Critical Voices: Lorde, Pure Heroine

October 3, 2013

Lorde isn’t old enough to drive. This detail is relevant not as incontrovertible proof that the New Zealand songstress is an astonishing prodigy, but because her songs are so concerned with movement: The shrinking distance between her and the world of fame and fortune, as she travels through her own unknown town on the back of a story she’s telling for the people unaccustomed to being the protagonists.

Cars, trains, buses, and planes are recurring devices for the alternative queen on Pure Heroine, presumably because they are so often symbols of class as well as literal vehicles of connection. On this LP, it’s impossible to forget that the singer is a child of the Internet age, dealing with the conflict between desiring approval and remaining faithful to her own enigma of an identity.

In “Tennis Court,” she begins by saying, “Don’t you think it’s boring how people talk?” Lorde touches on this theme repeatedly as she points to the noise and excess of pop culture, choosing to downgrade the glitzy facade and write what she knows: the quiet escapes of suburbia, the unglamorous triumph of teenagers dancing under the moon.

“400 Lux” is a gorgeous track, filled with the ambient bass and seductive beats that mark most of her songs, as well as indescribably poetic images: “We’re hollow like the bottles that we drain / We might be hollow but we’re brave.”

“Royals,” of course, is the minimalist masterpiece that brought Lorde to fame. It’s just the bare, percussive beat and the smoky depth of her voice, dismissing the allure of an upscale lifestyle. “Team” moves in the same vein, though it’s wrapped in thick layers of irresistibly catchy synths that accompany lyrics evocative of “cities you’ll never see on screen.”

Closing the album with “A World Alone,” Lorde transitions from anthems for her friends and city to serenading the insular escape of another person, ignoring the “fake friends” and endless talk. Despite her youth, she has a keen awareness of her own mortality, darkly acknowledging the “train wreck waiting to happen.” It’s that inevitable stillness, however, that gives the present motion its sense of euphoric urgency.

Voice’s Choices: “Team,” “A World Alone”


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