Our Lorde confesses
I’m no good at being famous
It’s past midnight on a Friday in the Mojave Desert, east of Los Angeles, and 200 Lorde fans are surprisingly calm as they wait for the Kiwi pop star to appear.
Many don’t look much older than the 20-year-old singer, whose debut single “Royals” hit number one in New Zealand in 2013 before going on to top charts all over the world.
Since PureHeroine, the Grammy-nominated album that followed, fans have been patiently waiting for new music. Two tracks – the party anthem “Green Light” and piano ballad “Liability” – from her upcoming record
Melodrama finally arrived in March and already these listeners know all the words. Waiting another three hours doesn’t seem so bad.
The fans are queuing politely outside Pappy & Harriet’s, a honky-tonk bar near Joshua Tree National Park that has become a go-to location for small surprise gigs from big stars like Sir Paul McCartney. The $29 tickets to tonight’s show sold out less than a minute after Lorde posted a link to her 4.8 million Twitter followers earlier in the day.
Songs & secrets
When the concert-goers are inside the venue and the singer appears on stage, she’s in Adidas trainers and a long metallic mesh dress that reveals black high-waisted knickers and a matching strapless bra. Lorde says hello and the screams shake the wooden floorboards.
“Why was it so long?” a young woman wails in the crowd. The Kiwi star replies, “Listen, we’ll get to that.” But
had already heard what Lorde has been up to on her three-yearthree year break between albums – because we’d had tea with her the previous morning in the famed Hollywood hotel Chateau Marmont, where she likes to swim in the pool every morning. “Yes, very clichéd,” she acknowledges.
Lorde – whose real name is Ella Yelich-O’Connor – has got used to the hotel life. She’s been living in them for the past 18 months while working on Melodrama in New York. Home is still Auckland, where she hangs out with her old friends, many of whom are now at university or working entry-level jobs. The United States, she says, is “my office”.
That office has changed a bit since the release of PureHeroine. “Royals”Royals may have dismissed the trappings of celebrity culture, but these days, “that kind of luxe” is part of her life. Now she is dressed by Valentino, ensconced in Taylor Swift’s girl gang, and photographed out in Paris with Kanye West and on New York dinner dates with
Girls star Lena Dunham. To quote her hit song “Team”, how does it look to her teenage fans who still “live in cities you’ll never see on screen”? Laughing, she replies, “I am not a good famous person. I am a writer – that is what I am good at. I can build stuff and
sing stuff, but I am not good at selling the dream.
“I don’t look like magic when I get out of the car. Some people tell their story through these photos, but that is truly not my strength...
“I love the fact that I can go play before the headliner at Coachella and then I can be like, ‘Bye-bye, I am going to New Zealand!’” The parties that inspired
Melodrama, she says, were not glitzy galas in New York but mostly nights out with her mates in Auckland, where she’s bought a house and lives happily alone.
“I make work in every room of my house – I can feel it spread out.” She wrote the word “beauty” on one side of her kitchen wall and “terror” on the other, then stuck pictures and poems on the spectrum.
Work on Melodrama began last year, when Lorde met Lena’s partner Jack Antonoff, a 33-yearold songwriter and producer, and thought, “Yes, this is someone I want to go on into this strange new world with.” They worked in his home studio in Brooklyn for months, crafting songs that tell “the story of the last two fluorescent years of my life”.
It is also, in many ways, the story of her growing up.
She suffered her first big heartbreak in late 2015, when she broke up with her boyfriend, photographer James Lowe, who had been a fixture in her life since before “Royals”.
Then there was the pressure of following up from the Pure
Heroine album, which went on to sell five million copies. Her fans – and her label, surely – have been hungry for another album.
Artist at work
How has she coped with the high expectations? “From the outside, it probably looked like there was a lot of energy directed at me about putting this out, but I was very detached from that,” she insists. “No outside pressure could ever be as intense as the knowledge I had that it had to be good at any cost. I really am so in conversation with myself when it comes to my work. I am the only critic I truly trust. I am constantly battling to impress and surprise myself.”
When she hasn’t been immersed in the final details of the record, Lorde has been listening to Paul Simon’s
Graceland, his seventh solo album, released in 1986 when he was 44. “I used to be terrified of turning 25 because everyone put so much value in me being 16,” she says. “And all of a sudden, you’re like, ‘Am I still going to be precious when I’m 21?’” Ultimately, though, Lorde is over that concern.
She’s excited – not just about her new album, but also about the kind of music she’s going to be able to make when she is 44.
Lorde explains, “You take this step into an adult world and you’re like, ‘What’s all this like?’ Then you realise that 40-year-olds don’t have their s*** together either. Everyone is still figuring it out.”
“Green Light” to greatness! But Lorde confesses, “I’m not a good famous person.”
“I am the only critic I truly trust,” confides the singer. “I am constantly battling to impress and surprise myself.” The Kiwi star (with her mum Sonja) rocks out at the Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas.