Wednesday, May 21, 2014

NZMM Day 21 – Lorde

My last few posts have talked about successful New Zealand acts, and that means that today’s has to be about the New Zealand artist with the greatest chart success so far, Lorde.

The video above is her global hit, “Royals”, which is also the first NZ song this month that I actually posted already (back in July, 2013). Since it’s her biggest hit so far, it’s the obvious one to lead this post.

Lorde, real name Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O'Connor, was born in Takapuna and raised in Devonport, both suburbs of Auckland’s North Shore (and areas I know very well). She’s the first New Zealand solo artist to reach the Number One spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and the youngest in 25 years. She was also the first female to top Billboard’s Alternative Songs chart since 1996—the year Lorde was born. She’s been rather successful.

Her first EP, The Love Club, was originally posted to SoundCloud as a free download in November 2012. When it hit 60,000 downloads, the record company decided it was time to stop. The official digital release was in March 2013 (and the CD was released in May).

“Royals” debuted at number one on the NZ chart in March 15, 2013 and stayed there for three weeks. On May 8, the EP debuted at Number 2 on the NZ album chart. “Royals” was released in the US in June 2013 and peaked at Number One, where it stayed for nine weeks.

The Love Club reached Number 2 in NZ and Canada, and 22 in Canada and 23 in the USA. “Royals” was Number One in New Zealand, Canada, the UK and the USA (and technically Number 2 in Australia). The song was 4x Platinum in NZ, Gold in Britain, 6x Platinum in Canada and also in the USA.

Lorde’s second EP, Tennis Court, was released in June 2013. The title track (below) debuted at Number One on the NZ singles chart on June 14. She also became the first New Zealand artist to have four songs in the top 20 tracks of the New Zealand Top 40 simultaneously. The song also reached 20 in Australia, 78 in the UK and 71 in the USA. It went double Platinum in both New Zealand and Australia.

Her debut full-length album, Pure Heroine, was released in September, 2013 and it included tracks from both The Love Club and Tennis Court. The song "Tennis Court" was basically the first new single from that album, and the second was “Team” (below). It reached Number 3 in New Zealand and Canada, Number 19 in Australia, Number 29 in the UK and Number 6 in the USA.

The album Pure Heroine reached Number One in NZ, and Australia, Number 2 in Canada, Number 4 in the UK and Number 3 in the USA. It went 4x Platinum in New Zealand, Double Platinum in Australia, Gold in the UK, Double Platinum in Canada and Platinum in the USA.

I mention all the chart positions and selling status (Gold and Platinum) on this post, as on all the others so far, to give some idea of how successful and popular an artist, song or album is. But with Lorde, the success tends become a bit of a blur.

However, there was also controversy. Some Americans declared she couldn’t possibly be 16 (her age when “Royals” was released), then others decried what they deemed to be the “sexualisation” of a teenager. Lorde has crafted her image the way she wants it, but it seemed to me the people “sexualising” her were often the people most likely to complain or, perhaps, exploit it.

The prime example was a major US gossip website that published paparazzi photos of Lorde and her boyfriend at a beach, then they made a lame video where the “staff” sat around and talked and joked about it and what the two supposedly could and couldn’t do sexually (by that time, she was 17 and he was 25). This was, at the very best, creepy, and certainly in very bad taste, but it was also so colossally ignorant that I started a blog post about it. Then I wrote a longer one. In the end, I killed the whole project because I didn’t want to help them victimise Lorde, and because I thought their whole slant was deeply offensive as well as pig-ignorant (no offense to porcine readers intended). A part of the original version that wasn’t about Lorde did survive as its own post, though, so it wasn’t all in vain.

The thing is, the people who seem to be complaining the loudest about Lorde, whether about her look, her age or some other issue, always have seemed to me to be projecting onto her. Maybe her pretty laid-back demeanour makes that easy.

In any case, I quite like Lorde. I bought The Love Club, then at Christmastime 2013, iTunes NZ gave away the song and video for “No Better” as a teaser for their annual “12 Days of Christmas” giveaway. That song was included on the extended re-release of Pure Heroine. But, so far, that’s all I’ve actually bought. I’d bet that will inevitably change.

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