Sweetheart had this song stuck in his head so badly, that he ordered the new EP from New Zealand singer, Lorde, all the way from Australia a few weeks ago.
This Saturday, it finally arrived. He put it on the stereo and now we’re equally obsessed. So much so, that we now have a zany plan to go down to New York to see her perform at Webster Hall on a Monday night — the same day her first full length album drops.
There are several things that amaze me about Lorde – née Ella Yelich-O’Connor. One is that she’s 16 years old, which makes her the youngest woman ever to top Billboard’s Alternative songs chart and belies the maturity and shrewd business sense Lorde demonstrates through her lyrics (she writes all her songs), music videos, intentional lack of promotion of her singles, and most of all her exceptional poise and confidence even in live performance. To that last point, notice the absolutely brilliant, minimal production on “Royals” — no synth, one baseline, one drum line, and just Lorde’s voice layered on itself.
Another thing, and in retrospect this is not surprising at all, is that she inhabits the periphery of the music world, if not the world, being from Auckland. It seems to be something she’s quite aware of — in her newest single, “Team”, the chorus references her life away from the lights and glamor of New York, Paris and LA: “We live in cities you’ll never see on screen // Not very pretty but we sure know how to run free”.
There’s something about that outsider perspective, made so not outsider anymore by the internet and mass produced pop culture of course, that allows her to both live into and reject what’s been established by the mainstream. In “Royals”, Lorde rejects the material excess glorified by musicians like Kanye West, Rihanna and Jay-Z: “… every song’s like gold teeth, grey goose, trippin’ in the bathroom… / We don’t care, we’re driving Cadillacs in our dreams. / But everybody’s like Cristal, Maybach, diamonds on your time piece. / Jet planes, islands, tigers on a gold leash. / We don’t care, we aren’t caught up in your love affair.”
And it’s not just a matter of preference, there’s an acknowledgment (“And we’ll never be royals // It don’t run in our blood”) that these systems of hierarchy and privilege are only conferred on some and rely on exclusion — an implicit rejection of the American dream that there is but one embodiment of success we can all achieve if we try; a presumption that it’s a dream we all share and want. I’m sure it factors in that she has a white, suburban, middle class family. It’s easier to reject material wealth when you’ve grown up secure.
Brilliant stuff. I’m sure Lorde’s music is absolutely going to blow up once her new album, “Pure Heroine” drops on September 30. And I hope she finds a devoted audience among some of the other amazing young women who are making waves these days fighting gender stereotyping and the incredible pressures being put on women to be perfect yet disempowered.
*-* metta *-*