Pure Heroine and Post-Pop

Jenny Weng ’15
Contributing Writer

Lorde, with her number one debuting single, “Royals,” seems to have come onto the American pop scene almost from nowhere. The hit single by the New Zealand-born 16-year-old is not your typical upbeat, dance-y pop tune, and the rest of the tracks on her debut album Pure Heroine seem to be consistent with that description.

The first words Lorde (born Ella Yelich-O’Connor) sings on her album’s first track, “Tennis Court,” sets the tone for her music by introducing her subject matter, the life of detached suburban teenagers and suggests an album that isn’t quite pop but rather one that straddles a jaded and slightly arrogant reaction to the images of contemporary glitz and glamour while also paying homage to it. Lorde asks, “Don’t you think it’s boring how people talk?” and answers in ten songs in which she touches on the boredom, hollowness and apathy she feels towards most tropes of modern society. Lorde’s music hits, in a way like Frank Ocean’s “Channel Orange,” because it’s an artful description of teen ennui, of free floating-ness and independence, but without adult responsibilities looming overhead. The kids in Lorde’s songs and music videos cruise around, cut their hair and “play along” (“Buzzcut Season”) while still being “never done with killing time” (“400 Lux”). Lorde’s lyricism is strong and worth reading into but contrasts with her pop aspirations. It seems almost contradictory that she claims self-awareness in some songs, but has lyrics that describe music as a “new art for showin’ people how little we care” in “Tennis Court” and then has a chorus in the same song that seems almost flip: “Let’s go down to the tennis court, and talk it up like yeah.” Overall, the expression of teenage otherness and isolation in the scenes Lorde paints makes this album seem more like a slower Death Cab For Cutie variation on indie pop or alternative collection of songs.

In terms of beats, all songs are composed in a minimalistic style that consists mainly of Lorde’s vocals, occasionally features backup singers, and uses spacey, ambient synth sounds and bass drum rhythms to complement sharp snares or snaps. The young singer demonstrates her impressive range and at times, sounds similar to Lana Del Rey with a bit huskier timbre. The album starts slower and sparser, reminiscent of slower Frank Ocean and The Weekend tracks, and builds to become more upbeat but still maintains many minor chords throughout, very much like xx songs. Heavier beats start to drop by “Ribs” and “Team” while a more pop flavor emerges in “Glory and Gore” and “White Teeth Teens.” In general this type of sound ends up being the significant feature of the songs that keeps listeners interested without depending on a hook oriented song structure.

If Drake’s Take Care can be considered post hip-hop, is Pure Heroine a sort of post pop? Dance inducing bangerz will probably be around forever, but Lorde’s take on teenagers in a post-modern world might just be a part of a shift in contemporary pop music encompassing more concise lyrics over minimal beats.

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