Lorde

Pure Heroine

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Signed to a major label at an early age, she was groomed in the darkness of studios, the label knowing the potential they had in their singer/songwriter. She wrote on her own, then she was paired with a sympathetic producer/songwriter, live performances taking a back seat to woodshedding. If this story in the early years of the 2010s brings to mind Lana Del Rey, it's no coincidence that it also applies to New Zealand singer/songwriter Lorde, whose 2013 debut, Pure Heroine, contains all of the stylized goth foreboding of LDR's Born to Die and almost none of the louche, languid glamour. This is not a small thing. Lana Del Rey is a self-created starlet willing herself into stardom but Lorde fancies herself a poet, churning away at the darker recesses of her soul. Some of this may be due to age. Lorde, as any pre-release review or portrait helpfully illustrated, was only 16 when she wrote and recorded Pure Heroine with producer Joel Little, and an adolescent aggrievance and angst certainly underpin the songs here. Lorde favors a tragic romanticism, an all-or-nothing melodrama that Little accentuates with his alternately moody and insistent productions. Where Lana Del Rey favors a studiously detached irony, Lorde pours it all out which, in itself, may be an act: her bedsit poetry is superficially more authentic but the music is certainly more pop, both in its construction -- there are big hooks in the choruses and verses -- and in the production, which accentuates a sad shimmer where everything is beautiful and broken. There is a topical appeal here, particularly because Lorde and Little do spend so much time on the surface, turning it into something seductive, but it is no more real than the studied detachment of Lana Del Rey, who Lorde so strongly (and intentionally) resembles. Born to Die is meant to be appreciated as slippery, elusive pop; Pure Heroine seems to hint at the truth...but the truth is, Lorde is a pop invention as much as LDR and is not nearly as honest about her intentions.

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