Lorde: Pop's Anti-Royal

Lorde: Pop's Anti-Royal

The Soulful New Zealand Teen Changed The Course Of Pop (And Took Home Two Grammys In The Process)

The Soulful New Zealand Teen Changed The Course Of Pop (And Took Home Two Grammys In The Process)

Photography: Inez & Vinoodh

Styling: Carlyne Cerf De Dudzeele

Who’d have thought a year ago that one of the biggest breakout pop stars of 2013 wouldn’t stand on jiggling, twerking, or a saccharine roar? No, this smarty-pants teen from the Antipodes instead merely crooned that she and her tribe weren’t exactly caught up in the culture’s material love affair. And yet Lorde’s “Royals” hectored us for months on end about our collective label fetish, and we loved it. Nine weeks at number one in the U.S., and four Grammy nominations (she nabbed two for “Best Pop Solo Performance” and “Song of the Year”), Lorde is a refreshing corrective to pop’s hedonist bent—but please don’t call her, as some have, “the voice of a generation.”

“Oh, come on!” objects Ella Yelich-O’Connor when informed that an NPR writer has just referred to her as “the Nirvana of now.” A New Zealander, and therefore, she says, cynical by nature, Yelich-O’Connor is well aware of the sort of reaction such hyperbole might provoke among the Cobain faithful. “I’m sure so many people will read that and be like, Fuck off!” she says. While the praise for “Royals” and the rest of her slice-of-suburban-teen-unrest album, Pure Heroine, is flattering, Lorde is quick to point out that most of the over-the-top acclaim has come from, well, older folks. “If that’s what people want to say, that’s okay, I guess, then fair enough,” she says. “But a lot of this is coming from adults, who are saying what I’ve done has had some profound impact. But for a lot of my peers, they appreciate what I’m doing, that there’s someone who’s talking about stuff a bit different or maybe more relevant to them. But I don’t know if people my age think it’s wizardry. They just think, Oh, okay, someone’s saying that. I mean, I wrote this record about my mates and my town and my life, and nothing more.”

It’s easy to forget her age. Given those preternaturally incisive lyrics and her tendency to shoot from the hip with opinions (an inclination that she has learned to dial back since headline-seeking journalists started baiting her about other artists), as well as the 1940s-Hollywood-meets-goth-girl features, the wild mane of hair, and the generally buttoned-up look, it’s all been enough to prompt some to portray her as an “anti-Miley,” an “anti-Taylor.” Lorde insists she’s not particularly interested in being “anti” anyone, even if, as she admits, she is demographically something of an in-between. “I have heaps of friends in high school, but I also hang out with a lot of older people. It means that I get to have these stimulating encounters with people that I idolize, which is cool.”

One such person is David Bowie, for whom Lorde performed at the Museum of Modern Art’s Annual Film Benefit, in New York. The event was sponsored by Chanel and also attended by Karl Lagerfeld, Tilda Swinton, and many other members of the glitterati. Altogether her success has created something of a paradox: the non-material girl who ostensibly has no interest in “that kind of luxe” suddenly finds herself rubbing elbows with red-carpet-walking royals. Chances are she’s even seen a few diamonds in the flesh by now. “Totally,” says Yelich-O’Connor. “You’re right, it is at odds with what I write about, and the reality of my life until a few months ago. But when I go home, I still do all the stuff I used to do. I dunno...part of me feels like it’s weird to just get sucked into that world.”

While she says she’s written a good amount of new lyrics recently—“stuff on GarageBand and shit”—album number two is likely a ways off. She’s wary of Lorde overload. “I want to let people stop hearing Lorde on the radio all the time and give them a little bit of breathing room before I unleash something different.” And, she promises, it will be different. Life has changed for the Kiwi kid, and will continue to do so, with her first proper tour, which launches its U.S. leg in Austin on March 3. “I’m a big believer in making a record that has a certain aesthetic and touring that record, and finishing that,” she says, “and then a kind of reinvention taking place. I like that. And I don’t think you can do that without giving things time to breathe.”

Credits: Makeup Jeanine Lobell (Tim Howard Management)  Hair Shay Ashaul (Tim Howard Management)  Manicure Jessica Washick for Deborah Lippmann (The Magnet Agency)  Lighting director Jodokus Driessen  Digital technician Brian Anderson  Studio manager Marc Kroop  VLM Print producer Jeff Lepine  Photo assistant Joe Hume  Stylist assistant Kate Grella Makeup assistant Setsuko Tate  Hair assistant sean mikel  Production Stephanie Bargas (theCollectiveShift)  Retouching Stereohorse Location Pier 59 Studios, New York  Catering Smile to Go


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