ALBUM Pure Heroine
LABEL Motown / Universal
RELEASE DATE 30 September 2013
9.1 | 10
They grow up so fast nowadays, don’t they? The most striking aspect of Lorde’s 2012 EP The Love Club was how confident the 16 year old New Zealand singer sounded, years beyond her age. On Pure Heroine (2013), Lorde manages to avoid the most common missteps taken by past artists in a similar position of going from internet phenomenon to real world fame.
When Lorde hit #1 on the Billboard’s Alternative Singles’ chart, she became the first female to hit the summit in 17 years. And while “Royals” is decidedly more pop than alternative, Lorde’s vocal delivery is wonderfully smokey, as if stuck in a daze. The lack of fucks given that her delivery expresses creates a nice gap between the infectious melodies and her nonchalant vocals. Throughout the fantastic Pure Heroine, Lorde delivers some of the most dynamic pop music of 2013. “Don’t you think that it’s boring how people talk,” she asks during the opening seconds of “Tennis Court.” I’m normally not one to give unsolicited advice, but Lorde might want to tune out the next couple of months, and the chatter surrounding this gorgeous collection of potential hits, if she finds talk to be as boring as she claims. Later, on album highlight “Team,” she goes after pop music’s tendency to develop nonsensical club anthems as opposed to more reflective pop tunes. “I’m kind of over getting told to throw my hands up in the air,” she frankly sings, unconcerned about calling out roughly 95% of top 40 radio.
In fact, communication is a major theme throughout Pure Heroine. Communication, death, growing up, and royalty all are addressed during the proceedings, and Lorde shows herself to be far more insightful than many other people her age. “I don’t ever think about death / It’s alright if you do, it’s fine,” she sings on “Glory and Gore,” yet on closer “A World Alone,” she acknowledges death’s presence as she sings, “I know we’re not everlasting.” And while she might not ever be royal, as she espouses on “Royals,” she’s still “in line for the throne,” as she sings on “Tennis Court.” Later, on “Still Sane,” a not-so-subtle jab at the likes of Amanda Bynes and Miley Cyrus, she sings, “I’m little but I’m coming for the crown.” She seems to have taken more than a few cues from none other than Kanye West, with her later singing “All work and no play never made me lose it / All business all day keeps me up a level.”
Lorde has mentioned that the breathtaking “Ribs” means the most to her of any of her songs, and it’s made clear with one listen. Over a beat that sounds destined to explode, she sings, with increasing urgency, “This dream isn’t feeling sweet / We’re reeling through the moonlit streets / and I’ve never felt more alone / It feels so scary, getting old.” That might be the most honest line in a pop song since “We’re all self-conscious /I’m just the first to admit it.” If “Ribs” represents anxiety about the future, then “400 Lux” is a fond reminiscence of less confusing times. With a droning siren in the background, Lorde sings, “You pick me and take me home again / Head out the window again.” And while they may be “hollow like the bottles that we drink,” she later footnotes that statement by singing “we might be hollow but we’re brave.” There is a lot of internal conflict stemming from Lorde that expresses itself through many seemingly contradictory passages. It’s refreshing to hear her so unafraid of appearing so unsure of her own beliefs, confident enough in herself to admit that she doesn’t have all the answers just yet. She began the album by asking “Don’t you think that it’s boring how people talk?” By album’s end, she is singing a slightly different tune; she’s traded in impatient ridicule for willful indifference. “People are talking,” she admits on “A World Alone.” While most likely still not interested in what people have to say (she’s got more important things on her plate now), she matter-of-factly sings, “Let them talk.” It’s hard to hear all those voices when you’re sitting on the throne.