More than ze­ros

Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine - - NEWS -

It is four years since Ella Yelich-O’Connor last wrote for Sun­day. Back then she was 16 and rid­ing the crest of a huge swell of star­dom. Your gar­den va­ri­ety teen sen­sa­tion would prob­a­bly ex­press that ex­pe­ri­ence in words along the lines of: “I’m so grate­ful to my fans! You guys hum­ble me with your awe­some­ness ev­ery day. I’m just an or­di­nary girl who had a big dream. Never stop be­liev­ing...”

Six­teen-year-old Ella wrote: “Song­writ­ing is self­ish – I make mu­sic for my­self... yet the re­wards of de­cid­ing to write some­thing can keep an artist going for a life­time, can whip me across date­lines, throw me un­der lights... You could say it’s all a bit of a whirl­wind, but I hate those stupid clichés so I’ll just tell you a bit about what I do, and what it’s like, and if you want to use the word whirl­wind, or roller­coaster, that’s up to you.”

She re­layed per­form­ing a gig in New York and a New Yorker jour­nal­ist telling her af­ter­wards how he’d wit­nessed a sil­ver-haired man from a record com­pany point­ing to her and say­ing slowly to his friend, “lots of ze­ros”. The jour­nal­ist had added, “noth­ing but a spread­sheet with hair”.

There’s no doubt that over the past four years, the small, pale-faced teenager from Devon­port would have been cir­cled by many such sharks. Back in New Zealand, we all felt a kind of own­er­ship of Ella, or Lorde as she is known. We were all ex­perts. “What’s she do­ing?” I re­mem­ber yelling, when she was pic­tured arm-in-arm with her re­ported BFF Taylor Swift. “It’s wrong for her brand!”

But Lorde years are kind of like dog years. Even back then Ella seemed spook­ily and pre­co­ciously aware of the pit­falls of in­stant fame. “If I’d granted ev­ery sand­wich chain and skincare brand and com­ing-of-age block­buster use of my songs, I’d prob­a­bly be a mil­lion­aire,” she wrote. “But I’m ex­tremely fussy.

“Ev­ery step I’ve taken since I signed my devel­op­ment deal has been to en­sure I’m ex­actly who I want to be, per­ceived how I’d like to be per­ceived. Like I said, this isn’t the eas­i­est thing in the world.”

Ella is 20 now and about to re­lease her sec­ond al­bum, Melo­drama. It’s a fa­bled chal­lenge – the sec­ond al­bum and, as she writes frankly on page 10, she’s had some ter­ri­fy­ing mo­ments an­tic­i­pat­ing its re­lease and the world’s re­ac­tion.

But it’s also clear that the past four years haven’t chipped away at or dam­aged the self-con­tained, wise kid she was in 2013, when she pre­dicted: “I’m not a spread­sheet with hair; will never be.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.