Sat. Jun 3rd, 2023

While Miley Cyrus was busy coining the “twerk” phenomenon, and Rihanna was even busier making a music video to prove she was in fact the “twerking queen,” Lorde quietly stepped on stage in a long skirt, long sleeve shirt and even longer hair using only her words and voice to knock every girl–and boy–off of the charts. She didn’t use sex appeal, and she didn’t need a producer to create a catchy beat that led her song to become the No. 1 top single in the United States. No, she only needed her own perspective.
Lorde, born Ella Yelich-O’Connor, of New Zealand, is quickly stealing the spotlight. She released her first album “Pure Heroine” on Sept. 27, 2013, but had already secured her spot with her single “Royals,” released in the U.S. in June 2013. The album is a response to her quickly secured fame, and focuses on the concept of fame and identity. She sings “I learnt not to want/ The quiet of the room with no one around to find me out/I want the applause the approval the things that make me go,” in “Bravado” referring to her transition from a shy teenager to a sudden star.
She is not new to the music scene, growing up with a poet for a mother and signing with Universal Records at age 13 after submitting a video of herself performing in a school talent show. Three years later, she is a star.
Her intelligent lyrics and deep, enticing voice critiques class issues and asserts her identity as a human being–not as a “twerk” master or as the hottest body out there, as the trend in American female single artists has been recently.
Instead, she is pointing out that most people don’t have all of the money in the world, and that they’re okay with that: “We’ll never be royals (royals)/It don’t run in our blood/That kind of luxe just ain’t for us/We crave a different kind of buzz,” she asserts in “Royals.” Later, in the chorus, she points out that while most people don’t have thousands of dollars to use at a whim or to use as an escape of the ever-demanding feats of middle-class life, “every song’s like gold teeth, grey goose, trippin’ in the bathroom/Blood stains, ball gowns, trashin’ the hotel room,” But guess what? She doesn’t care. And in reality, we don’t either.
Lorde, I think we can safely say, is the first top female artist currently to stand up and define herself as a critic on society and on herself. Miley, Rihanna, Selena Gomez, etc. are busy using their body, sex appeal, and their sad, life-wrecking breakup videos to gain popularity. Lorde, instead, is coming up in a Simon and Garfunkel, Bob Dylan, David Bowie type-of-way to point out what is wrong with society by simply using her talent. In this case it is not guitar, or harmonica, or theater-effects that entice her viewers, but her own voice guiding us through lyrics that are just as strong as her smart, lyrically lonely predecessors. And if she is only 16 and pumping out this quality of music, I think we can say she is in for the long-haul.
At 16, she is critiquing society’s stance on what it is to be popular, as well as the teenage standard of popularity. She does not pretend to be older than her years, but from the rawness and truthfulness of her lyrics, it is evident that she is wise beyond her years. “Maybe the internet raised us or maybe people are jerks (people are talking)” she sings, admitting her age and self consciousness of the spotlight in “A World Alone” while simultaneously accusing society of defining teens in terms of the internet.
Her voice is naturally strong and beautiful; there is no tint of pretend-femininity nor false-softening of her voice. She dips right into every song with a tone that suggests a smirk is playing in her mind. “I’m kind of over getting told to throw my hands up in there air/ so there/I’m kind of older than I was when I rebelled without a care/ so there,” she announces in “Team,” almost directly critiquing club music. And, if we want to get specific, perhaps toward those Miley’s out there using “rebellion” as their staple in identity.
In fact, she fears that her identity may be ripped from her when she grows famous, which she isn’t playing dumb about coming into either. In “Still Sane,” she reflects on the works she has put into her newfound fame “All work and no play/ let me count me the bruises/ All business all day / keeps me up a level,” but ends the song with nervousness to what fame may do to her: “Only bad people live to see their likeness set in stone / So what does that make me?”
She aspires to become, as her album title suggests, a “Pure Heroine.” Her songs follow the electronica pop craze, but use the sound to entice listeners to hear her message above her catchy-beats and back up vocals of her own voice. “I’m little, but I’m coming for the crown,” she says in “Still Sane” she wants to claim the stage and push her message to the top. Self-conscious of her age and her talent, she has successfully claimed a spot in the music scene where she has left room for herself to grow into an adult.
Colleen Cummings is a third-year student majoring in English minoring in journalism and graphic design. She can be reached at 

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