde’s Pure Heroine has a shot at winning the Grammy’s 2013 Album of the Year Award.

But what makes her so special?

The pop scene Lorde has joined was previously dominated by house beats and auto-tuned lyrics that sound increasingly the same.

While Lorde’s electronic pop, combined with chilly vocals and a certain hip hop influence, has often been compared to Lana Del Rey, Lorde’s lyrics have a color totally separate from the overworked partying themes of the pop industry.

Lorde is the first artist to successfully draw attention to the gulf between the ridiculous VIP celebrity culture portrayed in music and the reality of the lives of the teens it targets.  Her commentary is so successful because she is part of the target audience.  Not only is she a teen from your average suburbia who likes pop music, but she has also chosen it as her medium.

It’s refreshing and heartening for the masses to hear the number one hit shrug off the crystals, Maybach, and diamonds and say what we’ve all been thinking—that we just don’t care.

A partial key to her success is her age.  Setting that aside, Lorde has accomplished so much with remarkable maturity for someone in high school.  Her album’s theme may be obvious, but the poetry of her lyrics is worth mentioning.  Even her album’s title Pure Heroine has double meanings.

Lorde combines bursts of poetry with moody teenage complaints and thoughts about her youth.  She uses her age as a theme that is meaningful to both her and her audience, and combines poetry and triviality in a way that works precisely because she’s young.

Lorde’s unique combination of jaded disillusionment, poetry, and youth, combined with enchanting, icy vocals make her album worth buying.

Questions remain.  Has Lorde created a niche for only herself?  Has she become a new archetype for the music industry?  How will she grow now that she can no longer claim her platform of being average?

But for now, Pure Heroine is a success, and that is accomplishment enough.