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We could discuss what there is to like about this sprightly, graceful, and highly satisfying album, un-ironically titled Pure Heroine. But then we’d be missing the point altogether. We’re better off discussing Lorde herself, the 16-year-old (something we mention out of obligation rather than interest) Kiwi Ella Yelich-O’Connor who corralled this wondrous volume of idyllic day dreams, fanciful short stories, and merry friends both imaginary and material.
“I started writing songs when I was 13 or 14, because I’ve always been a huge reader,” she says “My mum’s a poet and we’ve always had so many books, and that’s always been a big thing for me, arguably more so than music.” And it shows.
Unlike a Lisa Mitchell, who uses the realms of fantasy as temporary escapism, Lorde is fearless enough to exist purely in imagination. And while she often sings in a fey pixie voice similar to preceding literary heroine, Joanna Newsom, she thankfully avoids Newsom’s chronic whimsy — not everything on Pure Heroine has a cute face.
In her mercy, she also shuns Newsom’s quatrain. Lorde instead resigns herself to walking the narrow path of convention. What do you know? A poet who knows she’s also a pop singer! It’s about time. With every step Lorde takes, she manipulates the ground beneath her, turning the walls in on themselves, and though she toils gleefully in convention she quietly and nonchalantly subverts nigh every formula presented her.
How else do you explain the title? A less-amusing-the-more-you-hear-it pun. A linguistic twist, certainly beyond Lorde’s years (though not too far ahead), which speaks volumes about the artist herself. She’s taking her time to slowly rearrange the house that Britney built, until it looks more like the maze Lorde conjured into being through sheer force of imagination.
Set against a pitched-down boom-bap, on latest single Team she sings “We live in cities you’ll never see on screen / Not very pretty, but we sure know how to run free / Living in ruins of the palace within my dreams / And you know, we’re on each other’s team“. Though it isn’t strictly poetic, it’s still a welcome respite from the humdrum of a Lana Del Rey, to whom our hero was compared when the millennial excesses of Royals soared up the US charts. She later confirmed the inspiration herself.
There’s a genuine innocence on Pure Heroine. There’s nothing flagellant or bitter, nothing that could potentially cloud her crystalline prose. And any moments of sadness, while genuinely heartfelt and emotive – as on the somber, in-joke riddled insinuations of Buzzcut Season – don’t threaten to overturn the image of a dutiful Lorde, clad in her shining armour and sat in her magical, flying Maybach, both of which she could assuredly describe in exquisite detail.
We could discuss all the splendour and sparkle contained within the production on Pure Heroine, but you probably already know what you’re in for. We’ll let the words speak for themselves. Words like “I know you love it when the hairpins start to drop / I like your reckoning / But we got our methods and there’s nothing“, from the running-through-the-halls imagery of White Teeth Teens. And the impertinent declaration that opens the record on Tennis Court, “Don’t you think that it’s boring how people talk / Making smart with their words again, well I’m bored”.
Lorde remains pop despite herself, while breaking all the rules with a cheery, guileless smile. Set against a familiar electro canvas, she creates flurries of bookish, whip smart verse, written in a modern pop meter. We’ll opt to keep the focus on our porcelain, Advanced English Lit. doll, because what we’re really missing right now, more than a pop singer, is a poet.