LORDE ALMIGHTY!

Miss FQ - - Contents -

The mu­si­cal prodigy re­turns

t’s the first Mon­day in May and Lorde — hav­ing just per­formed at the New Or­leans Jazz and Her­itage Fes­ti­val along­side mu­sic le­gends Ste­vie Won­der and Tom Petty — is eat­ing beignets in her ho­tel room and lament­ing the fact that she’s miss­ing the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Mu­seum of Art’s an­nual Cos­tume In­sti­tute Gala. It’s a sce­nario that per­fectly en­cap­su­lates the para­dox of our most fa­mous mil­len­nial ex­port. Mid­night snacks ver­sus the Met Ball. Ac­ces­si­ble ev­ery­woman ver­sus A-list su­per­star. The thing is, the world loves a down-to-earth celebrity. Jennifer Lawrence trip­ping over her dress at the Os­cars. Emma Stone talk­ing about her “em­bar­rass­ing” Pin­ter­est board. Chrissy Teigen say­ing what all of us are think­ing all-the-freakin’ time. Re­lata­bil­ity is a new kind of cur­rency in show­busi­ness, which is why Lorde’s re­fusal to play the girl next door 24/7 is so in­trigu­ing, es­pe­cially given that, un­til four years ago, that’s ex­actly what she was — catch­ing the same pub­lic trans­port and us­ing the same cell­phone net­work as the rest of us.

Not that Lorde has for­got­ten where she came from. Quite the op­po­site is true — and more on that later. But as far as be­ing ‘our Ella’ (as in, Ella Mar­ija Lani Yelich-o’con­nor, her full name)? TBH, it feels a lit­tle blas­phe­mous.

Don’t blame us. Since her de­but al­bum Pure Heroine cat­a­pulted her to fame in 2013, Lorde has gone from an anony­mous(ish) Devon­port school kid to an in­ter­na­tional su­per­star with a com­bined so­cial fol­low­ing of nearly 17 mil­lion. A for­mer Bel­mont In­ter­me­di­ate School tal­ent show win­ner, she’s now a David Bowie-en­dorsed, two-time Grammy Award win­ner who has filled in for Kurt Cobain dur­ing a Nir­vana re­union per­for­mance, been nom­i­nated for a Golden Globe, at­tended the Academy Awards with BFF, Tay­lor Swift, been evicted from her record­ing stu­dio by none other than U2, and per­formed at Coachella mu­sic fes­ti­val three times — most re­cently on the main stage as a head­line act.

Through all of this, though, she has stayed true to her Kiwi roots. From her DGAF at­ti­tude in ac­ces­soris­ing her Valentino cou­ture gown at the 2016 Met Gala with a plas­ter cast on her arm, to the work ethic she showed in tak­ing a hands-on role in pro­duc­ing every as­pect of her 2017 Coachella set, to a re­cent In­sta­gram post of a dis­tinctly un­staged, half-eaten slice of tomato on toast ac­com­pa­nied by a cap­tion about her ap­pre­ci­a­tion of “do­mes­tic bull­shit” in a life spent “thumb­ing through room ser­vice menus”.

Weeks out from the re­lease of Lorde’s sec­ond al­bum, Phoebe Watt re­flects on the rise, re­treat, and re­turn of New Zealand’s mu­si­cal prodigy

In 2015, Lorde even bought her own slice of New Zealand, pur­chas­ing a house in the af­flu­ent Auck­land sub­urb of Grey Lynn (she has a young pen-pal on her street who she writes to when she can). And al­though her in­ti­mate, 20th birth­day din­ner in Novem­ber was at­tended by the likes of Kar­lie Kloss, Tavi Gevin­son and, of course, T-swift, there were fa­mil­iar faces from home at the table, in­clud­ing sis­ter Jerry, who reg­u­larly makes the trip to the States along with younger sis­ter In­dia, brother, An­gelo, fa­ther, Vic, and mother, Sonja.

It’s not a one-way flight-path. In early May, Lorde jour­neyed home to Auck­land to at­tend Jerry’s grad­u­a­tion. While in town, she spoke to Seven Sharp’s Toni Street about her glam­orous life. “Any­one who said it didn’t change them would prob­a­bly be ly­ing,” she said, adding that she can un­der­stand how her me­te­oric rise and self-con­fi­dence might rub some peo­ple up the wrong way. But she doesn’t apol­o­gise for her suc­cess. She sim­ply em­pha­sises that, where it counts, she’s the same per­son. “I see com­mon threads in all of my friend­ships, from my friends who are un­em­ployed surfers to my friends who are some of the big­gest mu­si­cians in the world,” she men­tioned by way of ex­am­ple. “I re­ally like to think that I could get all of those peo­ple in a room and they’d find some­thing to talk about.”

In this in­ter­view, as in count­less oth­ers, Lorde ex­pressed grat­i­tude for her New Zealand fans. She got the op­por­tu­nity to thank them in March, invit­ing them to play a part in her re­veal of ‘Green Light’, the first song off her long-awaited sopho­more al­bum, Melo­drama, out in June. Af­ter days of build-up, Lorde tweeted a map of cen­tral Auck­land with three lo­ca­tions marked — each one lead­ing fans to a dif­fer­ent in­stal­la­tion built around a dif­fer­ent song lyric. The next morn­ing at 8am NZT, ‘Green Light’ dropped.

Lorde im­me­di­ately be­came the num­ber one trending topic on Face­book and Twit­ter, rack­ing up two bil­lion Twit­ter im­pres­sions within 24 hours. One week later, the track had amassed 18 mil­lion Youtube views — a re­lief, one imag­ines, for the woman who told The New York Times in April that, in the days be­fore its re­lease, she was a to­tal recluse. “I couldn’t get out of bed. I didn’t want to be out in the world. It was so in­tense to ar­rive at this mo­ment of, ‘this is it’,” she said.

Off the tour cir­cuit (and thus, pro­mo­tion cir­cuit), Lorde was, to be fair, ba­si­cally off the radar for the ma­jor­ity of 2016, with even pa­parazzi im­ages scarce. It’s since been con­firmed that she was holed up in stu­dios in New York and Los Angeles and at home in New Zealand — the walls of her house pa­pered in a com­pli­cated sys­tem of colour-coded, lyric­cov­ered post-its which she would ar­range and re­ar­range in an ef­fort to phys­i­cally ‘see’ the al­bum take shape be­fore her.

A lit­tle bit mad, a lit­tle bit ge­nius, the post-its re­late to Lorde’s synaes­the­sia — the phe­nom­e­non of one sense be­ing ex­pe­ri­enced as an­other. In Lorde’s case, sounds ap­pear as colours, and this im­pacts her work pro­fusely. They’re also ev­i­dence of Lorde’s level-11 per­fec­tion­ism, and her ded­i­ca­tion to “push­ing past [the] clichés” of pop mu­sic — a se­ri­ously un­der­ap­pre­ci­ated skill, she told Times writer, Jonah Weiner, be­fore de­scrib­ing Katy Perry’s 2010 hit ‘Teenage Dream’ as “holy”.

“I have such rev­er­ence for the form,” she con­tin­ued. “A lot of mu­si­cians think they can do pop, and the ones who don’t suc­ceed are the ones who don’t have the rev­er­ence — who think

“I have such rev­er­ence for the form. A lot of mu­si­cians think they can do pop... but you need to be awe-struck”

it’s just a dumb ver­sion of other mu­sic. You need to be awe-struck.”

In the name of awe­ing her loyal lis­ten­ers, Lorde had much of Melo­drama pro­duced by Jack Antonoff, long-time part­ner of Lena Dun­ham (who, in­ci­den­tally, has been rec­om­mend­ing her favourite books to Lorde for years). It was a some­what sur­pris­ing de­par­ture from for­mer co-writer and con­spir­a­tor, fel­low Kiwi Joel Lit­tle, who Lorde struck gold (or should we say, plat­inum) with on Pure Heroine. Lit­tle has con­trib­uted a few tracks to Melo­drama but Lorde’s goal was to evolve her sound, and adding some­one new in the mix seems to have helped her achieve that. In the af­ter­math of ‘Green Light’ she dropped an­other song, the mood­ier pi­ano-bal­lad ‘Li­a­bil­ity’ which, in a hur­ried se­ries of tweets, she de­scribed to her fol­low­ers as “a strange piece of my­self for a lot of peo­ple to look at”.

“Jack truly pushed me to a place i’d never been with this al­bum i couldn’t love him more for it this song freaked & grossed me out at first…& i re­mem­ber my synes­the­sia was re­ally blar­ing in the ses­sion, this swirling combo of high school and re­cent and pri­vate and pub­lic mem­o­ries…felt like when i walk down the hall kind of drunk at a party and shut my­self in a bed­room to mum­ble some­thing happy or sad into my phone.”

It is per­haps in this song about grow­ing up — writ­ten post-breakup — that Lorde is at her most re­lat­able. We used to re­late to her en­vi­ron­ment — the generic, sub­ur­ban New Zealand streets that fea­ture in the mu­sic video for ‘Royals’ re­call­ing scenes from all of our child­hoods. By con­trast, we might never find our­selves cruis­ing around Los Angeles like in the mu­sic video for ‘Green Light’, but heart­break is uni­ver­sal. Not to men­tion, we’re all a lit­tle bit melo­dra­matic at times.

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TEEN QUEEN Can we just take a minute to talk about this ca­reer time­line? While most of us were #out­here jug­gling stud­ies with part-time jobs and de­cid­ing which house party to go to in what out­fit, Lorde’s past four years were spent per­form­ing to packed out are­nas, rub­bing shoul­ders (and mak­ing friends) with A-list celebs, walk­ing red car­pets and fill­ing her tro­phy cabi­net with some of the most pres­ti­gious awards the mu­sic in­dus­try has to of­fer. Proud doesn’t do it jus­tice — and of course we love liv­ing Lorde’s life vi­car­i­ously — so bring on

Melo­drama era and be­yond!

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