Pop culture is obsessed with excess, which leads to the odd phenomenon of droves of people chanting about a life they could never possibly afford. This is the main complaint of New Zealand alt-pop artist Lorde. With poignant criticism of pop culture and catchy beats, she has become a superstar overnight—and for good reason.
Born Ella Yelich-O’Connor in Auckland, she was discovered by a local talent agency at the age of 12. At first, they wanted her to simply sing covers. However, the strong spirited and “slightly odd,” as she calls herself, young lady decided she wanted to write her own music. Thankfully, the agency let her do this; in just four years, she has released her first full album, “Pure Heroine.”
“Pure Heroine” combines catchy, moody pop music with Lorde’s greatest talent: Her poignant, biting lyrics. Cynicism comes to the forefront in her chart-topping single, “Royals:” “I’ve never seen a diamond in the flesh / I cut my teeth on wedding rings in the movies / And I’m not proud of my address/ In the torn-up town, no post code envy.” Her acid-tongued lyrics have propelled “Royals” to the number one spot on the alternative charts, the first time a solo woman has done that in 17 years.
Yet “Pure Heroine” is not just a one-trick pony. The album opens up with Lorde’s other single, “Tennis Courts,” which has less bile than “Royals” but enough melancholy pop charm to get the album rolling. Following “Tennis Courts” is “400 Lux.” Lorde’s love song is quite a different take on the pop love ballad. I would compare it to a more sophisticated, less lusty Lana Del Rey song. Following “400 Lux” is “Royals.”
After “Royals,” the album really opens up. “Ribs” is an exploration of aging while remaining young at heart, a concept that is very telling of Lorde as a young woman: She is a girl with lyrics and thoughts far beyond her age. Then comes “Buzzcut Season,” an extremely strange and mellow song that conjures a dream-like sound. Following that is “Team,” an upbeat, rollicking pop song that again points fingers at the excess culture of today’s modern world.
“Glory and Gore” then follows, exploring the selling of death and blood in popular culture. Singing “Glory and Gore go hand in hand / That’s why we’re making headlines,” Lorde continues to make keen observations of popular culture and the world around her.
Next is the quiet tune “Still Sane,” which unfolds as a promise from Lorde to her friends and family that she will stay sane in the madness that is her “new found fame.” “White Tooth Teens” follows, another tune about how not all people can afford the elevated lifestyle promoted by celebrities, in which Lorde claims that she is not “A White Tooth Teen.”
The final song, “A World Alone,” explores the negative effects of gossip: Isolating people and forcing them to live alone in a discouraging world. The song ends with an invitation for people to “let them talk.” This piece ends where the album began, as the beginning of “Tennis Courts” states that Lorde is bored of how people talk, demonstrating just how smart Lorde’s lyrics really are.
“Pure Heroine” is a mature, unfettered look at pop culture through the eyes of one intelligent and strong willed 16 year old. Lorde, through her observant lyrics, draws the listener into singing a wholly different anthem from the one we are used to. Instead of shouting for Grey Goose, we are singing about how we live with the ones around us, not yearning for the unattainable.