LOS ANGELES - At the tender age of 17, New Zealand indie pop singer Lorde has accomplished much.
She recently chalked up four Grammy nominations, after her breakout single Royals reigned on Billboard's Hot 100 chart for nine straight weeks.
But the initial fawning over her precocious talent has given way to the nastiest form of attention a pop star can get.
Lorde and her rumoured boyfriend have become victims of ugly and shocking racial online abuse, after a photograph of her with 24-year-old Asian photographer called James Lowe made rounds online.
The photograph captured a bikini-clad Lorde hugging Lowe while at the beach.
Granted, the poor, scrawny guy is not the best-looking of men.
Decent and harmless, maybe. Regular, even. But to netizens, apparently not someone you would expect pop's current It Girl to date.
Fans of English-Irish boyband One Direction and Canadian pop star Justin Bieber also joined in, ready to lash out at the singer who supposedly called their idols "ugly".
Comments are largely insults, calling Lowe "ugly", "disgusting", "an Asian monkey", "the Chinese sort of ostrich boyfriend" and "a deformed Asian Jackie Chan" who "looks like he should be delivering Chinese takeaway".
A blogger, writing for the Los Angeles Times, spoke up for her, saying: "We should be grateful for people like Lorde, who openly challenge how we look at dating by being unapologetic about who they love. For Asian men like James Lowe, it's a necessary reminder that they exist too."
But Lorde seems to have chosen to keep mum in the wake of this tirade and not speak up against the racial stereotyping by all her haters, opting to focus on promoting her music instead.
Which is how it should be, considering the heights she has scaled.
Of her four Grammy nominations, she's up for one in the Best Pop Vocal Album category for her successful debut album Pure Heroine, up against the big names Justin Timberlake (The 20/20 Experience - The Complete Experience) and Bruno Mars (Unorthodox Jukebox).
She is also rolling in money after she recently signed a reported US$2.5 million (S$3.13 million) deal with music publisher Songs Music Publishing.
Lorde was also just named Woman of the Year by college channel mtvU, joining past winners Pakistani social activist Malala Yousafzai and Myanmar opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi.
Sure, she owed it mostly to her successful music career, but her firm beliefs and lack of fear in showing them have a role to play, something that at times overshadows her musical abilities.
The singer, born Ella Maria Lani Yelich-O'Connor, has drawn quite a bit of flak for mouthing off and expressing her grievances against other pop conventions.
She once dismissed music by US rapper Nicki Minaj, Canadian rapper Drake and American singer Lana Del Rey as "completely irrelevant" to her age group, described picture-perfect US singer Taylor Swift as "flawless and so unattainable" and expressed disdain at Disney star-turned-singer Selena Gomez's hit Come & Get It, suggesting that it was anti-feminist.
To me, she is just speaking her mind and is a breath of fresh air from the manufactured pop fakery we are used to.
Unfortunately for her, she has set herself up as public enemy because of her comments and has unknowingly given haters ammunition to bring her down. But even so, there is no justification for the spate of hatred, whether the subject is famous or not.
Netizens, leave her alone.
'I never thought I'd have a No. 1 hit'
The night before our interview with Lorde at the JW Marriott in Los Angeles earlier this week, she took the stage for the annual KROQ Acoustic Christmas (a local LA alternative station) - just one of her many publicity stops as she publicises her debut album, Pure Heroine.
Two nights before that, she performed at the annual Grammy Nominations Concert, while picking up four nominations in the process.
Now, she is caught up in a nasty swirl of netizen comments, targeted at her Asian boyfriend. We did not have the opportunity to ask her about it as the hullabaloo started after our interview.
No doubt, it has been a busy year for the New Zealand pop singer, born Ella Maria Lani Yelich-O'Conor. She has received worldwide attention for the song Royals that made her the first New Zealand solo artist to have a No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
She is up for Record of the Year, Best Pop Vocal album, Song of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance at next month's Grammy Awards.
Many have criticised her omission from the Best New Artist category, but Lorde thinks differently. "I'm so new that I don't think I should qualify for that, to be honest. I think it's the perfect amount of nominations. If it were more, I think people would be, like, 'Go away', or something."
Lorde was discovered at a talent show when she was 12 and spent the last five years honing her skills after being signed with Universal Records.
Growing up, she was influenced by the sounds of Neil Diamond, Fleetwood Mac and The Beatles, in addition to being a fan of old school soul.
But musical fame on the level she has since achieved was never a goal. "I never thought that I'd have a No. 1 hit or even have anybody know who I am. Music, for me, has always been just about personal success."
Lorde wrote Royals when she was 15. Its theme about not getting caught up in all the hype of today's musical references about the luxe life was something she'd been mulling over for a while.
"I wanted to write about the difference between my life, and that of all my friends', contrasted to people's lives in the Top 40 and how we're expected to find all that they do as cool, but in fact, it's not what teenagers actually think is cool."
It's quotes like these that sometimes make it hard to believe Lorde is still a teen. "I've always hung out with older people..." she says of her adult attitude.
Still, fame doesn't come without controversy and Lorde has caused a few feuds. She reportedly dissed Taylor Swift for being overly perfect (but later had lunch with her), would never want to collaborate with David Guetta, and loves Miley Cyrus despite having lashed out on using sex to sell records.
Though opinionated, she seems annoyed when asked to clarify some of these controversies. "No comment. Are you only going to ask my thoughts on other people?" she asks.
We sense media fatigue, but she will need to get used to it if she plans to stay on top.
She says she is currently writing music, but won't confirm if it is for her next album or not.
For now, Lorde is taking it all day by day and like she sings on Royals, is "creating a different kind of buzz".
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