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Album reviewBy Dana Moran | RedEye Sound Board“Pure Heroine”
3.5 out of 4 stars
Here’s how I know Lorde is going to be HUGE. Her first single, “Royals,” is already No. 3 on the Billboard 200, and she hasn’t even put out a full album yet.
Oh, and she’s 16.
If you didn’t know this going in, you might think Lorde—real name Ella Yelich-O’Connor—was somewhere in the vicinity of 25, with a few successful records under her belt. The New Zealander’s voice is gorgeous, smoky and mature, her songwriting devoid of any trace of fluff even though she’s tackling relevant teen topics. On the lead track, “Tennis Court,” she takes a dark, ennui-filled look at traditional high-school roles, singing, “Baby be the class clown/I’ll be the beauty queen in tears/It’s a new art form showing people how little we care.”
On every trip through “Pure Heroine,” I can’t help but circle back to her age and compare Lorde’s work with other teen female popsters. Miley Cyrus was 16 when she released “Party in the U.S.A.” and still sounds like an overproduced idiot today. Britney Spears was 17 when she recorded “... Baby One More Time,” but it’s pretty easy to guess how much of her own creativity went into that monster pop smash.
It’s not really fair to draw those parallels, though. Lorde is very much of her time, capitalizing on the current EDM movement by weaving a wave of electro through her tracks. It’s a testament to producer Joel Little’s restraint that Lorde’s vocal talents are enhanced by the back beats rather than overwhelmed. They enhance her loneliness and confusion, and at times make it danceable—the kind you do in your mind, eyes closed.
So forget Britney, Miley, Christina, Jessica, Mandy. There’s shades of Kimbra, Adele and Regina Spektor here in terms of pure talent, but most of all, when I think of Lorde, I’m seeing a glimmer of a young Fiona Apple. Hopefully as Lorde grows, she won’t be nearly as overwhelmed by her demons, but tracks like “Ribs” make me think she’s already all too aware of them:
“We’re reeling through the midnight streets/And I’ve never felt more alone/It feels so scary getting old.”
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