What we talk about when we talk about Lorde


Without knowing Lorde, I'll admit that she seems likeable. On paper, a 16-year-old riding a hit single and already getting to share her artistic dreams to a huge audience is inspiring. Adding to that, the New Zealand native often mentions in interviews that her poet mother put lots of good books in her hands. An author she latched onto is short-fiction legend Raymond Carver -- a personal favorite.

"A writer is judged by what he writes, and that's the way it should be," Carver told the Paris Review 30 years ago. "The circumstances surrounding the writing are something else, something extraliterary." The author, who was probably not a fan of KISS, died in 1988. So we'll never know if a master of minimalist writing hears brilliance in the bare-bones beat of "Royals." Much as we agree with Carver's sentiment, it's nearly impossible today to block out circumstances far outside what Lorde writes when forming an opinion on her.

"In a perfect world, I would never do any interviews," she says in a Billboard interview. "And probably there would be one photo out there of me, and that would be it." Sounds intriguing, doesn't it? Aside from liking Carver, she's big on Burial and the Weeknd, both because they built up followings while keeping their identities shrouded in secrecy.


"Lorde courts enigma," Jason Lipshutz writes later in the piece, "harking back to the mid-'90s heyday of alternative dark-stars like Mazzy Star and Portishead that preferred to let their music do the talking."

We all know the talking that's going on in Lorde's anti-conformity anthem quite well by now. "And we'll never be royals," the Kiwi sings on the song that just reached the Billboard Hot 100's number one slot. "It don't run in our blood / that kind of luxe just ain't for us / we crave a different kind of buzz." What she craves and what she's getting aren't necessarily in harmony.

The single is now a staple of radio formats in the Twin Cities from 89.3 the Current to 101.3 KDWB, and the early chart success of Lorde is good business for her major label home, Lava/Republic. First-week sales of her debut album, Pure Heroine, are expected to easily clear 100,000 copies, and she just landed her first major TV appearance on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. On paper, these sorts of dollar-garnering figures are exactly what any cigar-chomping label exec wants to see, and exploit.

"I'm kind of over gettin' told to throw my hands up in the air," she sings on "Team." If she's really this self-aware about her unique and cliche-flauting status in pop, she should get a tighter hold on another team -- her marketing team.

This week, her label announced a campaign slapping a crude advertisement for Pure Heroine onto of the most mass-produced items a person can own.

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