Lorde - Pure Heroine Review
Posted by David Hayter on 10.10.2013
Lorde, the chart topping 16-year-old starlet, continues to astound by delivering one of the most fully realized and conceptually daring pop debuts of the new decade.
Lorde - Pure Heroine
1. Tennis Court 2. 400 Lux 3. Royals 4. Ribs 5. Buzzcut Season 6. Team 7. Glory And Gore 8. Still Sane 9. White Teeth Teens 10. A World Alone
“I’m kind of over being told to throw my hands up in the air, so there”, with that one line from the phenomenal “Team” Lorde savagely separated herself from her party-hardy peers, earned a standing ovation from a legion of music fans sick of Guetta-pop, and outlined the fundamental premise of her debut album Pure Heroine.
Lorde’s story is well documented. Spotted by talent scouts at the age of 12, she’s the closest approximation of Truman Show-eque, born and bread, pop star as we are ever likely to see (Gattican genetic manipulation notwithstanding). Despite this early indoctrination, Lorde won the world’s heart by defiantly separating herself from the sex, the drugs and the luxury brands that dominate both pop and hip hop culture. On “Royals” she stood alone as a resolute dreamer stuck in small town; who could fantasize, but never relate to A$AP Rocky’s champagne popping reality.
Finally, the Sinead O’Connor’s of this world no doubt screamed, a pop star who is not afraid to buck the trend. Of course, those who praised Lorde for what she supposedly stood for entirely missed the point. Over sexualization might be an essential teenage conceit, but so is so the stoic aesthete who rolls her eyes and refuses to take part, employing the unmistakable air of condescension. The killjoy, the stick in the mud, the pretentious wanker; Lorde is simply living out a different but equally contrived vision of teenage life.
The point, to put it plainly, is that Lorde should be praised to the high heavens, not for what we want her to stand for, but for the quality of the music she produces. Luckily for Lorde, Pure Heroine is set to join the echelons of the great fully formed debut albums. Not only has Lorde created a perfectly paced, sonically coherent, and thematically consistent record, but Pure Heroine is loaded with irresistible melodies and honest to goodness pop songs.
Unlike her peers, the experimenting hedonist Miley Cyrus and the remarkably comparable but romantically confused Charli XCX, Lorde knows exactly what she is trying to express. Across ten wonderfully succinct tracks Lorde is systematically tired, bored and over it. Deliciously teenage sentiments that speak to a young lady who feels intellectual above her surroundings. She retreats from both the tedium of reality and the excesses of modern pop to swim in a world of subconscious fantasy, all the while fostering a defiant sense of drive and romanticism her own existence.
In short, Lorde might be disaffected in the extreme, but she is ruthless in her ambition. Across the album she reflects on her ever-upward trajectory (“all work and no play, lonely on that new shit”). She’s moving at a different speed to everybody else, shaking off her dissatisfaction to look to the horizon. What makes Lorde so fascinating is, as she tires of celebrity and the meaningless talk of her peers, that she allows her façade to slip long enough to reveal some distinctly human touches. She romanticizes and disparages her suburban upbringing, she worries about how quickly she’s growing up while relishing her youth, and she broods with the coldness of 30-year-old soul as she keenly reminds the listener of her tender age (“Ribs”).
The last part of that equation proves the most distressing. It invokes a frustrated paternal/maternal instinct in the older listener – we know the best and the worst is still to come (she’s worried about getting older at 16, just wait till 30 and 40 are lurking around the corner!). It’s a testament to Lorde's character that Pure Heroine creates such an urge to tell the young pop star to savior the moment and embrace her youth - the conceit of course being that every teenager, not just Lorde, takes themselves deadly seriously.
Following the Lana Del Rey model but removing the misogynistic and materialistic fantasies, Pure Heroine not only succeeds on the strength of its melodies, but appears to exist in a crackling monochrome world of rich posterity and film noire angst. Much of the album thrives by juxtaposing teenage slang with a cool disinterested façade, but beneath the posture Lorde proves to be a remarkably cutting songwriter full of precise descriptions and touching sentiments.
“Pretty soon I’ll be getting on my first plane, I’ll see the veins of my city like they do in space”, “Your studying business, I study the floor” and “Where we can talk like we’ve got something to say” are lines destined to make young adults across the world fall head over heels for Lorde and her solemn pop vision. Of course, all this posturing would be worthless without the tunes to back it up and Pure Heroine delivers with “400 Lux”, “Buzzcut Season” and “Team” providing delicate, drifting chills.
If there is a problem with Pure Heroine it’s that it stays defiantly in the pocket. The entire album feels like the product of a slavish vision, every track drifts at a sumptuous mid tempo pace. This makes for a cohesive start to finish experience, but it rarely affords either harrowing lows or exhilarating highs. Therein lies the problem with disaffection – as powerful as a sigh or an eye roll might be, it’s still a display of icy detachment and they can only move the listener so much. The beautiful pacing and Lorde’s remarkable control of melody goes a long way to overcoming these limitations but, as much as Lorde may endeavor to elevate her postures and “real” romances, they still feel trifling.
I fear for Lorde. Where can she possible go from here? Pure Heroine is so fully realized that she has effectively painted herself into a corner. The trouble with being an ambitious 16-year-old aesthete, and such an old soul on young shoulders, is that Lorde can hardly now embrace the typical tropes of growing older. The drugs, the sex, the hedonism, are apparently no go areas. She’s already burning bridges with her peers and Pure Heroine is the kind of album that is destined to be cherished like a holy relic by her admirers. Any evolution or deviation from the credo outlined here will likely be met with a ferocious outcry.
Pure Heroine is a perfect artifact; a magnificent snapshot of estranged youth, but a fleeting one. Lorde is a girl of sixteen, she is in a constant state of flux and, tellingly, she has already stepped on her first plane. She can never go back to Pure Heroine but she will almost certainly have to go back on its every last sentiment. Say hello to hubris my dear Lorde.
The 411: Lorde is the ultimate disaffected teen. Rejecting the hip hop paradigms of drugs, sex and luxury brands, this small town girl is full of ambition and finds herself in search of sincerity, real conversation and a tangible fantasy. It sounds pretentious, but Pure Heroine is the perfect vision of teenager who feels older and wiser than her surroundings and too shrewd for her times. Lorde's debut album is thematically tight, undeniably cool, and packed full of magnificent understated grandeur. At times Pure Heroine is too pristine and too controlled for its own good. The product of a dictatorial vision, Lorde's debut affords few crushing lows and ethereal highs, and is devoid of enticing chaos. Where Lorde can possible go from here is anyone guess, but if her only crime is being too perfect, then she has undoubtedly done something very right indeed.