Auckland’s best-kept secret is out. Lorde, the mysterious effigy that swept the summer charts with the bass-thumping single 'Royals' projects an impressive array of lyrical and vocal prowess in her debut album, "Pure Heroine." While most find her 16-year-old maturity shocking, it should come as no surprise for a girl who has been writing and developing her sound since the age of 12. She’s a teen who grew up a little too fast and, like many other young misfits, she calls out all the faux glam and glory in today’s pop culture.
'Royals' is a testament to that disillusionment and whether she likes it or not, her gritty, no lux-loving hit sits on the top of the charts. Although the content of the rest of the album remains cunningly rebellious, the other songs don’t live up to the pop-worthy elements in 'Royals.' That isn’t to say that they aren’t praiseworthy—instead, they intimate a much more talented artist in the works.
'Tennis Court' is lyrically gripping. Whereas she rejected fame in 'Royals,' she mocks it in 'Tennis Court' after, of course, having tasted it. Lines like "How can I f**k with the fun again, when I’m known,” as well as her sneering little laugh, reveal a youthful side to Lorde. The song, with its minimal beats and flippant vocals, calls forth Lana Del Rey comparisons.
Whereas Lana Del Rey gained her regal status by purposefully lowering her register and using sex appeal, Lorde assumes goddess potential without any of Lana’s baggage. 'Ribs' is Lorde’s crowning moment. The vocal layering accompanies Lorde’s deep and almost chilling melodies brilliantly. Her producer, Joel Little, captures a nearly flawless vocal mix that fills in the spaces of a rather sparse arrangement. The panning of Lorde’s vocals creates a reverberating halo, and this simple yet powerful looping effect turns so many of her other songs into gold. 'Buzzcut Season,' an otherwise forlorn track, features gorgeous vocal loops. The vulnerability in her voice evokes fairytale-esque images that become increasingly melancholy as she repeats the line, “I’ll never go home again.”
Among other standouts is 'Team,' a fist-pumping anthem for all who identify themselves as outsiders (in spite of her confession, “I’m kind of over getting told to throw my hands up in the air”). Consistent with this outcast perspective, Lorde wraps up the album with a claim of being immune to or at least detached from today’s overriding pop culture. 'A World Alone' features a solid mix of beats that create a dizzying effect but nonetheless fall short of producing an effortless dance track.
Lorde’s entrance into today’s market of overproduced pop hits is, without question, notable. While her preceding "Love Club" EP suggested more potential chart-topping hits, "Pure Heroine" is not without its merits. While a bit sluggish at first, the album sheds light on a new layer of her gifted artistry with each listen. With so many years ahead of her, Lorde is sure to deliver many more lyrical and melodic stunners.