As brand new sounds glimmer from Lorde’s mind to form her sophomore album “Melodrama,” debuting this summer, she remains an unconventional pop princess.
Lorde is a walking contradiction of an artist. She created her stage name from her fascination with royalty and aristocracy. Yet, she places herself outside of the materialistic world of gold teeth and Cadillacs in her biggest hit “Royals,” singing “we don’t care, we aren’t caught up in your love affair.”
In 2013, at just 16 years old, she crept up charts and buzzed through radios about the unsettling trends in popular music as she became a trend herself. She comments on a “live-in-the-moment” mentality, which describes the chaotic parties and careless spending promoted in hip-hop. Far younger than her industry and across the world away from New Zealand, Lorde is a peculiar teenage pop star.
Her performances like this week’s “Saturday Night Live” guest appearance, often feature dancing worthy of its own interpretive genre. It’s hard to find a woman performing on stage in front of thousands–millions if broadcasted–who genuinely doesn’t care how she appears; or maybe she cares too much and actively seeks to be different. There are no backup dancers in sight, only Lorde and her song.
“Pure Heroine” was Lorde’s first album. It introduced a pop star wise beyond her years, detached from the tabloid-happy youth who have the same job description. She internalizes her experiences and says profound things about them, as she goes through the emotions of growing up. Lorde responds with “I’m kind of over gettin’ told to throw my hands up in the air, so there” in “Team” to a mainstream society with a repeating message of the “have-fun-when you’re-young” ideal.
Lorde’s coming-of-age narrative is refreshing because of its unapologetic sincerity. The bright- colored fantasy world of a teenage dream is notably absent from her music. She sings about popularity and stature like it’s an infatuation of hers that she keeps finding herself in but wishes to be removed from. In “The Love Club,” she starts the verse with “I’m in a clique but I want out” and later sings “the other day I forgot my old address, I’m sitting pretty on the throne, there’s nothing more I want, except to be alone.” Her acquired social status, envied by many, is met by Lorde with a tiredness and boredom, as she feels an emptiness at the top.
She isn’t having all the carefree fun that is expected in her adolescence. In “Ribs,” she says “you’re the only friend I need, sharing beds like little kids, and laughing ‘til our ribs get tough, but that will never be enough.” Apparent in the lyrics is her longing for childhood innocence and an indifference toward growing older.
After blowing up in 2013, Lorde didn’t revel in the bright spotlight she found herself in as many young artists do. Other than being asked to curate the “Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1” soundtrack and being featured on the Disclosure song “Magnets” in 2015, there was a four-year gap between albums. She remained fairly off the grid, which allowed her to grow apart from her teenage anxieties and into a woman on the border of her 20s. The suburbs of her youth became a memory.
Her lead single “Green Light,” released on March 2, is a fluorescent break-up track about the euphoric moment just before finally moving on from someone and starting over. While “Pure Heroine” uniquely strayed away from writing about love, Lorde says she decided it was time for her to tackle this topic in a Beats 1 interview after experiencing her “first major heartbreak.” A spring in her step is masterfully illustrated through a pounding keyboard in the chorus.
This reintroduction signals a new era for Lorde into more mature territory and through a more confidently pop lens. Lorde’s most recent release “Liability” complements her new sound but revisits her fear of fame and popularity in her lyrics “the truth is I am a toy, that people enjoy, ‘til all of the tricks don’t work anymore, and then they are bored of me.”
In her upcoming album “Melodrama,” the musician’s honest commentary on her own experiences will seemingly match that of “Pure Heroine,” as she leaves teenage years behind and bares her old soul. Lorde’s unique talent to brush off the polished routine of being young and famous is what separates her from the pack of pop stars but makes her just as celebrated.