The millenials, when not actually indulging in what they are accused of being (unthinking, lazy, and privileged), judge their age group much like the generation past their prime would do. It’s an interesting trend on the internet, 18 to 25-year-olds penning scathing rants about their own generation that is steeped in the myth of days gone by. And no group of young folk is judged more than today’s artistes – music is always better back in the day when you’re out of touch. That thinking is alright if you were a 40-year-old bitter manchild, but often time kids who never grew up with The Clash, Nirvana, N.W.A, Tupac, and other archaic pop icons would espouse the same sentiment (because that’d make them ‘realer’ than their peers).
This is problematic considering today’s pop milieu is ripe with young talents such as one Kiwi by the name of Ella Yelich-O’Connor, aka Lorde, whose music is arrestingly mature. We hesitate to continue that sentence with ‘for her age’, that’d be the sort of condescending thing an older person would say in which we just critiqued. Lorde is mature and smart because she is a 16-year-old who’s given the rights to be creative, something we’re sure other teenagers would prove to be the same had they been given free rein over their own thinking.
Hailing from the relative obscurity of New Zealand, Lorde was first discovered by A&R scout Scott Maclachlan when a video of her performance unwittingly fell into his hands. She was just 12 at the time. Immediately getting her signed to Universal, the label originally attempted to take control of her fate by manufacturing her pop trajectory with the standard formula of pretty girl plus gorgeous voice plus label grooming. Teaming her up with a group of songwriters proved to be unproductive though, it was only when producer Joel Little and her collaborated that something more organic grew.
Lorde’s personal taste permeates in the production of her songs, and Joel’s guidance eventually led to The Love Club EP, the record that propelled her name internationally. The EP established a sound that has a musical genealogy in the likes of Ellie Goulding and Lana Del Rey, but with less artifice than the latter and more maturity than the childish YA soppiness of the former. Lead single ‘Royals’ is a critique of wealth that was inspired by the fantastical and completely unrelatable opulence of pop stars – namely Jay-Z and Yeezy’s Watch the Throne and Lana. The rest of the record is no less precocious in their themes; suburban ennui and existential meanderings are explored. Latest single ‘Tennis Court’ cements her wit further with satirical lines such as “It’s a new art form showing people how little we care,” which relates back to our opening paragraph’s supposition.
She isn’t the sort of pretentious teen who would namedrop older bands and artistes either, Lorde grew up with full-on top 40 pop, hip hop, and current electronic music – even the two aforementioned acts that inspired ‘Royals’ were her influences. With fame catching up fast – she recently performed in the States for the first time – and alt. cred increasing – the likes of Grimes and Sky Ferreira have cosigned her – Lorde is very much still a Year 12 student in her hometown. To quote her; “A lot of people think teenagers live in this world like Skins every weekend or whatever, but truth is, half the time we aren’t doing anything cooler than playing with lighters or waiting at some sh*tty stop. That’s why [my music] had to be real.”
It seems like growing up young in the new millennium, absorbing current pop culture, doesn’t lead to vapidness after all. The young folks are fine.