Hailing from New Zealand, Lorde quite literally burst onto the music scene last year with her brilliant, breakthrough single ‘Royals’. In that track we have one of the biggest pop songs of 2013 with her nonchalant tone, honest and realistic lyrics and a sound that isn’t staged, manipulated or too electronic. It also played on our clear need to hear some pop music with actual substance, not just lyrically but musically.
So when debut album ‘Pure Heroine’ was released late last year it was highly anticipated and did not disappoint critics, who gave it outstanding reviews, or fans. Opening proceedings with previous single ‘Tennis Court’ and it’s opening line of “Don’t you think it’s boring how people talk” perhaps reference to the world of celebrity culture and a music industry full of too many meaningless words/songs. Her great vocal tone portrays the stories in her lyrics perfectly and seamlessly change from the melodic quality in the choruses to the slightly rap style vocals in the verses. Deep, dirty synth sounds create a dank, yet huge atmosphere along with vocal manipulation which oscillates between high pitched and low threatening tones.
Throughout the main focus is on the vocals from their childlike quality in the choruses of the smooth rhythmic ‘400 Lux’ to the almost trademark ‘not bothered’ style found on ‘Team’ with its vocal effects and strong pounding beat as well as the stripped back sound of ‘Ribs’ featuring echoing backing vocals, rhythmic drums and electronics that complement the basic make-up of the track.
The simplicity is what really strikes me with her music; subtle elements change the whole feel of a song quickly and efficiently. On ‘White Teeth Teens’ it’s the gentle piano opening backing up the harmonious layered vocals before a quick beat and low bass drum come in adding rhythm and creating a steady foundation for the higher pitched electronics and echoey vocals that close. Whereas on my personal favourite ‘Buzzcut Season’ the alternating piano key changes and a prominent bass line sit behind clear-cut vocals that take us from quiet, rhythmical verses to faster, melodic choruses.
‘Glory and Gore’ sees maturity with a strong voice meant to be heard. The dubsteppy bass creates a great beat and a clear danceable nature to this. Its proof that pop music can pick and choose the best from all genres – dance, indie, rock, dupstep – and when used effectively it makes a song still classed pop but with an interesting edge.
The soft tinkling piano of ‘Still Sane’ backs up Lorde’s almost fragile brogue, there’s a clear ambience and huge amount of emotion coming from the determination found in her lyrics. ‘A World Alone’ closes the album with plucked guitar strings, a padded drum, tinkling electronics and pounding beat all building to a chorus that really packs a punch.
At 16, Lorde has an attitude and stance above her years, well read, opinionated and refusing to bow to the pressures of pop music and record company exec’s out to flaunt women to make a few extra quid. Her striking looks and refreshingly open lyrics telling of the life of a teenager today are a joy to listen to, giving us something tangible to hold onto instead of the usual chart fodder of getting drunk, partying all night, flashing your cash etc. And it’s for those reasons that ‘Pure Heroine’ is a brilliant album and one of the best debuts to be released in the past few years.
Below is the video for one of the stand out tracks of 2013, ‘Royals’: