Review Summary: Lorde & Joel Little craft a unique proposition in the humdrum world of pop
Just cast yourself back to when you were sixteen; it’s a bewildering time of hormones, alcohol, mistakes and school pressure, never mind having to deal with the burden of an international recording contract. So can Lorde (Ella Yelich-O’Conner), a seemingly vulnerable sixteen-year old craft a cohesive collection of music that stands apart from the plethora of teen-star offerings that currently flood the airwaves?
Originally appearing on Lorde’s own Soundcloud account, Pure Heroine’s lead single Royals needs little introduction. Opening with Lorde’s now trademark warm, growling croon before breaking into an erratic, almost subconscious bridge “Gold teeth/ grey goose/ tripping in the bathroom”. Royal’s culminates its chorus’ soaring melody where elaborate Queen-like arpeggiated harmonies meld harmoniously with the subject matter, “That kind of lux is just not for us/ we crave a different kind of buzz”. Lorde recently said that she had a sneaking suspicion that Royals “might do alright”, perhaps the understatement of the year.
One major issue with modern pop music is the unfounded belief that more is in fact more, and crucially the more sounds that are heaped into your average three-minute mediocre radio tune, the more airplay it will receive. Pure Heroine turns this trend on its head. Production, courtesy of fellow New Zealander Joel Little replicates a simplistic minimal beat style which was first seen on work by Jamie xx and James Blake, however unlike the sterile minimality of The xx and the sometimes abstract nature of Blake, Pure Heroine has an intoxicatingly warm, but nervous, relaxed but unsettling tone to it, making the record utterly enthralling. From the disturbing detuned vocal distortion of Team to the soothing synthesizers of 400 Lux, Little’s production is exemplary throughout, immaculately encapsulating the intended target of every track.
Though Joel Little’s immaculate production is an utter delight, Lorde’s way with melody and more importantly, her Lyricism is truly breathtaking. Yelich-O’Conner welcomes us into her defenseless bubble, the world of an insanely talented sixteen year old who not only has the usual problems and thrills of the average sixteen year old but also the uneasy knowledge that her talent has the potential to destroy her life. On Tennis Court her inexperience comes to the fore, “Pretty soon I’ll be getting on my first plane/ Getting pumped up on the little things I bought”. On the post-dubstep gloom of Ribs, the banality of her family life is juxtaposed with her seemingly mature view of past relationships, “Mom and Dad let me stay home/ we’re reeling through the midnight streets/ and I’ve never felt so alone”. However, it is the minimal beat of Still Sane in which Lorde ultimately reflects on her role in the music industry and her unwillingness to accept fame, “All work and no play/ let me count the bruises-/ I like hotels, but I think that will change”.
Pure Heroine is a fascinating piece of art. Not only does it frequently flirt with sonic perfection, it is the opening up of a tract to the soul of an artist, tracing her vulnerability, worries and thrills in the hours leading up to her impending doom as a famed artist. Pure Heroine? I’m addicted.