Album Review | Lorde’s ‘Pure Heroine’ lives up to hype
Published: Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, October 8, 2013 01:10
The recent release of singer Lorde’s debut album “Pure Heroine” follows months of stateside hype and unprecedented success. In August, Lorde became the first woman to top the Billboard Alternative Songs chart in over 17 years. When Lorde (her real name is Ella Yelich-O’Connor) burst onto the music scene in her native New Zealand last November, it was impossible to predict how quickly she would rise to fame.
But now, less than a year after releasing her EP “The Love Club” for free online, her single “Royals” sits comfortably in the iTunes top 10, flanked by big names like Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry and Avicii. In a pop era dominated by mindless hooks and unrelenting dubstep, Lorde stands out from her competition. While “Pure Heroine” is practically guaranteed to be a hit regardless of the quality of its content, the album lives up to the hype that precedes it. For the most part, Lorde delivers strong tracks driven by layered vocals and hypnotic beats.
At just 16, Lorde is surprisingly cynical, half intrigued by fame and half wary. A self-dubbed “Internet kid,” she grew up with social media and American music at the tips of her fingers. She alternates between mocking and glorifying society’s obsession with pop culture — either way, its influence can be felt throughout “Pure Heroine.”
Lorde is very similar to Lana Del Rey — both singers have the “cool” factor and velvety voice down to an art. Lorde is significantly younger, though, and perhaps more disconnected from the persona that she hides behind. Unlike Del Rey, she sings little about relationships (which is refreshing), focusing instead on growing up in a working-class city. At her best, she captures both the monotony and excitement of the teenage experience with impressive insight, but at times, her lyrics are more pretentious than provoking. Lines proclaiming, “I’m kind of older than I was when I reveled without a care,” become less meaningful when the person singing them is still in high school. Still, as the writer or co-writer of all of the songs on the album, her lyrics are generally relatable.
The album begins with the striking “Tennis Court,” a previously released track, and continues its momentum with “400 Lux,” a rare love song that intrigues listeners with a killer intro and haunting verses. Then comes the third and most recognizable song, “Royals.” With its minimalistic style and showy chorus, “Royals” sets the tone for the entire record. Indeed, the latest single off the album, “Team,” is very reminiscent of “Royals,” once again contrasting the glamor of stardom with Lorde’s self-proclaimed ordinary lifestyle and humble background. Just like the opening lines of “Royals,” in which Lorde declares, “I’ve never seen a diamond in the flesh / I’m not proud of my address,” the chorus of “Team” develops that theme even further: “We live in cities you’ll never see on screen / Not very pretty, but we sure know how to run free.” Regardless of the similarities, the track still holds it own as an impressive melodic feat, making it a standout on the album.
The same cannot be said for every song. Part of Lorde’s appeal is that her music seems effortless, though sometimes this detracts from the overall effect of the album. A few of the songs never reach a climax, instead meandering aimlessly until they die out and transition into the next, catchier tune. “Buzzcut Season” and “Still Sane” lack the bravado of some of the other tracks and never really hit their strides. Lorde seems to recognize that the more fast-paced, energetic songs on the album pack the biggest punch and stacks them accordingly. Another upbeat tune, “White Teeth Teens” precedes the album’s longest and last song, “A World Alone,” which is Lorde’s personal ode to solitude.
Lorde will find alone time difficult to come by as she trades in her small town lifestyle for international pop stardom. Whether you are an avid Lorde fan or merely in search of a new pop anthem after overplaying “We Can’t Stop” all summer, this album deserves your attention. The songs are not as dance friendly as other radio fare, but there is an undeniable pulse running through the entire album. Lorde’s career is just beginning, but she is already a creative force to be reckoned with — and will hopefully only grow better with age.