Better known by her stage name, Lorde, Ella Yelich-O’Connor released her breakout album, Pure Heroine, on September 27, 2013 to critical success. Originally, the album gained success in Yelich-O’Connor’s native New Zealand, peaking at number one on the Billboard 200 for Australia and New Zealand. However, the success quickly spread across the globe as the album gained the number one spot in the United Kingdom and the number three spot in the United States; by the end of 2013, the album had sold more than 1.5 million copies worldwide. Although Lorde was only 16 at the time of the release, her album impressed reviewers with its unique sound and well-written lyrics.
The most striking aspect of the album is its simple relatability; the piece is aggressively suburban, remarkably hip, and delicately poised in such a way that it appeals to a huge subset of young adults. Lorde targets a primary audience of confused and angry teenagers who are just developing the sense of self-awareness that makes an adult, and she takes the opportunity to express mainstream culture in a refreshingly insightful way. She is representative of the group of people going through the adolescent angst that allows people to create so many powerful and formative opinions that they carry through adulthood.
Lorde first caught the attention of large audiences with the release of her single “Royals”—a testament to the difference in lifestyles that she perceives between the average person and the famous. She makes the discrepancy in lifestyles clear; “we’re driving Cadillacs in our dreams, but every song is like gold teeth, grey goose, tripping in the bathroom.” “Royals” is a forceful explanation of how the standard image of luxury is simply not attainable for the average person, set to a background of heavy, consistent bass and perfectly layered harmonies.
However, Lorde transcends aggressively political messages in later songs; much of the album is a simple musical reimagining of what it means to be young. In “A World Alone,” Lorde creates an incredibly tactile narrative of two teenagers falling in love. The song plays at the ostensible dejection of being alone with someone you genuinely care about. “A World Alone” is designed to play on delicate imagery and a careful, angry ideas of young adults. Gossip and backstabbing play an important part in creating the jaded, introspective voice that contributes so strongly to the character of Lorde’s music.
Also on the album is the song “400 Lux,” which serves as Lorde’s romantic interpretation of growing up in a suburb. The song embraces the careful elegance of “these roads where the houses don’t change/where we can talk like there’s something to say.” “400 Lux” is borderline poetic in its description of the careful art of seeming blasé, but is also ineffably approachable when the chorus resonates with the words that every young romance has revolved around: “I like you.”
The album created by Yellich-O’Connor proves itself to be gracefully cohesive in both themes and sound. Lorde has developed a keen awareness to today’s youth that makes the music she creates unique, and consequently Pure Heroine is masterfully crafted, immensely perceptive, and notably relevant.