Originally published and still available on Renowned For Sound (11/10/13).
It would be incredibly easy to accredit Lorde with exceeded amounts of praise, given her tender age of 16. Yup, you read correctly, she is but only 16, and Lorde – real name Ella Yelich-O’Connor – already has a respectably successful EP and a number 1 single behind her. The single in question, Royals, shot to the top of the charts in her native New-Zealand, Canada, and now in the US, making the young singer-songwriter some seriously hot property in the process. Hype can be a very dangerous and double-edged sword, and now about to release her debut album by the name of Pure Heroine, will Lorde manage live up to the worldwide hype?
Pure Heroine starts in familiar territory with Tennis Court, the only song other than Royals to successfully survive the cut (and rightly so!) after first appearing on the Tennis Court EP, when it was released as a single. With both of those songs set to one side, there is a surprising and very welcome amount of new content that makes up the album, especially considering that, out of the 5 tracks on The Love Club EP and the 4 tracks on the Tennis Court EP (UK), only 2 were carried over to the full length tracklisting. If any indication were needed as to whether Lorde could write consistently, it would be this, and Pure Heroine has a plethora of well written and artfully arranged songs.
The warmly throbbing Tennis Court gives an almost sombre account to the realities of modern youth before abating to the clarion of the understated 400 Lux, whilst Ribs incorporates muted, throbbing electronic elements to be suitably evocative. Team is the closest Lorde’s sound comes to uplifting, but it too is ultimately weighed down by its own lyrical self-awareness, whilst Glory and Gore is gloriously gloomy in a manner that showcases the darker underbelly of bravado. There will no doubt be many who declare the songs that make up Pure Heroine ‘too samey’, but Lorde has successfully curated an album that is stylistically minimalistic, juxtaposed by grandiose lyrical themes that contemporaries her age or older – especially many artists which currently saturate the charts – would not think to discuss, such as the disparate contrast between the glory lyrics in hip-hop and generally uninspired day to day life, loneliness, and a fear of ageing (‘I’ve never felt so alone, it feels so scary getting old’), especially with such aplomb. It can get a little bleak, but Pure Heroine revels in the influence of insignificant moments that most would forget but which Lorde carves into acute social commentaries of herself and her peers.
The songs carry an artistic flair of a far older musician, but her observational and, at times, cynical lyrics are youthfully relevant in the way that only a present teen could make so authentically alien, if not somewhat weary as the album tracks tick over. Yes, it would be far too easy to dismiss the praise handed to Lorde as a welcoming gesture due to her age, but in Pure Heroine she has undoubtedly managed to craft an album that sounds both ambiguously seasoned and fresh, with the flair of an artist that is only just beginning to warm up to her canvas.
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