Despite officially debuting in March 2013, it was not until late this summer that Lorde’s single “Royals” became a phenomenon in the United States. And even though she officially released follow-up single “Tennis Court” a few months ago, the North American music market is still discovering the debut single; “Royals” continues to build mainstream momentum and recently reached a peak of number three on the Hot 100.
Few artists will ever achieve that level of success, and most would kill for the “imperfection” of needing to wait six months for their songs to flirt with the apex of the Hot 100. One, indeed, would have to be pretty bold–and obscenely pessimistic–to spin a low-key, teenage New Zealand singer-songwriter’s meteoric rise to superstardom as negative simply because it took her debut single a few extra months to break in North America.
But one would have to be pitifully naive to pretend the story is without consequence.
Upon discovering “Royals,” few would be able to resist amazement at the singer’s confident, yet youthful attitude, stunning, yet restrained vocals, haunting, yet gorgeous harmonies, and simple, yet inviting production. And once they fell under Lorde’s spell, they would naturally want to seek out her other recordings.
That notion introduces the key issue.
It is not that the rest of Lorde’s debut EP “The Love Club” is anything less than stellar; all five songs collectively showcase the astounding talent of one of music’s most unique and exciting new artists. Upon listening, it is nearly unfathomable that one’s reaction would be anything but glowing.
But the near-perfection of “Royals” notwithstanding, “The Love Club”‘s most notable takeaway concerns Lorde’s potential. For all their strengths, the songs on the EP collectively and independently reflect a work-in-progress. They introduce a growing, evolving artist who is en route to taking the music world by storm. They speak to potential more than they do immediacy and thus do a disservice as far as introducing new Lorde fans to the true essence of her ability rather than capability.
Weeks, let alone months, can be an eternity for a determined artist, and the reality is that for all the EP’s quality, it, in no way, reflects where Lorde presently is as a musician. It, in no way, scratches even the surface of what she will be able to offer as she continues putting the pieces together.
One can see that with her follow-up summer release “Tennis Court.” Though not as radio-friendly as “Royals,” it represents a far more defined, complete piece of art than her earlier songs. It simultaneously mirrors the best attributes of “Royals” and introduces new, fresh elements to Lorde’s presentation. In existing more cohesively with her breakthrough single, it almost certainly aligns more precisely with “Royals” fans’ expectations for her “other” work.
Developed as Lorde continued to find and define herself, upcoming album “Pure Heroine” promises to provide even a more cohesive, more vivid window into the story of this brilliant new superstar. If successful, instead of providing context for the musician who composed “Royals,” it will an expansion of that musician’s taste, identity and emotions. It will provide a realization of an artist who, while still in the very early stages of her development, is no longer a work-in-progress but a star to admire.
Whether it delivers on that lofty expectation remains to be seen (the album drops on September 30), but a new track release from the album provides significant optimism.
“Team,” released September 12, achieves everything that works about her existing body of work–honest lyrical expression, unique melodic sense and vocal delivery, poignant rhythmic support–but does so in a more taut, more direct, more realized package of production.
In addition to reflecting the fast extent to which Lorde is putting it all together, “Team” also shows that Lorde’s unconventional vibe is not at risk of being neutered by an appeal to the mainstream. It, similarly, shows that punchier beats and more layered production do nothing to dampen her message; if anything, they enhance it.
The scary thing is that given the musicality, personality and savvy Lorde is already showing, odds are strong that a review three or four years from now will discuss how “Pure Heroine” only scratched the surface of what Lorde could accomplish.
But, for now, songs like “Team” suggest it will do the job of providing an organic, honest, unforgettable home for songs like “Royals” and “Tennis Court.” And that is an accomplishment few artists, young or old, will ever achieve.