Best Albums of 2013: #10
10. Lorde – Pure Heroine
How much can a sixteen year old accomplish in one album? You might be surprised.
Faces in the Crowd*
“When listening to this chick, it’s hard to ignore that she is 17. Lorde is far from what most other 16-17 year old pop stars are. She doesn’t sound like a little kid. She isn’t crying/whining (thanks Biebs and Taylor), and she also isn’t just some YouTube or TV breakout that some producer poured a ton of money into, so they can have a screaming fan base of 10 year old girls wetting their pants for the first time and wearing his face on a t shirt, that they bought from either the Wildwood boardwalk or some black guy who happened to be selling them for 10 bucks in the parking lot outside (Austin Mahone). I don’t really have a musical vocabulary (or really know how to analyze music) but I’d say Lorde is pop with a darker side. She just kind of floats through the album from song to song, with each song having it’s own unique feel. It’s a cool album”
For many teens, life as a teenager is interesting. For Ella Yelich-O’Connor, otherwise known as Lorde, teenage life is a fucking trip. In 2013, O’Connor sky rocketed to fame when her single “Royals” slowly crept up the charts through the power of the world wide web. It eventually exploded onto American radio in the spring and it seemed as if Lorde was the artist that no one saw coming. She became the youngest artist since Tiffany released “I Think We’re Alone Now” in 1987(!) to earn the number 1 spot on the Billboard Top 100. And if you’re reading this saying “I knew she was talented all along” you’re the hipster scum of the Earth’s underbelly that a person like me looks to destroy. You need to be shot into space, but that’s besides the point. Back to talking about Lorde I go.
The success of “Royals” led to the exposure of her debut album Pure Heroine. As of December 3rd, Lorde had sold 429,000 albums in the US since it’s late September release. Not bad for a 16 year old, eh? In fact, not bad is an understatement considering the way of which Lorde has been successful. I’m not going to waste time reiterating Nick’s take on “Royals”, but she has definitely achieved something that none of her contemporaries have been able to do. I know that the music industry is most definitely a man’s world in some regard. Our female artists have to either give into sexism, or write the songs the record company tells them to write or they wont achieve anything. Welcome to the 21st century, folks. Here’s the interesting thing about Lorde, she’s doing neither of those things. Obviously, 429,000 in 3 months is not on the level of Beyonce’s 828,773 copies in a weekend, but still pretty good for a teenager with an anti-pop star image and style. What can you expect, though? Lorde is cut from a different cloth. We learn that from the jump.
She opens up the album with the line “Don’t you think that it’s boring how people talk?” in “Tennis Court”. We learn from that point on that Lorde is not gonna be talking about the average teenage problems. From the very beginning, she shows that she is well beyond her years. The production on many of the tracks on Pure Heroine happen to be very minimal. The drum patterns follow that of a Hip Hop record and a lot of the sounds are very minimal. It’s almost like a record the xx could have put together. A track that I really, really love is the second track “400 Lux”. It’s a semi-love song, but it’s got a very fresh feel to it. She’s not overwhelmed by her special someones oh so perfect-ness, but rather talking about how much she just enjoys the ride with him. Lorde doesn’t lower herself and puts her significant other on a pedestal like her contemporaries. It’s just one of those songs about how much you enjoy someones company even when you have nothing to do. Enjoy the little things with your favorite people, ladies and gents.
The next track is “Royals” and obviously this track is very strong. Lorde denounces materialism and how much we think we need the lavish lifestyle but that ends up being kind of bullshit. Remember that this is the track that has remained on the Billboard charts for months now. I’m sure the majority of the people who got it there get their jam on to it right before they listen to “We Can’t Stop”. Whatever. The more Lorde’s we have on the pop charts the better, but for now the industry only has one. So we have to cherish her, for now. Anyway, the song is extremely minimal. The production contains layered vocals, finger snapping and the melody is kind of grooving vaguely in the background. There’s a ton of space on this track and I still can’t see how it made it to the top of the Billboard charts.
I honestly think the first six tracks of the album flow almost seamlessly. “Ribs” is a very sad song. Lorde seems to be dealing with the pressures of growing up and she seems to be finding out that the pressures are only going to get worse as she grows. It’s a startling revelation from an unlikely source to those like her. “Buzzcut Season” is another critique on society and our perception of how our lives are supposed to be. I’d like to mention again that these lyrical themes are once again coming from a teenager. The following track “Team” is another critique on society but from more of a metaphorical perspective. “Glory and Gore” is a darker continuation of the previous track. The vocal harmonies on the second half of the track remind me of something on Kanye’s “Dark Fantasy”.
Lorde begins to get more personal on the last few tracks of the album. “Still Sane” is a song thats very direct about Lorde and her newfound fame. She most certainly isn’t used to it yet but she’s also trying to embrace it. “A World Alone” is another track about her life, tracing back to “Tennis Court” where she refers to people talking but this time Lorde gives those people the ol’ fuck you. It’s basically a track that best describes the entire album. The production has this guitar melody that keeps looping over and over while the rest of the elements are constantly changing. It’s a track that reminds you that we’re listening to this ordinary sixteen year old New Zealander that is dealing with fame while trying to keep her artistic integrity. Essentially, that’s what Pure Heroine is. Here we have this sixteen year old girl making waves to a very broad audience and she’s not hiding behind some processed techno pop bullshit. It’s one of those breaths of fresh air. Where the people get the music they deserve and it’s not just reserved for the cynical, overprotective hipsters who vomit at the sight or sound of the word “mainstream”. Lorde made it to the top of the charts with a song where she’s basically flipping everyone else off on the charts. It’s an exciting time for pop music when you see something like that happen. Sorry, if you’re tired of hearing “Royals” on the radio, but it’s great stuff. You’re only a hypocrite if you complain about radio stations not playing good music and then roll your eyes when good music finally arrives to dominate the charts. Lorde’s youth may be fading but her future is extremely bright. Pure Heroine is a fine example of that. It has attitude, it’s got very infectious production and delivers strong songwriting on every track. That’s something you don’t see everyday. I can only hope that Lorde remains relevant on pop radio, but even if she doesn’t, it was fun while it lasted. Life as a teenager is indeed a fucking trip.
Listen to Lorde’s track “Team”
BEST ALBUMS OF 2013