Review Summary: Ladies and gentleman, meet your new queen of pop.
Out of all of 2013's pop smash hits, "Royals" may be the one that I was least expecting to get constant airplay. And that's not an insult, the success of "Royals" is baffling mainly because of how much more thought-provoking and unique it is compared to what gets popular. And to make things more impressive, she's only 16. A girl that young making such an intriguing song like "Royals" requires an immense amount of talent. Sure, Pure Heroine
(yes, with the "E") could use a bit of refining, but hopefully as her career progresses, she'll work out all the little bumps.
Even though "Royals" is a great song, it's actually one of the weakest tracks on her debut album. The main reason why it pales in comparison to her other songs is because of how minimalistic is it. Aside from some short electronic bursts in the background and the occasional clap, there's really not much going on, and Lorde's vocals are at their weakest on songs where she puts little to no emotion into her voice. Songs like "White Teeth Teens" are a little bland and do lack substance, but it's the only misfire on the entire album. Pure Heroine
's highlights all happen when she soars as she sings, injecting doses of personality into her vocals.
But when Lorde gets it right, god damn, it's just the best thing ever. "Team" starts with a talkbox-esque intro (a la the bridge of "Diane Young") and from there, it transforms into the perfect song with a great, infectious sing-along hook and excellent electronic elements to really maximize the vibe of the song. What makes the song stand out is its anthemic, feel-good chorus, one of my favorites of the entire year. The same goes for "Tennis Court": its electronic beeps perfectly meshes in with Lorde's soaring vocals, and its lyrics about her role in the music industry are pretty well-thought out. Even on more restrained, minimalistic tracks like "Ribs" or "400 Lux", she's still able to sound completely captivating. The former starts out slow and brooding before speeding up and transforming into a glorious reflection of childhood memories. It's got such an amazing build-up; the way the electronic elements keep growing until they're all released in one giant emission is just fantastic.
But even with all those highlights to back up Pure Heroine
, the best part of the album is Lorde's vocal performance. The album's best songs are driven by the sheer amount of personality she has in her voice, a personality that you rarely see in pop music today. The emotion that she injects into these tracks is jaw-dropping, and even more considering her young age. What's even more impressive about her is that she wrote every single song on the album. Some of these lyrics couldn't even be written by a good chunk of thirty-something year old songwriters, and many lines in this record are pretty amazing for a sixteen-year old to pen. That's why as the closing track, "A World Alone" fades out amongst Lorde's repeated chanting of "people that talk, yeah" (which, by the way, is a response to the opening line of the album: "Don't you think it's boring how people talk?"), I can't help but smile. This is just the beginning of her career, and it's already kicked off with a bang.