LORDE IN NEW YORK, AUGUST 2013. COATS: ROCHAS AND MIU MIU. HAT: GILES. SOCKS: MARIA LA ROSA. SHOES: GUIDI. STYLING: ELIN SVAHN.
Scroll through the Tumblr page operated by 16-year-old New Zealander Ella Yelich-O’Connor, otherwise known as the coy, crooning, electro-pop singer Lorde, and you’ll see a wide array of interests: a photo of Aaron Paul in a Pussy Riot T-shirt; a Frederic Edwin Church landscape; the Japanese-language poster for Wim Wenders’s Paris, Texas. Its cool eclecticism is fitting for Lorde, whose music combines a commanding mezzo-soprano and wry energy reminiscent of Florence Welch with skittering, minimalist electronic beats and synths. If the mood strikes, she might write a song about teenage cliques—or record a Replacements cover.
“My music is kind of this collection of stuff that I have stolen from a bunch of other genres,” Yelich-O’Connor says over the phone from her family’s home in Auckland, where she still lives with her parents and two sisters. “Having grown up with the Internet, I think all the lines are a bit more blurred.”
Yelich-O’Connor was discovered at age 12 by a Universal exec who saw a video of her performing Duffy’s “Warwick Avenue” at a school talent show. Since then, she estimates she’s written 70 to 100 songs, five of which made up her debut EP, The Love Club. When we speak in mid-August, the EP has just gone double-platinum in Australia. Its lead single, “Royals,” has also made her the first solo female artist to top the Billboard Alternative chart in more than 17 years, and she’s preparing to release her debut full-length, Pure Heroine (Lava/Republic), on September 30. Even though The Love Club was released only last March, she views her work on Pure Heroine as “a maturation.” “It definitely doesn’t feel like I just grabbed it from the same pot as The Love Club,” she says.
With “Royals” going strong, Yelich-O’Connor can appreciate the irony of the song—a charming satire of exactly the kind of material excesses that might become available to, say, a double-platinum recording artist. “I get the irony of ‘Royals’ and royalties,” she says. “But I can’t pull any money out of my bank account unless my dad okays it, so I think I’ll be all right.” As she prepares to release Pure Heroine, she says she still hasn’t gotten used to hearing her music in public. “I don’t think it’ll ever be normal,” she says. “But I’m getting better at not freaking out and blinking a lot and looking like a criminal.” Otherwise, life hasn’t changed much. “To be honest, I share a room with my big sister,” she says. “I’m looking out into my garden right now, and I’ve got to get the washing off the line, because I think it’s about to rain.”
COSMETICS: MAKE UP FOR EVER, INCLUDING FULL COVER CONCEALER, SMOKY LASH MASCARA, AND HD MICROFINISH BLUSH IN ONE TOO MANY. HAIR PRODUCTS: BUMBLE AND BUMBLE, INCLUDING CURL CONSCIOUS SMOOTHING SHAMPOO. HAIR: TAMARA McNAUGHTON/ HOME AGENCY. MAKEUP:YUMI MORI/THE WALL GROUP. SPECIAL THANKS: TENTON STUDIO.