Key Tracks: “Royals,” “A World Alone”
Taylor Swift is twenty-three years old. Lorde, an up-and-coming singer from New Zealand, is seven years younger than her. But Lorde’s sound is already established and much more mature than Swift’s is. And she’s ousted Jake Bugg as 2013′s best new sixteen year old artist (sorry Jake). Lorde’s various singles and her “Love Club EP” have all been released within the last year, and have been strong enough to give her the meteoric rise to fame she’s enjoyed over the past two months. Her full-length, “Pure Heroine,” delivers on the minimalist pop her early singles have promised.
Fans of her hit “Royals” notice a medium tempo and a very relaxed attitude, and it’s consistent through the album. Opener “Tennis Court,” one of the three previously established songs on the album (the others being “Royals” and “Team”) sets the tone, with Lorde singing about arguments and iPhones over a synth drone. “400 Lux” sets a little more of a melodic tone – more rhythmic and a little faster, before transitioning into the minimalistic and extremely catchy big hit “Royals.” “Ribs” is a dreamier song, with both Lorde and the backing beat building up to a reverb climax that sounds like more of a finale. The next few tracks succumb to the minimalist idea too much and, although certainly not bad, aren’t as catchy or memorable. “White Teeth Teens” brings the tempo back up before leading into the great finale “A World Alone.”
Joel Little produced the album and is listed as a co-writer on six of the album’s ten songs, but Lorde still contributes enough of her own self to be a surprise for a sixteen year old. Her voice is impeccable, sometimes melodically beautiful, sometimes just a little gritty. And her lyrics are very poetic and mature, especially given what our other teen stars have given us lately. Lorde has been very influenced by royalty, and her mature look at the world is refreshingly original (and probably honest, “Royals” was written in 30 minutes). Musically, she took influence from Lana Del Ray, and that’s a little too apparent at times. But for the most part, pop, R&B, even doo-wop gets mixed together and watered down into some great minimal art pop. It’s tough to say whether Lorde will become huge, or if her music will eventually disconnect from audiences, but for now she’s given us a pretty solid and memorable debut.
-By Andrew McNally