October 4, 2013 Lorde – Pure Heroine (Album review)
There are a lot of “overnight success” stories in the music industry, but not many are quite as literal as is sixteen-year-old Ella Yelich-O’Connor’s tale. We know the New Zealand singer/songwriter by her stage name, Lorde, and that’s pretty much all we know. It’s like she was an apparition who suddenly appeared out of thin air and onto the #1 spot on the US Billboard charts, but no one knows who she is or where she came from. Lorde’s story starts in late 2012. Working with producer, Joel Little, she recorded a five-track EP. With absolutely no marketing, no music video, and illustrated cover art, they decided to release the EP in Spring 2013.
Despite the lack of release preparation, The Love Club EP still found it’s way to #1 on the New Zealand Album Chart. Lorde’s dark, mysterious voice coupled with her wise-beyond-her years lyrics has easily spread beyond the borders of New Zealand. People everywhere are addicted to Lorde and it’s ironic because her brand new LP is aptly titled, Pure Heroine.
Pure Heroine is nothing that you would expect to hear from a sixteen-year-old female. The lyricism alone defies her age as she sings of topics that aren’t commercial or glamorous. Everything about Lorde down to her stellar, gritty vocals is raw, which is likely why so many people are drawn to her. The first track from Pure Heroine, “Tennis Court”, is essentially a criticism of modern-day society and the constant act of masking emotion so as to fit in with those around us. It also seems to be promise to herself to not let the idea of fame change the person she is. What starts off as just haunting vocals and a slow and steady beat quickly evolves into an in-your-face melody as the chorus kicks in. She mocks society with the lyrics, “Baby, be the class clown / I’ll be the beauty queen in tears / It’s a new art form showing people little we care, yeah. // We’re so happy even when we’re smiling out of fear / Let’s go down to the tennis court and talk it up like yeah, yeah.”
Following this track is a song called “400 Lux”, the only love songs featured on the album. The song begins with the sound of an alarm going off and while the sound of an alarm is anything but subtle, Lorde finds a way to create a steady beat out of it as her vocals take over and listeners are put under her spell. “Royals” is the third track and first single from Pure Heroine and it is also currently taking over pop/rock radio. This song is another jab at society and the things humans tend to glamorize. Lyrics include, “But every song is like gold teeth, Greygoose, tripping in the bathroom, // blood stains, ball gowns, trashing the hotel room.” Again, the background music is pretty stagnant but that’s only because Lorde’s bluesy vocals are enchanting enough all on their own. “Ribs” is the most synthetic sounding song on the album, but it still carries a mature theme about the alienation one feels as they grow up. The music and vocals both begin quietly but quickly build into an upbeat crescendo as the chorus kicks in. “Buzzcut Season” is the next track on Pure Heroine and Lorde’s second single. The futuristic sound puts this song on a platform that could be compared to singers like Ellie Goulding and Florence + the Machine, but the lyricism is anything but comparable. In this track, Lorde sings about the blind ignorance we’re brought up to believe in even through the harsh realities of this world.
Moving along, there is radio-worthy song, “Team”. What begins as an a cappella, almost gospel-like recording soon turns into one of the most upbeat songs on the entire album. Even with its lively synthetic-pop nature, the song explores topics that aren’t redundant, cliché, or what’s expected to come out of the mouth of a sixteen-year-old. Lorde sings about never forgetting the place she came from no matter how far she goes in her career. “Glory and Gore” is a standout song for the album because unlike the other tracks where the focus has been solely on Lorde’s vocals, this song has more of a musicality about it. It’s dark, eerie, and the rawness of Lorde’s voice only adds to the already dramatic music. It’s everything you would expect to hear in a song with such a cryptic title. The next two tracks, “Still Sane” and “White Teeth Teens” could easily be discounted because other songs on the album are already so brilliant. However, the multi-layer vocals, the synth and snare backgrounds, and the superbly-written lyrics make each of these songs anything but boring.
The closing track of the album is a song called “A World Alone”. It’s a perfect song to finish off an album that analyzes the tribulations of gaining fame. At only sixteen, Lorde can already see how people fall apart in this industry. She sings of her potential demise with the lyrics, “I know we’re not everlasting / We’re a train wreck waiting to happen / One day the blood won’t flow so gladly / One day we’re against the world / The people talk, yeah, the people talk”. And with these crude lyrics is a melody that is so hauntingly beautiful even in its simplicity that you can’t but believe every word Lorde singing to us.
Nothing about this album was to be expected. The strength behind the lyrics, musicality, and vocals on the album are literally like nothing we’ve ever heard before. Lorde has been able to bring something completely new to this industry. Most music today is centralized around the actual beat of a song while vocals are something to compliment the sound of that track. However, Pure Heroine contradicts this notion. Almost every song by Lorde is centralized around her voice and the barely there music is included to compliment the vocals.
The musicality is so subtle that Lorde could essentially sing any melody and it would sound like it was meant to be that way all along. Everything she has done in her career thus far has gone against the norm. She isn’t like her glorified peers in the industry. She doesn’t fit any kind of mold. Perhaps this is why so many people can’t stop listening to the voice of Lorde. Perhaps this is why so many people are addicted to Pure Heroine. Cryptic Rock gives Pure Heroine a 5 out of 5 stars.