Pure Heroine by Lorde (2013) ALBUM REVIEW


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These are my written notes for my album review of Lorde's debut album entilted "Pure Heroine"

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Pure Heroine by Lorde (2013) ALBUM REVIEW

  1. 1. Pure Heroine by Indie-pop artist Lorde. This album was released in September 27th 2013; it is her debut studio album. Artist Background Lorde, whose legal name is Ella O'Connor, was born on November 7th 1996 in New Zealand. Lorde’s love of acting and singing started at a very young age, (age 5), she followed her friend into drama club. In 2009, while attending Belmont Intermediate School, Lorde and her friend Louis McDonald participated in and won the school talent show. After seeing her performance at the talent show, McDonald's father sent out recordings of Lorde covering Duffy's “Warwick Avenue” and Pixie Lott's “Mama Do”. At the age of 13, Lorde was signed by an A&R scout to Universal; and at the age of 14 she began working with songwriters. Lorde’s debut EP, The Love Club was released on March 8th of 2013 Time Magazine placed Lorde on their list of The 16 Most Influential Teens of 2013. General Musical & Genre Influences Pure Heroine is similar to The Love Club EP, because of its genre influences that include art pop, dark wave, electronica, synthpop, and electropop. Lorde musical influences include soul musicians Etta James and Otis Redding, Cat Stevens, Neil Young and Fleetwood Mac as well as Grimes, the band Sleigh Bells, (because of the unusual vocals),as The Weekend, James Blake. o She also credits her knowledge of sentence structure for short story writers Raymond Carver, Wells Tower, Tobias Wolff and Claire Vaye Watkins. Album Background The lead single “Royals”, topped the charts in Canada, Ireland, United Kingdom, United States and allowed Lorde to became the first solo New Zealand act to summit Billboard's Hot 100 chart and the youngest to do so since Tiffany's 1987 single "I Think We're Alone Now". “Tennis Court” and “Team” were released as the second and third singles from the album shortly after its release.
  2. 2. Track by Track Review: 1. Tennis Court - This track starts off the album on a solid note. It starts out with an interesting slower paced and simple “spacey” drum machine beat, that reminds me of The xx’s “Together, that travels through the song, setting the tone. The song seems to pick up speed during the chorus as Lorde’s methodically descriptive vocals are placed over a pounding synth/bass line to create an extremely catching song. The song meaning, which is at times seems to features burst of poetry (with the lyric "Pretty soon I'll be getting on my first plane/ I'll see the veins of my city like they do in space"), are capped off by some drawn out “Yeah” exclamations, seems to be about Lorde’s rapidly changing lifestyle, while still acknowledging her youth with the lyric “I am only as young as the minute is”. 2. 400 Lux – I will admit that I wasn’t the biggest fan of this song when I first heard it. This song starts with a delayed synth/bass pairing that gives the song an overall chill vibe. The contrast between the instrumentation and vocals are interesting to me; the instrument has a upbeat feel , with some oversized bass and percussion backbeats while the lyrics seems to suggest of a bittersweet meaning of enjoying time with a loved one and not wanting them to leave this moment. 3. Royals – This is the first single off of the album that I heard back on iTunes in March of this year. This song, unlike every other track on this album, opens with some very relaxed instrumentals that seems to quickly go silent, leaving the track with a very spacious and “spacey” feeling. Leaving only the occasional synth inspired beat, which includes a quiet kick drum and snaps, to break through the created atmosphere. o The vocals on this track really caught my attention as well, because of the full musical combination of personality, harmonization and overall beauty comes together, especially when “featured” against the “spacey” instrumentation of the chorus. o Lyrically this song meaning seems to be geared towards today’s society, both in and out of music that live these glamorous, excessive lifestyles. As the song continues we learn that while Lorde and her friends find this lifestyle fake in real life, they dream of having this excessive lifestyle as well. 4. Ribs – This track starts out with an interesting layered opening that seems to build up and get increasing louder just before quickly fading off as the vocals begin. It is then that a hammering baseline along with some extremely light production and intermittent drum beat are placed below the lyrics to create an insanely catchy beat that seems to flow very well with the dark/depressed lyrical content of the song. o Although, Lorde is very smart for her age (as we’ve seen already on this album, as she is very critical of today’s society, even hinting at themes of excess and loneliness) we are reminded by this song that she is still a teen; This can be seen multiple times throughout this song with mentions of her mother and father as well as a the line, “We'll laugh until our ribs get tough”/” That will never be enough”, which seems to be suggesting that maybe she misses the “good ole days” when she could just hang out with her friends and laugh and/or just enjoy the good times.
  3. 3. 5. Buzzcut Season – This song is probably my favorite on this album. From the start this song has a relaxed feel, thanks to a groovy, almost dream-like instrumental opening, that travels through the song and actually seems to get louder and catchier when accompanied by the intermittent kick drum during the chorus. To me the instrumentation during the chorus seems to be built around and therefore showcase Lorde’s spectacular vocals. o The lyrics on this track see Lorde intelligently commenting on different flaws of society as she sees them, such as feeling alone/abandoned (“I live in a hologram with you”) and war (“explosions on TV”). 6. Team –This song is the second and newest single to come off of this album. It starts out with a slower-paced dark vocal and kick drum opening that really seems to drive the songs overall groove and help it become one of the albums upbeat “bangers”. The tempo of the song changes to a rather upbeat style in which some bouncy sythn beats and drum pairing seem to once again work perfectly to showcase both Lorde’s dark writing and singing ability, similar to Jukebox The Ghost. o Lyrically the song gives off a very catching, fun vibe as Lorde yet again seems to take a stab at not only today’s popular “pop” music and particularly Miley Cyrus with the lyric “I'm kind of over getting told to throw my hands up in the air, so there”. Lorde also seems to be warning today’s teens of about the important of personal relationships and sticking together in high maintenance society/world, as is explained during the main chorus of the song. 7. Glory and Gore – This song might be the most restrained track on the album. It seems to reintroduce the listener to elements of electro pop and “chill wave”, that were used earlier on the album on the song “Royals”. This song starts out slow with some “spacey” instrumentation that builds up to the songs main chorus where Lorde’s great vocals are showcased with the use of light hip hop inspired sythn beats, pounding electronic drum beats, and great backing vocals. As the song come to a closes the vocals are backed by a cool sounding solo drum beat. o Lyrically this song is filled with great hooks and catchy at the same time as Lorde seems to be referencing society’s obsession with violence. 8. Still Sane – This track starts out with some more slower paced “airy” instrumentals that are placed over Lorde’s slightly restrained yet “smokey” sounding vocals, that remind me a lot of Adele except these are full of attitude. o Lyrically we see Lorde honestly addressing her “all work and no play" teenage years, as well as her recently found mainstream pop chart success. During the chorus we also see her questioning how long she will be “still sane” and actually still enjoy the fame,touring,hotels and crowds ; that doubt seems to be a shot at today’s “executive controlled” music industry, in which artists are basically touring year around. 9. White Teeth Teens – This song opens with a slow-paced vocal intro that, with the help of some interesting choir inspired background vocals, which gradually flows into the upbeat and energetic chorus, in which Lorde’s vocals seem to bounce along the bright, cheerful chords. o Lyrically I believe this song begins by generally describing today’s youth as preppy, Hollywood obsessed teens that just want to fit the re-written media definition of
  4. 4. perfection, which seems to include having not only the best materialistic goods (such as the hottest cars, electronics, clothes electronics), but also having the best lifestyle, (such as having the “whitest teeth”, starting and becoming the center of drama, or simply being the most popular.) As the song progresses we see that Lorde doesn’t and isn’t comfortable with thinking of herself as a White Teeth Teen (“rich kid”), rather she is more comfortable hanging with her normal, everyday friends. 10. A World Alone – This track finishes off this solid album on a high and somewhat different note. This difference can be seen from the start with a slow acoustic guitar and vocal paired opening that gradually flows into the main chorus, where it is first accompanied by some bell and whistle backbeats until about halfway through the chorus when the instrumentation turns into the chatter of talking people that seems to get increasing louder as the song draws to a close and ends abruptly with Lorde proclaiming “Let Them Talk”. o Lyrically this song sees Lorde claiming that she is sick of people complaining all the time over their everyday “problems”, such as work. As the song comes to a close, we see Lorde commenting on the current hot button social issues of backstabbing, and the wide-spread bullying epidemic; all of which is referenced in the lyrics “All the double-edged people and schemes.”/” People are talking, people are talking”. Favorite Songs: Royals, Buzzcut Season, Team, Glory & Gore, White Teeth Teens, A World Alone What I liked:  Production I believe the production of this album has really played a part in why this album has been commercially successful. I say this is because of how stripped down yet detailed the instrumentation sounds with deep bass lines, energetic loops and heavy synth beats that seem to power the album by creating a track by track flow, while still showcasing and building around Lorde’s amazing vocals with the use of different instrumentation or “backdrops” depending on the mood and lyrical content of each song. o The first half of the album featured some heavier more mysterious, shadowy, “spacey” instrumentations, similar to something that would come off a “The XX” album, expect that the song meaning were more critical and overall have a negative feeling. o On the second half of the album the instrumentation seems to be somewhat muted in order further showcase Lorde vocals. With that being said this half still features “spacey” instrumentation but on a lesser scale, as some different instruments and backbeats, such as a horn, bells, whistles, drums, and an acoustic guitar were used to add a different element to the more personal/darker tracks. (As seen especially on ”Buzzcut Season” ,“Team” ,“Glory and Gore” and “Still Sane”.)
  5. 5.  Lyrics: Lorde seems to use smart, insightfully descriptive and often edgy lyrics to express her own witty opinion on some of today’s major issues in society: such as living in a world full of excess (“Royals”) the issue of bullying or simply feeling alone in the world (“A World Alone”). o This half of the album seems to showcases not only Lorde’s writing ability, but her ability to step out of the box as an artist to create music that can both send a message to a listener (causing them to think and change their actions), while also becoming the next set of radio-friendly hits. o While Lorde seems to be very critical for her young age during the first half of the album, its rather obvious that Lorde just wants to be a normal teenage kid, this can be seen on the second half of the album with a mix of both energetic, “bangers”, in which Lorde talks about partying/hanging out with friends and painfully honest, sometimes songs about her fears of growing up (“Ribs”) and her fears/warning about growing up in today’s messed up society (“Team”) . All of this seems to be placed around the central idea of adjusting her life around her recent mainstream success.  Vocals: It is clear to me that this album was built to showcase Lorde’s stellar vocals as the strong lyrics, production, and instrumentation really stood out to me. As her vocal performance is full of personality, as can be seen both on this record with the backing vocals but also during a live performance, when she seems to becomes emotionally tied to the music. To Recap: Overall I believe that this record has generally lived up to the same level of hype as her debut EP “The Love Club”. As this debut pop album features a combination of smart and witty lyrics, that see Lorde drawing inspiration for her youth and she comments a lot of popular culture and current issues. As well as fine production (although I wish it was heavier and louder at points), that reminds of The XX, and amazing vocals, that are feel are full of personality and remind me of Lana Del Rey at points. It also seems to me that Lorde is trying to innovate music back to its glory days of the 1990’s and 2000’s when the songs had actual meaning, instead of the generic meanings we hear on the radio today; as opposed to her being conceded because of here opinioned lyrics and select shots at fellow pop music stars Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus; as some other online reviews seem to suggest.
  6. 6. Production & Vocals I believe the production of this album is really what sets it apart from any other debut albums of the last couple years. The major reason I say this is because of the way the deep bass lines, energetic upbeats loops and heavy programmed beats seem to showcase Lorde’s amazing vocals by different using instrumentation or “backdrops” depending on the mood and lyrical content of each song. It seems to me that this album is split 50/50 with its production and instrumentation: o The first half of the album featured some heavier more mysterious, shadowy, “spacey” instrumentations, similar to something that would come off a “The XX” album, expect that the song meaning were more critical and overall had a negative feeling. o The second half of the album still featured “spacey” instrumentation but on a lesser scale, as some different instruments and backbeats, such as a horn, bells and whistles, were used add a different element to the more personal tracks.