Lorde’s first studio album “Pure Heroine,” includes 10 songs, such as current hits “Royals” and “Tennis Court,” which all demonstrate Lorde’s characteristic nonchalant vocals, buzzing synthesizers and minimal, yet thumping beats.
The 16-year-old from New Zealand is a younger, cooler version of Lana Del Rey, but is more electric and sounds more energetic. She has teenage spunk, but is not as in-your-face or desperate as Miley Cyrus.
Lorde’s unique sound shines on the overnight chart-topping single “Royals,” a pulsating, snappy, female harmony-infused critique of the shallow lifestyle commonly illustrated in contemporary pop music. Lorde glorifies the real teenager — the youth who “didn’t come from money.”
“Royals,” first released in 2012 on Lorde’s EP, “The Love Club,” served as the perfect preface to “Pure Heroine,” which does not stray far from the single’s overall sound or lyrical messages. In “Team,” she declares “We live in cities you’ll never see on screen/Not very pretty but we sure know how to run things,” exalting the teenager who thrives in a grunge environment. Like “Royals,” “Team” takes another hit at mainstream pop music themes with lyrics like “I’m kind of over getting told to put my hands up in the air/So there.”
As someone who grew up in a neighborhood that draws no “post code envy,” Lorde sings of a teenage lifestyle that involves partying in average-sized homes, loitering on sidewalks and congregating below underpasses rather than Porsches, exclusive clubs and bottle service — illustrated on “White Teeth Teens.”
She is a self-proclaimed president of the average youth, and her allegiance proves strong. She refers to her people with we. Lorde does not try to separate herself from a background others would call shameful, and unlike rappers who boast about their rags-to-riches stories, Lorde does not try to take individual ownership of her background.
In “Tennis Court,” another single released earlier this year, her loyalty is tested. Lorde describes her nascent fame and its perks. She rides a plane for the first time and gets “pumped up from the little bright things,” but she sees through the materialism and phoniness. Her first line is biting — “Don’t you think that it’s boring how people talk?/Making smart with their words again, well I’m bored.”
Critics have argued that Lorde’s vocal and musical maturity far surpasses her age, which is true. Her tongue-in-cheek lyrics are uncommon even for older artists. But thanks to her young start as an artist, watching her grow and seeing how her perspective evolves will be enjoyable.
Take note of her lyrics in “Still Sane.” Lorde recognizes that she’s a rookie in the grand scheme of music, but she’s working hard and is determined to make her mark — “I’m little but I’m coming for the crowd.”
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Oct. 1 print edition. Erica Gonzalez is a contributing writer. Email her at [email protected]