Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O'Connor (born 7 November 1996), known professionally as Lorde (//), is a New Zealand singer, songwriter, and record producer who holds both New Zealand and Croatian citizenship. Born in Takapuna and raised in Devonport, she became interested in performing as a child. In her early teens, she signed with Universal Music Group and was later paired with songwriter and record producer Joel Little. At the age of sixteen, she released her first extended play, The Love Club EP (2012), reaching number two on the national record charts in both New Zealand and Australia.
"Royals" was released as Lorde's debut single in mid-2013, becoming an international crossover hit reaching number one in many charts, making her the youngest solo artist to achieve a number-one single on the US Billboard Hot 100 since 1987. Lorde's debut studio album Pure Heroine (2013) garnered positive reviews for her depiction of suburban adolescence; yielding the additional top-ten single "Team", it topped the national charts in New Zealand and Australia and reached number three on the US Billboard 200. The following year, Lorde curated the soundtrack for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (2014) and provided its lead single, "Yellow Flicker Beat", for which she was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song. Lorde released her second studio album Melodrama (2017) after a three-year hiatus, launched with "Green Light" as its lead single. The album debuted at number one in New Zealand and Australia, as well as topping the US Billboard 200. She served as an executive producer alongside Jack Antonoff. The record deals with themes of heartbreak and solitude.
Lorde's music consists of subgenres such as dream pop and indietronica. She has earned two Grammy Awards, a Brit Award and ten New Zealand Music Awards. In 2013, she was named among Time's most influential teenagers in the world, and in the following year, she was part of Forbes's "30 Under 30" list.
Life and career
1996–2008: Early life
Lorde was born Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O'Connor in Takapuna, Auckland on 7 November 1996, the daughter of poet Sonja Yelich (Croatian: Sonja Jelić) and civil engineer Vic O'Connor. Her mother was born to Croatian immigrants from the region of Dalmatia, while her father has Irish ancestry. She was raised in the nearby suburb of Devonport, Auckland with her two sisters, Jerry and India, and one brother, Angelo. At age five, she joined a drama group and developed public speaking skills. At that same time, Lorde was attending Vauxhall School and later Belmont Intermediate School. Her mother encouraged her to read a range of genres, which Lorde cited as a lyrical influence: "I guess my mum influenced my lyrical style by always buying me books. She'd give me a mixture of kid and adult books too, there weren't really any books I wasn't allowed to read. I remember reading Feed by M.T. Anderson when I was six, and her giving me Salinger and Carver at a young age, and Janet Frame really young too." Lorde played netball at a young age alongside Vauxhall classmate Eliza McCartney, who later became an Olympic bronze medallist pole vaulter.
2009–11: Career beginnings
In May 2009, Lorde and musician friend Louis McDonald won the Belmont Intermediate School annual talent show as a duo. On 13 August 2009, Lorde and McDonald were invited in for a chat on Jim Mora's Afternoons show on Radio New Zealand. There, they performed covers of Pixie Lott's "Mama Do (Uh Oh, Uh Oh)" and Kings of Leon's "Use Somebody". McDonald's father Ian sent both his home audio recording of her and Louis McDonald covering Duffy's song "Warwick Avenue" and his home video recording of the pair singing Pixie Lott's "Mama Do" to Universal Music Group (UMG)'s A&R Scott Maclachlan. In 2009 Maclachlan signed her to UMG for development. Lorde was also part of the Belmont Intermediate School band Extreme; the band placed third in the North Shore Battle of the Bands finals at the Bruce Mason Centre, Takapuna, Auckland on 18 November 2009.
In 2010 Lorde and McDonald performed covers live on a regular basis as a duet called "Ella & Louis", playing at The Leigh Sawmill Cafe on 15 August, at Roasted Addiqtion Cafe in Kingsland on 20 August, at The Vic Unplugged at Victoria Theatre, Devonport on 27 October, and at Devonstock in Devonport on 12 December. While working on her music career, she attended Takapuna Grammar School from 2010 to 2013, completing Year twelve. She later chose not to return in 2014 to finish Year thirteen.
In 2011, UMG hired vocal coach Frances Dickinson to give Lorde singing lessons twice a week for a year. During this time, she began writing songs and was set up with a succession of songwriters, but without success. At the age of fourteen, Lorde started reading short fiction and learned how to "put words together". She performed her own original songs publicly for the first time at The Vic Unplugged II on the Devonport Victoria Theatre main stage on 16 November 2011. In December 2011, MacLachlan paired Lorde with Joel Little, a songwriter, record producer, and former Goodnight Nurse lead singer. The pair recorded five songs for an EP at Little's Golden Age Studios in Morningside, Auckland, and finished within three weeks.
2012–2015: Pure Heroine and The Hunger Games soundtrack
In November 2012, Lorde self-released the record, entitled The Love Club EP, through her SoundCloud account for free download. After being freely downloaded 60,000 times, UMG commercially released the EP for sales in March 2013. The EP peaked at number two on the record charts of New Zealand and Australia. In June of that year, "Royals" was released as a single from the EP. The single became a crossover hit, peaking atop the US Billboard Hot 100 for nine consecutive weeks. Consequently, Lorde became the youngest solo artist to achieve a number-one single in the US with "Royals", since Tiffany's "I Think We're Alone Now" (1987). The track eventually won the 2013 APRA Silver Scroll Award, and two Grammy Awards for Best Pop Solo Performance and Song of the Year at the 2014 Grammy Awards.
In September 2013, Lorde released her debut studio album, Pure Heroine. The album topped the charts of New Zealand and Australia and reached the top five of several national charts, including Canada, Ireland, Norway and the United Kingdom. In the U.S., Pure Heroine peaked at number three on the Billboard 200, and had sold 1.33 million copies by 2014. Worldwide, Pure Heroine had sold 1.5 million copies by the end of 2013. The album was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Album.
The release of Pure Heroine was preceded by four singles: "Tennis Court" was released in June 2013, topping the New Zealand Singles Chart; the third single, "Team", became a top-ten hit worldwide; and "No Better", a song only included on the extended version of Pure Heroine, and "Glory and Gore" were released as the two final singles from the record, respectively. In September 2013, Lorde's cover version of the Tears for Fears single "Everybody Wants to Rule the World", produced by Michael A. Levine and Lucas Cantor, was included on The Hunger Games: Catching Fire film soundtrack.
In November 2013, Lorde signed a publishing deal with Songs Music Publishing, worth a reported US$2.5 million, after a bidding war between various companies, including Sony Music Entertainment and her label UMG. The agreement gives the publisher the right to license Lorde's music for films and advertising. Late that year, she started a relationship with photographer James Lowe.
In December 2013, Lorde announced that she had begun writing material for her second studio album. In June 2014, Lorde said that her second studio album was in its early stages and that, so far, it was "totally different" from her debut album. In the first half of 2014, Lorde headlined various festivals, including the Laneway Festival in Sydney, Australia, the three South American editions of Lollapalooza—Chile, Santiago; Buenos Aires, Argentina; and São Paulo, Brazil—and the Coachella Festival in California.
To promote The Love Club EP and Pure Heroine, Lorde embarked on an international tour, the first leg of which was held in North America in early 2014. She later announced the Australian leg, held in July, and the second North American leg, held in August. In April of that year, Lorde performed "All Apologies" with the surviving members of Nirvana during the band's induction ceremony at the Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame.
On 1 August 2014, Lorde performed at Lollapalooza again in Grant Park, Chicago. Lorde's set was critically well received, with Billboard selecting it as the fifth-best performance of the festival, while Rolling Stone deemed it the best segment of the Chicago event.
On 29 September 2014, Lorde released "Yellow Flicker Beat" as the first single from the soundtrack album for the film The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1; Lorde oversaw the collation of the album's content, in addition to contributing vocals to several songs. By her 18th birthday in November 2014, it was estimated that Lorde was worth NZ$11 million. In 2015, Lorde was featured on "Magnets", a track on Disclosure's second studio album Caracal.
In January 2016, Lorde purchased a $2.84 million home in Herne Bay, Auckland. At the 2016 Brit Awards, she gave a performance of "Life on Mars" in tribute to the late English singer David Bowie. According to Billboard, Lorde said she'd be writing new material in December 2013. While responding to a fan on her Instagram account in August 2016, she said that the record is written and they're in production stages now. In November, she posted a note on her Facebook account stating: "Writing Pure Heroine was my way of enshrining our teenage glory, putting it up in lights forever so that part of me never dies, and this record – well, this one is about what comes next. ...The party is about to start. I am about to show you the new world."
On 16 February 2017, her recording label, Republic Records, published a date of 3/7 under "Confidential Title" that revealed her much anticipated sophomore record, which later was cleared by the label. On 26 February, Lorde teased her new music in New Zealand in an ad with the dates 3.2.17 NYC and 3.3.17 NZ. Two days prior to the release, it was revealed that her debut single from her second album would be "Green Light". On 2 March, she revealed the title of her second album, Melodrama. Lorde released a new song from the album titled "Liability" on 9 March 2017. Lorde performed "Green Light" and "Liability" publicly for the first time as the musical guest on 11 March 2017 episode of Saturday Night Live. She revealed the 11 tracks of the album in May. The second single, "Perfect Places" was released on 2 June 2017. On 8 June 2017, the Melodrama World Tour was announced, beginning in Manchester on 26 September 2017, with Khalid acting as support for the European portion of the tour. The final promotional single, "Sober", was released on 9 June 2017, and the album Melodrama was released on 16 June 2017.
Lorde grew up listening to American jazz musician Billie Holiday, and soul musicians Sam Cooke, Etta James and Otis Redding, whose music Lorde admires for "harvesting their suffering." Additionally, she listened to her parents' favourite records by the likes of Cat Stevens, Neil Young and Fleetwood Mac in her early years. Among those records, Lorde deemed Rumours by Fleetwood Mac as "a perfect record". She cites the unusual vocals of Grimes, Sleigh Bells and producer SBTRKT as her prominent influences. Furthermore, Lorde names Thom Yorke as an influence for his "smart" way of using his voice, as well as Nicki Minaj and Kendrick Lamar for their "sassy" tone. Other inspirations for Lorde include Lady Gaga, Lana Del Rey, Grace Jones, Rihanna, James Blake, Yeasayer, Animal Collective, Bon Iver, Radiohead, Jamie Woon, Arcade Fire, Kurt Vonnegut, Laurie Anderson, Kanye West and Prince.
She cites rapper J. Cole and electronic music producers as influences, saying that she was impressed by "their vocals in a really interesting way, whether it might be chopping up a vocal part or really lash or layering a vocal". Katy Perry, Justin Timberlake, Bruno Mars and Sara Bareilles have also influenced Lorde vocally. Lorde also stated that she was inspired by the initially hidden identities of Burial and The Weeknd, explaining, "I feel like mystery is more interesting". She names her mother, a poet, as the main influence for her songwriting. In addition, Lorde names several authors including Raymond Carver, Wells Tower, Tobias Wolff, Claire Vaye Watkins, Sylvia Plath, Walt Whitman and T. S. Eliot as lyrical inspirations – particularly noting their sentence structures.
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Lorde's music has been described as art pop, dream pop, indie pop, electropop, and indie-electro. Multiple reviewers also note the influences of hip hop and R&B on Lorde's releases. In a review for Consequence of Sound, Jon Hadusek details the minimal production on Lorde's music "allows [her] to sing any melody she wants, layering them over one another to create a choral effect". Jason Lipshutz of Billboard shares that her works features deep bass rumbles, lilting loops and programmed beats. Paul Lester from The Guardian compares Lorde's music to that of Sky Ferreira and Eliza Doolittle.
Lorde is an alto; however, on "Royals", she performs with a mezzo-soprano vocal range. Lorde writes her music vocally and does not play musical instruments on her records or onstage. She states that her main focus is her voice, elaborating, "I don't play any instruments, so my voice needs to have the focus. My vocal-scape is really important." PopMatters's Evan Sawdey describes Lorde's vocals as being "unique and powerfully intriguing". Jason Lipshutz of Billboard praises her vocals for being "dynamic, smoky and restrained". Lester characterises Lorde's vocals as "sweet, sultry and sour", while James Lachno from The Daily Telegraph details the singer's voice as "twitchy electro". In an article for The A.V. Club, Kevin McFarland writes that "[Lorde's] voice is the alpha and omega of her talent. She has the presence and vocal development of singers more than twice her age. Her voice isn't booming or overpowering, but rather mystifying and alluring, both floating on its own in a sea of reverb and digital blips and awash in an army of chorused overdubs."
Songwriting and lyrics
Talking about her collaboration with Joel Little, Lorde said that Little's refining of her "raw potential to end up with [the music]" was one of the best aspects of him. She also views Little as "the only one who was working with electronic music in the way [she] was interested in at the time". Lorde details that her songs are shaped by her lyrics, which she felt as a "more cohesive way of working." She said, "I tend to start with lyrics – sometimes the seed of a song will just be a word that I thought was rad, one that summed up a particular idea I'd been trying to pin down." Nonetheless, she points out that the songwriting process of "Tennis Court" was different to how she normally writes a song: the lyrics are built on the instant music and beat.
The lyrics of her two first major releases, The Love Club EP and Pure Heroine, criticises mainstream popular culture. Lindsay Zoladz from Pitchfork noted that Lorde expressed her indifference towards modern-day's culture, further explaining that "Lorde has introduced herself to the world as someone who gives very few fucks." On behalf of Rolling Stone, critic Jonah Weiner also noted the typical themes of teen pop music, including "social anxiety, romantic yearning, debilitating ennui [and] booze-soaked ragers". Jim Pickney from the New Zealand Listener writes that Lorde's lyrics are structured in a short story manner and praised that her songwriting ability "combines unmistakably teenage confusion, curiosity and confidence with word skills beyond her years."
Lorde chose her stage name because she was fascinated with "royals and aristocracy". However, she felt the name Lord was too masculine, thus she added an "e" to make it more feminine. She described her public image as coming "naturally" to her. Her music is noted for the manner in which its view of pop culture is contrasted with that of her contemporaries, such as Miley Cyrus and Rihanna. Lorde is a self-identified feminist.
In a November 2013 interview with Q, Lorde expressed frustration about "certain things about music": "There are a lot of shock tactics these days. People trying to outdo each other, which will probably culminate in two people fucking on stage at the Grammys." Following the release of Pure Heroine, she also described herself as a "sex-positive" person, elaborating:
|“||People like to paint me in a certain way, but I'm a hugely sex-positive person and I have nothing against anyone getting naked. For me personally I just don't think it really would complement my music in any way or help me tell a story any better. It's not like I have a problem with dancing around in undies—I think you can use that stuff in a hugely powerful way. It just hasn't felt necessary for me.||”|
In November 2013, Lorde was included in Time's list of the most influential teenagers in the world, with Mark Metcalfe from the publication commenting that she was "forging her own path". In January 2014, Forbes placed Lorde on their "30 Under 30" list of young people "who are changing our world". She was the youngest individual to be featured on the list. In October of that year, Lorde was included in the list "The 25 Most Influential Teens of 2014" by Time. Featuring Lorde in its 6 September 2013 cover story, Billboard named Lorde "your new alt-rock heroine". Britney Spears is an admirer of Lorde, commenting that her music "[is] really different and cool."
In June 2014, Lorde released a two-piece make-up limited edition collection in collaboration with MAC Cosmetics, consisting of a lipstick titled after her debut album, Pure Heroine, and an eyeliner. She filmed a video for the Electoral Commission to encourage voter turnout of young people at the 2014 New Zealand general election, despite being too young to vote at the time. On 13 May 2015, a wax figure of Lorde was introduced to the Madame Tussauds Hollywood.
Awards and nominations
Following her breakthrough, Lorde won four New Zealand Music Awards at the 2013 ceremony. "Royals" additionally earned the New Zealand APRA Silver Scroll Awards in that year. At the 2014 Grammy Awards, Lorde received two Grammy Awards for her single "Royals" in the categories Best Pop Solo Performance and Song of the Year. She has also won two Billboard Music Awards, one MTV Video Music Award and three World Music Awards.
- Pure Heroine (2013)
- Melodrama (2017)
- Pure Heroine Tour (2013–2014)
- Melodrama World Tour (2017–2018)
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