When it comes to pop music, one of the most difficult tasks for songwriters and producers is to write songs that strike just the right balance between originality and familiarity. Recently I took a listen to Lorde’s debut album Pure Heroine, finding that it hit the sweet spot between these two extremes. As a person who usually doesn’t pay much attention to the pop music scene (and who would almost never buy an album that was ranked #3 on the Billboard Top 200), I admit I was skeptical. However, I assure you know that almost any dedicated music-lover, whose taste expands multiple genres, will have some positive things to say about this album.
First though, a bit of background. Lorde is a sixteen year old singer-songwriter from New Zealand. Raised in a typical New Zealand suburb, her father is a civil engineer and her mother is an award-winning poet. In true Justin Bieber fashion, she was discovered by an agent who viewed a video of her in a school talent show. Since then, she’s been working as a songwriter with Universal Records, though not releasing her first studio album until September 27, 2013. You’ve undoubtedly heard her single, “Royals,” which is the third song on this album: Pure Heroine.
Pure Heroine is a refreshing album for the pop music industry, combining elements of the genres of art pop, indie pop, electronica, and electropop. Its minimalistic, introspective beats provide a gorgeous backdrop for Lorde’s melodies and lyrics, which are often interspersed with lushly-arranged harmonies and counter-melodies. In fact, while much credit is due to Lorde for her thoughtful and reflective lyrics and melodies, the album simply wouldn’t work without its beats. Joel Little, the producer of the album, provides a key ingredient in the album’s success with his carefully-orchestrated backing trackings. While music like this is all over and isn’t hard to find, Pure Heroine is one of the first examples of such an album that obtained mainstream success.
While Joel Little’s beats were what originally hooked me in, a closer examination of Lorde’s lyrics made me take a second listen and love the album even more. She explores many of the typical themes of music by teenagers, for teenagers, and about teenagers; however, leaving it at this would be a misrepresentation. Lorde sings and writes with an introspective wisdom that transcends what is normally considered “teenage” music. Yes, her lyrics can sometimes be angsty and yes, there are things she complains about, but it’s all with self-awareness and with sagelike attitude. She sings about the boredom of suburban life, the materialism of popular culture, and the anxiety of growing up, among other things. Personally, the album gave me a decent shot of teenage apprehension (but it was beautiful apprehension).
In short, I haven’t found many popular albums recently that I can really connect with and be on board with, while digging the sound of its music. Pure Heroine is a notable exception that I won’t lose interest in any time soon. If any of what I’ve said about it sounds appealing to you, I highly suggest you take a listen.