Saturday, October 26, 2013

Review: Lorde - Pure Heroine

Lorde is just so tired of your teenage antics and vapid pop songs. Can't a girl feel connected to something with substance? Gosh.

That's how she opens up her debut album, anyway. Lorde wants you to know that she's just bored. She's striving for something with more meaning, but continues to only find trite mainstream songs that she can't see herself in. And yet, she fantasizes about the very thing she despises. She's desperate to see what's out there, and fearful of what she may be losing in the process — her friends, her city, and her innocence.

As everyone else, I've been jamming out to Lorde's "Royals" — which has enjoyed a very fruitful #1 run on the charts for quite some time — for a few weeks now. I only feared that the rest of her album would feel like a plateau in some sort of same one-note, soft-singing way. But recently, someone begged me to listen to the entire album. I'm very glad I did.

I've been playing the album all the time now. If you're a fan of "Royals," a song that has climbed the charts despite itself, you'll find the same intelligent and self-aware lyrics throughout this ten-track album. Lorde is confident and able to see through herself on Pure Heroine in a way that's refreshing, and, yes, a bit fun to hear her rally against most top 40 hits.

In "Royals," Lorde sings about how pop songs create a culture for youth to aspire to materialistic things. But then with just four lines ("Let me be your ruler / You can call me Queen Bee / And baby, I'll rule / Let me live that fantasy"), she flips it all on its head. She peers inside her own duplicity. A lot of Pure Heroine is just like that, just as three dimensional. It's, in a word, fascinating. And while Lorde is a master lyricist, there are no words for how she can take a three-minute track and turn it into a message about three themes at once. Heck, in the opening track "Tennis Court," she deals with teenage gossip and prattle, tabloid culture, the limelight, and losing her childhood. The same can be said for how she can take normal teenager lines like "Talk it up like yeah" and deliver them with such assurance that they're anything but bubblegum pop fodder.

Of course, she does spend entire tracks zooming in on respective themes. "Ribs" is all about the fear of gaining responsibility, as an example. But Lorde is most fun, and most compelling, when she's juggling all at once in perfect sync. Nothing is as revealing as when she adds a line like "I'm kind of over getting told to throw my hands in the air, so there," in pure Lorde-like chill.

Lorde begins by saying she's bored at people talking and she ends with realizing she's about to be talked about, and she welcomes the talk. Who cares? Their negativity isn't weighing her down. Lorde's just bored of you — and we're completely not bored of her. Not I, anyway.

The relaxed pop sounds and Lorde's breathy, assured vocals mixed with this hyper deep look into a teenager's journey through growing up and entering fame makes this somewhat of a standout. What's most illuminating is Lorde's ability to navigate the mature and the whimsy; there's a huge element of fantasy and make-believe on this album, as much as there is self-reflection. It's called Pure Heroine for a reason, the same reason she wants you to call her Queen Bee (and, in true Lorde fashion, it's a play on the subject of pop songs). Though "Royals" really feels like the sole 100 percent assured track, the whole album is worth a listen.

Download: "Tennis Court," "Royals," "Team," "Glory and Gore" and "White Teeth Teens."

Skip: None of them. But if you must, "Still Sane" and "Ribs."

1. "Tennis Court"
2. "400 Lux"
3. "Royals"
4. "Ribs"
5. "Buzzcut Season"
6. "Team"
7. "Glory and Gore"
8. "Still Sane"
9. "White Teeth Teens"
10. "A World Alone"

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