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October 7, 2013 | by  | in Arts Music |
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Lorde: Pure Heroine


Longevity is an excellent marker of value. This reasoning can be applied to literature, cinema, sexual performance, and most certainly music. In other words, when I hear an album for the first time, I try and hypothesise whether I’ll still be listening to it in a month, year, decade. Lorde’s EP The Love Club EP certainly met this high standard. I still listen to and thoroughly enjoy its youthfulness and angst. Unfortunately, her first attempt at a full-length album hasn’t matched the initial hype of the now-global artist.

The most obvious ‘problem’ with the album is that Lorde seems to be suffering from an identity crisis. Since the fantastic success of her single ‘Royals,’ her musical style now seems to straddle reflective indie singer-songwriter and international pop princess. The simple structure of her songs, relatable lyrics and bassy tones make the album extremely ‘easy’ to listen to; clearly the aim of her record label Universal, who undoubtedly have their sights set on the top iTunes spot. But the simplicity of the album necessitates a lack of risk-taking, ambition and originality.

So how does this actually play out in the music?

‘Glory and Gore’ serves as the darkest track on Pure Heroine. But the great potential of the song to depart from her sweet-sixteen image is lost amidst a verse and chorus which sound exactly the same as one another. This lack of variation speaks for the entire album; it teases the listener into thinking that something shocking and emotional is coming, but never quite achieves its own ambitions.

Another attempt to dirty up Lorde’s image (in the grunge-rock way, not the sexual way. Sheesh, don’t you know she’s only 16?) can be heard in the opening track ‘Tennis Court’. The deep, warped voice that intermittently bellows “Yeah!” during the chorus should have the effect of intensifying the song, but all it does is irritate me. SO. MUCH.

But don’t worry, Kiwi music fans, it ain’t all bad. ‘Royals’ is still a damn good pop song, one of the best from this year I would argue. ‘400 Lux’, ‘Ribs’ and ‘Team’ also have a lot to offer the album; the common factor between these songs being their sincerity. The majority of Lorde’s lyrics (if she even writes any of them herself?) seem obsessed with her age; the new experiences she is having, and the nervous anxiety of being a teenager living in the ‘burbs of sprawling Auckland. Basically, she is trying way too hard to appear as a disenfranchised youth who never really fit in at school and just wants to get drunk and be loved. But these select songs instantly transplant the listener straight into summer, happiness, frivolity, late nights driving in cars with boys. All of the things that her young audience loves.

However, there are still another four songs on the album that I haven’t even bothered to mention. Which describes what I thought of them pretty accurately, actually.

While I wish Lorde all the luck in the world, and definitely suspect that her music will be featured in an American TV show very soon, I am still underwhelmed and bored with the majority of this record.

H8rs gon h8.






In Terrance Malick’s Badlands, the film concludes with a gorgeous shot that wanders through the clouds. Many reviewers, upon seeing this ethereal scene, have concluded that it is a clue that the entire film was actually just a dream—or, more specifically, the fabrication of a bored, lonely teenage girl with an overactive imagination.

I grew up, like Lorde did, in the North Shore. The North Shore, to the uninitiated, is less a city than a sprawling collection of suburbs; safe, secure, and—if you’re a restless teen—painfully dull. I know what it’s like to put your book/homework down on a dreary and drizzly Sunday afternoon and look at the intoxicating lights of Auckland city and lose yourself in the allure, the tantalising promise of excitement and glamour you can scarcely imagine. Your friends and family are great, of course, and you love them, but when you’re irresolute and young and naïve and filled with wanderlust you inevitably end up turning to your imagination.

This, I suspect, is what Lorde did, and, combined with her tremendous creativity and pop nous, she managed to distil that heady phenomenon into a strong ten-track album that delivers pop hit after pop hit amidst feelings of self-doubt, falsified parties, a yearning for razzle-dazzle, but above everything else: that immutable sensation that somewhere people are having more fun than you, living more fulfilling lives than you. The lyrics, though, are astonishingly self-aware for all that—there’s an element of detachment here, helped by vocal overlays and sardonic delivery, that suggests a knowingness that belies her years—and a poignancy. “I’ll let you in on something big—I’m not a white-teeth teen / I tried to join / but I never did”.

I don’t presume to know Lorde at all, or where she’s coming from, but I will say that Pure Heroine resonates with me in a specific (now nostalgic) kind of way. Her promise has been stated endlessly, but I’ll reiterate it; if she’s managed to distil this period of her life with such candour, such acuity, there will be some gems to come. She’s got one under her belt already.

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