TEXT NATASHA STAGG
Read our exclusive interview with Lorde
“This video was borne from a dream I had a few months ago about teenagers in their own world, a world with hierarchies and initiations, where the boy who was second in command had acne on his face, and so did the girl who was Queen. I dreamt about this world being so different to anything anyone had ever seen, a dark world full of tropical plants and ruins and sweat. And of this world, I dreamt about tests that didn’t need to be passed in order to be allowed in: sometimes the person who loses is stronger. Enjoy.” —Lorde
We’re at an impasse. After years of rejecting sincerity, we’re ready for it again, and the youth are the most desperate for it, having grown into a host of communities as opposed to being introduced to one. Lorde knows this. She’s seen, from her New Zealand perch at 16, the harrowing dangers of overexposure. She sees now, from where she stands (everywhere from gossip sites to top 40 radio stations) that she is in the thick of it.
The popular route today is the pastiche. Detach yourself from your work and you can exist above it, a thought bubble that’s easy to reblog. Most other radio hits are collages of echoing dance tracks over era-specific ballads, Kanye’s rap repeating over mashed up tunes from the 50s, 70s and 80s, stadium DJs mixing vocals from country songs with heavy dubstep drops, and a megaphone voice coming through, announcing all the members on just this single’s team. Lorde’s voice, because of its slowed down confidence, is easy to hear no matter what crowd of today’s-most-played comes before it. Her songs, like the introspective song-stories of 70s Laurel Canyon songwriters, but really, more like the more even-tempered melodies on the Rolling Stones’s Flowers, are sincere in a way that just doesn’t happen anymore. The lyrics are about Lorde herself, but they’re about all teens, and especially the ones who aren’t rich and famous, and who never expect to be. (An ironic twist, of course being that this album has made Lorde rich and famous.)
In her newest video, Lorde keeps us on the same page she started turning with the runaway hit “Royals.” We’re looking at, as they say down under, povo teens being filmed by expensive professional cameras, and the singer herself, looking lost. The hierarchical world she dreamt up is one she’s living in. This world places the champion of anonymity in a spotlight she’s now determined to stare up into. Isn’t that the way it goes, though: you try to be an individual and end up clearly categorized, while those who just want to fit into a group become the leaders. “I’m kinda over being told to throw my hands up in the air,” sings Lorde on “Team.” I’m pretty sure she could tell a sold-out stadium to put their hands down now. They’re listening.