While most pop music princesses warble on about love and heartbreak, Lorde sings about materialism, teenage ennui and “postcode envy”.
But her sharply observed lyrics are just one of the ways that the 17-year-old New Zealander has set herself apart from the cookie- cutter crooners who crowd the charts. The precocious teenager has also been openly critical of artists such as Selena Gomez and Taylor Swift, taking issue with the overly sexual and picture-perfect image they project.
Before she made a name for herself as a bit of a firebrand, however, it was her hit song Royals that did most of the talking. First released in November 2012 as part of The Love Club EP, which was initially offered free for download, it talks about kids not being able to relate to the bling and moneyed lifestyle flaunted in many music videos.
This quietly subversive message and the catchy vocals it was delivered in immediately struck a chord with listeners and, after it went on sale in March last year, smashed the charts in New Zealand and the United States.
The unknown teen from Auckland became an international pop sensation, and the youngest person in 25 years to top the US Billboard Hot 100 as well as the Alternative and Rock charts.
To cap this meteoric debut, she received four Grammy nominations last month, including for Best Song and Best Album.
Speaking to Life! just a few days later in Los Angeles, Lorde, whose real name is Ella Yelich-O’Connor, was still trying to take it all in.
“Six months ago, I was a normal person, you know, with none of this stuff happening,” she says in a clipped Kiwi accent. “And now paparazzi wait outside places for me and people chase my car and stuff.”