Pure Heroine, by Lorde
Suggested by Helene Walker
I know two things about Lorde.
The first is that she’s young. Pure Heroine, her debut multi-platinum album from 2013, was released when she was sixteen years old, which is, quite frankly, ludicrously arrogant. Sixteen?! At that age, kids should be riding their scooters at the park, drinking purloined alcopops and ciders behind the toolshed near the swings. And sixteen was the release of her album; she was originally signed to a major label at the age of thirteen.
I own socks older than that.
The second thing I know about Lorde is that she ‘s actually a forty-five-year-old geologist called Randy Marsh, hailing from South Park, Colorado. He’s not much of a singer; it’s all done in post.
When firing up Pure Heroine for the first time and encountering Lorde’s signature electropop, my first thought was this: “second-rate Sia.” The downtempo hip-hop of the opener Tennis Court allows the singer to adopt a touch of Sia’s vocal quirkiness in amongst the pulsating electronica and melodious synths. And while my comment sounds insulting, it really isn’t; every singer is second-rate in Sia’s company.
Lyrically, the tracks are surprisingly mature for someone so young. While I didn’t expect songs about homework or the mall or pocket money, I was surprised at the depth on offer. The chill ballad Glory and Gore is the most strident example of this intelligence, using bleak satire to compare the frenzy of celebrity culture against the tooth and claw of arena combat.
In isolation, the songs each have a distinct hook that helps guide the album through unexpected peaks and troughs. There’s the handclapping Teams, the military White Teeth Teens, the Caribbean Buzzcut Season, and the brooding yet exultant A World Alone. My standout track is, predictably, Royals, which is Lorde’s most impactful single to date. Apparently, Lorde wrote the lyrics to this chart-topping song in half an hour, and recorded it within a week during a school holiday, which again brings us to Lorde’s age, and is a neat segue into the my outstanding issue with the album
While I enjoy the creativity on display, I feel it’s caveated by the artist’s age a little too readily. It’s an accomplished release, full of genuinely strong tracks, but everything feels appended with “such a great song, for someone so young!” It’s as though allowances are being made when weighting Lorde’s talent against the field. She’s privileged enough being affluent, beautiful, talented and white, yet her insidious youthfulness stacks the deck further. She made hay well, mind, as Spring doesn’t last forever.
Overall, I can only offer Pure Heroine 5/10. It’s not without merit, but in a crowded arena it takes a touch more than youth and exuberance to distinguish yourself from the crowd. When it comes to the genre I’m no True Believer, and the rare occasion I’m in the mood for female-led electropop will see me finger the familiar over this in every instance.