Firebrand Lorde: I'm not a rebel

PURE HEROINE: The razor-tongued frankness of New Zealander singer-songwriter Lorde, 17, sets her apart from others in the music industry.


    Jan 03, 2014

    Firebrand Lorde: I'm not a rebel

    WHILE most pop-music princesses warble on about love and heartbreak, Lorde sings about materialism, teenage ennui and "postcode envy".

    But her sharply observed lyrics are just one of the ways that the 17-year-old New Zealander has set herself apart from the cookie-cutter crooners who crowd the charts. The precocious teenager has also been openly critical of artists such as Selena Gomez and Taylor Swift, taking issue with the overly sexual and picture-perfect image they project.

    However, before she made a name for herself as a bit of a firebrand, it was her hit song Royals that did most of the talking.

    First released in November 2012 as part of The Love Club EP, which was initially offered free for download, it talks about kids not being able to relate to the bling and moneyed lifestyle flaunted in many music videos.

    This quietly subversive message and the catchy vocals it was delivered in immediately struck a chord with listeners and, after it went on sale in March last year, smashed the charts in New Zealand and the United States.

    The unknown teen from Auckland became an international pop sensation, and the youngest person in 25 years to top the US Billboard Hot 100 as well as the alternative and rock charts.

    To cap this meteoric debut, she received four Grammy nominations last month, including for Best Song and Best Album.

    Speaking to Life! just a few days later in Los Angeles, Lorde - whose real name is Ella Yelich-O'Connor - was still trying to take it all in.

    "Six months ago, I was a normal person, you know, with none of this stuff happening," she says in a clipped Kiwi accent.

    "And now paparazzi wait outside places for me and people chase my car and stuff."

    It is not just the extraordinary commercial success of Royals that has put her on the map but, rather, the unique point of view declared by this and other ditties on Pure Heroine, the electronica-infused album she released in September last year that sees her exploring subjects such as being an outsider and young people's fear of getting older.

    But while her songs and off-the-cuff critiques have put her on many year-end lists of the most influential performers and cultural figures of 2013, the teenager plays down her rebel credentials.

    "I definitely don't call myself anti-establishment. A lot of people tried to bill the song (Royals) as being, like, this anti-capitalist anthem or whatever.

    "But, in truth, I was just 15 and I was writing about not having the kind of stuff that pop stars or rappers had. I was just writing about my life."

    It has occurred to her that she could now have all the trappings of that lifestyle.

    "It is kind of ironic that, now, if I wanted, I could probably buy quite a nice watch," said Lorde, who picked her stage name reportedly because of her fascination with royals and aristocracy.

    Last September, she was widely reported to have dissed Gomez's song Come And Get It in a radio interview ("I'm a feminist, and the theme of her song is, 'When you're ready, come and get it from me'. I'm sick of women being portrayed this way.").

    Subsequently, she took a swipe at Swift in New Zealand's Metro magazine ("Taylor Swift is so flawless and so unattainable, and I don't think it's breeding anything good in young girls.").

    This naturally incurred the wrath of Gomez and Swift fans, and Lorde later apologised to Swift, expressing her admiration for the I Knew You Were Trouble singer, whom she was later photographed having dinner with.

    It is that razor-tongued frankness that many adore her for, though, and her take on the industry is often as reasonable as it is quotable - including her calling out of the current trend of artists trying to outdo one another in shock value, which "will probably culminate in two people f*****g onstage at the Grammys", she told Q magazine, most likely having the twerking Miley Cyrus in mind.