Lorde (rhymes with ‘scored’, not ‘bawdy’) is a hard one to pin down. She’s a 16-year-old singer-songwriter who, thanks to the brilliant ‘Royals’ already has a US Number One single to her name. But despite the success of ‘Royals’ and the fact she signed a record company development deal some three years ago, the word ‘precocious’ doesn’t suit this striking, dark-haired girl from the suburbs of Auckland, New Zealand. Lorde – real name Ella Yellich-Connor – is too smart and self-aware to be precocious.
‘Every song’s like, “gold teeth, Grey Goose, tripping in the bathroom”,’ she sings on ‘Royals’, critiquing mainstream rap music as she highlights its disconnect from her own life. It’s this ‘ordinary’ teenage life that Lorde’s debut album captures beautifully, with references to mum and dad letting her stay home, riding on buses with her ‘knees pulled in’ and a boyfriend buying her orange juice. ‘I feel grown up with you in your car,’ she sighs on ‘A World Alone’ – ‘I know it’s dumb.’ See what we mean about self-aware?
As for smart: Lorde already realises that this is a life she’s leaving behind. ‘Pretty soon I’ll be getting on my first plane,’ she sings on ‘Tennis Court’ as she wonders how she’s going to ‘fuck with the fun again when I’m known’. Lorde’s voice is husky but still young-sounding, like a teenager who’s stayed up all night talking and necking vodka, and this makes her little insights even more compelling.
They’d have less less impact, though, if the music wasn’t pretty sharp too. Co-writer and producer Joel Little gives the album a minimal and sinewy ‘hip-pop’ sound, with beats influenced by trap music and arrangements that feel distinctive even when they nod to Robyn (‘A World Alone’), Santigold (‘White Teeth Teens’) or, on ‘Royals’, Lana Del Rey. Some tracks are catchier than others, admittedly, but Lorde’s best choruses – ‘Royals’, ‘Team’ and ‘Tennis Court’ – are simply glorious.
Ironically, Lorde’s remarkably accomplished debut album will probably give her access to that world of gold teeth, Grey Goose and tripping in the bathroom. (She’s already got Rick Ross remixing ‘Royals’ for her.) Part of you hopes she steers clear – but another can’t help already thinking about the songs she could write as an inside observer...
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