Few artists have emerged as fully-formed as Ella Yellich O’Connor.
When her debut single Royals and its accompanying album Pure Heroine were released in 2013, they made her a star the world over but also captured the cultural zeitgeist of the so-called Tumblr generation in a way that hasn’t really been managed before or since. Now on the verge of releasing Melodrama, her first album in 4 years, Lorde is on the verge of becoming something closely approaching the voice of her generation. I realised a few years ago that Lorde had composed a song that didn’t just speak to but defined my generation.
Before you ask, no it isn’t Royals. Everyone loves Royals. It is their favourite Lorde song. It is the only song by Lorde that they probably know. Not that there’s anything wrong with this, of course. We all know Royals is a banger and the influence it had on mainstream pop music can still be felt today; with the icy, minimalist production heard in everything from Blank Space to Work.
No, Royals is fine, it’s completely serviceable, but its not the Lorde song I want to to talk to you about today. The Lorde song I do want to bang onto you about takes any queues from Royals – its intricate yet minimalist production, Lorde’s own vocal performance both bravura and singing with a knowing vulnerability – but, like any great single releasing following a respective singer’s zeitgeist defining hit, it builds on things the old single accomplished and also attempts something new. So, the track’s snare drum beats are replaced with dark and velvety synth-lines before the song itself opens itself wide to a melancholic chorus.
The track I’m talking about is called Team – it’s a song that, on one level, could be about many things but, when you read into it closely, it can only ever be about one thing. And that’s us; the generation who have grown into social media, who can remember dimly what the world was like before Facebook and Twitter, but have spent most of our formative years culminating an online presence (“We live in cities, you never see on screen, not very pretty but we sure know how to run things”); I don’t think one chorus line in a song has ever summed up so succinctly the dichotomy between the images we communicate throughout our social media profiles and the real, actual world that we truly live in. Everything is slightly distorted mirror image, an airbrushed portrait, even when its down to the towns in which we live and the villages we call home.
Lorde’s first album Pure Heroine is full of moments like Team; it’s an incredibly insular album, chronicling the teenage experiences of a Lorde who was yet to step outside of New Zealand and out of her bubble. Team works so well because it so accurately describes – and is very careful to not deride – our self-constructed world, having been composed in one itself. Lorde’s powers, no matter their greatness or potentness, only had so much of a reach.
Now, however, that can be a different story. Her second album Melodrama has just been announced to drop June 16 and was preceded by the single Green Light, which is is a fantastic pop single; it has a great chorus and a fucking intense rave piano. The one song that is really promising, however, is Liability – a simple piano ballad that shows us Lorde with her world and her walls crumbling down. Boys use her, she dances by herself, she doesn’t really know what love is. Heavy stuff, for sure, but hasn’t everyone disappeared into their own little bubble when they first move to a big, strange city away from everything they thought they knew?
Heroine is the album in which Lorde’s world and her gaze opens up; she’s stepped from the screen and into the real, scary world. It’s building up to be an album full of heartache and the microcosm of teenage experience opened up into the macrocosm of the world at large. We are all just trying to live our lives to a resemblance of some meaning, but Lorde is the chronicler of these moments; both the large and the intimate, and she’s only just getting started.
Volume #17 is go. Get it here.
Words by Niall Flynn