Lorde – Pure Heroine
Let’s talk about Lorde. I’ve heard and read so much lately about her latest single, “Royals,” which is accumulating a notable amount of both constructive and destructive criticism, acclaim, and airplay.
Younger than most popular artists today and the youngest in 25 years to hit US billboard number 1, Lorde, 17, seems to be cementing her position in pop music with a debut full of unapologetic, catchy tracks. But what sets her apart from the countless teen sensations that have come before her? Can Lorde continue surmount the charts, or did “Royals” simply ignite a roaring but short-burning flame that will smolder and fade into the cumulative ashes of one-hit wonders?
First, we should take a quick look back at The Love Club EP, released in the US by Universal Music Group in March. On it, Lorde demonstrates some catchy lyrics, but the music doesn’t seem lasting and the title track sounds like a backdrop that might be played in a show like Gossip Girl. It’s all very similar; the songs are kind of fun, but are more like background music. Not memorable.
What about her full-length debut, Pure Heroine? Is it more memorable and lasting than her first EP?
Don’t get me wrong: I don’t hate it. Lorde has a deep, luxuriant voice that sounds a bit like Florence from Florence and the Machine, for a recent reference, and she possesses talent. But the songs leave me wanting: they don’t climax, they lack variation, and the beat is too similar. I need more dynamics.
The first two tracks, “Tennis Court” and “404 Lux,” run together; background music meant to set a tone for something more interesting. “Royals,” up next, pushes the envelope a bit more, with a stand-alone beat and an “I could care less” attitude. After that, though, it’s back to Gossip Girl theme music.
“Glory And Gore” almost breaks out of this monotonous lull with a subtle change in the beat and an introductionof a higher tone, but that’s it.
The last two tracks, “White Teeth Teens” and “A World Alone” might be my favorites on the album other than “Royals,” perhaps mainly for the controversial lyrics. And I do like the controversy.
Some of Lorde’s lyrics put stress on people’s comfort zones, and I happen to think that, in art, breaching comfort zones is good. Art, of any kind, should make you think, consider your beliefs, and then reconsider them. It should make you pause. Lorde certainly achieves this with songs like “Royals” and “White Teeth Teens.”
To be clear, I do not think she’s racist, as some have argued—these motifs of ruling, being “queen bee,” and having “brutality in the blood” are not exclusive to any race, are not new, and do not imply racial judgment. But they do touch on topics of classism, money, cliques, and forging a path contrary to the expected. She comes across as a girl bored with society and the norm. These are advanced themes for such a young performer.
In the end, I give the girl props for all of the songs she’s released so far and especially for hitting the top of the charts in New Zealand and the US, but I want more from Lorde. I want her to try harder, to expand the complexity of her songs, to try new sounds, and to push the limits of her range. I want one song to take me into the depths of her sound, eerie and deep, and then next to get me jumping out of my chair to dance and rock along. In demonstrating such advanced themes and hinting at greatness on Pure Heroine, I’m convinced she can do it. Maybe even before she turns 20. – (6/10)
Lorde will perform at the Key Arena in Seattle on December 2 for KNDD 107.7 The END’s “Deck the Hall Ball.” Also on the bill are Vampire Weekend, Phoenix, The Head and the Heart, Alt-J, Arctic Monkeys, Foals and CHVRCHES.