Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O'Connor (born 7 November 1996), known professionally as Lorde (pronounced lord), is a New Zealand singer, songwriter, and record producer. Born in the Auckland suburb of Takapuna and raised in neighbouring Devonport, New Zealand, she began performing in her early teens. She signed with Universal Music Group in 2009 and was later paired with songwriter and record producer Joel Little. At the age of sixteen, she released her first extended play, The Love Club EP (2012), reaching number two on the national record charts in both New Zealand and Australia.
Lorde performing in November 2017
Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O'Connor|
7 November 1996
Takapuna, Auckland, New Zealand
|Residence||Herne Bay, Auckland, New Zealand|
|Parent(s)||Sonja Yelich (mother)|
|Origin||Devonport, Auckland, New Zealand|
"Royals" was released as Lorde's debut single in mid-2013, becoming an international crossover hit and peaking atop many national charts. At 17, it made her the youngest solo artist to achieve a number-one single on the US Billboard Hot 100 since 1987. Lorde's debut studio album Pure Heroine (2013) garnered positive reviews for her depiction of suburban adolescence; yielding the additional top-ten single "Team". The album topped the national charts in New Zealand and Australia and reached number three on the US Billboard 200.
In 2014, Lorde curated the soundtrack for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (2014) and provided its lead single, "Yellow Flicker Beat", for which she was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song. Lorde released her second studio album Melodrama (2017) after a three-year hiatus, launched with "Green Light" as its lead single. The album debuted at number one in New Zealand and Australia, as well as topping the US Billboard 200. She served as an executive producer alongside Jack Antonoff. The record deals with themes of heartbreak and solitude.
Lorde's music consists of subgenres such as dream pop and indietronica. She chose her stage name due to her fascination with "royals and aristocracy". She has earned two Grammy Awards, two Brit Awards and ten New Zealand Music Awards. In 2013, she was named among Time's most influential teenagers in the world, and in the following year, she was part of Forbes's "30 Under 30" list.
Life and career
1996–2008: Early life
Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O'Connor was born in Takapuna, Auckland on 7 November 1996, the daughter of poet Sonja Yelich (Croatian: Sonja Jelić) and civil engineer Vic O'Connor. Her mother was born to Croatian immigrants from the region of Dalmatia, while her father is of Irish descent. She holds both New Zealand and Croatian citizenship.
Second of four children, she has three siblings: older sister Jerry (born 1994), younger sister India "Indy" (born 1998), and younger brother Angelo (born 2001). They were raised in the nearby suburb of Devonport, Auckland. At age five, she joined a drama group and developed public speaking skills. As a child, Lorde attended Vauxhall School and then Belmont Intermediate School in her early teens. Her mother encouraged her to read a range of genres, which Lorde cited as a lyrical influence. More specifically, she cites the young adult dystopian novel Feed by M.T. Anderson as well as authors J.D. Salinger, Raymond Carver and Janet Frame for influencing her songwriting.
2009–2011: Career beginnings
In May 2009, Lorde and musician friend Louis McDonald won the Belmont Intermediate School annual talent show as a duo. On 13 August 2009, Lorde and McDonald made a guest appearance on Jim Mora's Afternoons show on Radio New Zealand. There, they performed covers of Pixie Lott's "Mama Do (Uh Oh, Uh Oh)" and Kings of Leon's "Use Somebody". McDonald's father Ian sent both his home audio recording of her and Louis McDonald covering Duffy's song "Warwick Avenue" and his home video recording of the pair singing Pixie Lott's "Mama Do" to Universal Music Group (UMG)'s A&R Scott Maclachlan. In 2009 Maclachlan signed her to UMG for development. Lorde was also part of the Belmont Intermediate School band Extreme; the band placed third in the North Shore Battle of the Bands finals at the Bruce Mason Centre, Takapuna, Auckland on 18 November 2009.
In 2010 Lorde and McDonald performed covers live on a regular basis as a duet called "Ella & Louis", playing at The Leigh Sawmill Cafe on 15 August, at Roasted Addiqtion Cafe in Kingsland on 20 August, at The Vic Unplugged at Victoria Theatre, Devonport on 27 October, and at Devonstock in Devonport on 12 December. While working on her music career, she attended Takapuna Grammar School from 2010 to 2013, completing Year twelve. She later chose not to return in 2014 to finish Year thirteen.
In 2011, UMG hired vocal coach Frances Dickinson to give Lorde singing lessons twice a week for a year. During this time, she began writing songs and was set up with a succession of songwriters, but without success. At the age of fourteen, Lorde started reading short fiction and learned how to "put words together". She performed her own original songs publicly for the first time at The Vic Unplugged II on the Devonport Victoria Theatre main stage on 16 November 2011. In December 2011, MacLachlan paired Lorde with Joel Little, a songwriter, record producer, and former Goodnight Nurse lead singer. The pair recorded five songs for an EP at Little's Golden Age Studios in Morningside, Auckland, and finished within three weeks.
2012–2015: Pure Heroine and The Hunger Games soundtrack
In November 2012, Lorde self-released her debut record, entitled The Love Club EP, through her SoundCloud account for free download. After being freely downloaded 60,000 times, UMG commercially released the EP for sales in March 2013. The EP peaked at number two on the record charts of New Zealand and Australia. In June of that year, "Royals" was released as a single from the EP. The single became a crossover hit, peaking atop the US Billboard Hot 100 for nine consecutive weeks. Consequently, Lorde became the youngest solo artist to achieve a number-one single in the US with "Royals", since Tiffany's "I Think We're Alone Now" (1987). The track eventually won the 2013 APRA Silver Scroll Award, and two Grammy Awards for Best Pop Solo Performance and Song of the Year at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards.
In September 2013, Lorde released her debut studio album, Pure Heroine. The album topped the charts of New Zealand and Australia and reached the top five of several national charts, including Canada, Ireland, Norway and the United Kingdom. In the US, Pure Heroine peaked at number three on the Billboard 200, and has sold over 3 million copies since its release. The album was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Album.
The release of Pure Heroine was preceded by four singles: "Tennis Court" was released in June 2013, topping the New Zealand Singles Chart; the third single, "Team", became a top-ten hit worldwide; and "No Better", a song only included on the extended version of Pure Heroine, and "Glory and Gore" were released as the two final singles from the record, respectively. In September 2013, Lorde's cover version of the Tears for Fears single "Everybody Wants to Rule the World", produced by Michael A. Levine and Lucas Cantor, was included on The Hunger Games: Catching Fire film soundtrack.
In November 2013, Lorde signed a publishing deal with Songs Music Publishing, worth a reported US$2.5 million, after a bidding war between various companies, including Sony Music Entertainment and her label UMG. The agreement gives the publisher the right to license Lorde's music for films and advertising. Late that year, she started a relationship with photographer James Lowe.
In December 2013, Lorde announced that she had begun writing material for her second studio album. In June 2014, Lorde said that her second studio album was in its early stages and that, so far, it was "totally different" from her debut album. In the first half of 2014, Lorde headlined various festivals, including the Laneway Festival in Sydney, the three South American editions of Lollapalooza—Chile, Santiago; Buenos Aires, Argentina; and São Paulo, Brazil—and the Coachella Festival in California.
To promote The Love Club EP and Pure Heroine, Lorde embarked on an international tour, the first leg of which was held in North America in early 2014. She later announced the Australian leg, held in July, and the second North American leg, held in August. In April of that year, Lorde performed "All Apologies" with the surviving members of Nirvana during the band's induction ceremony at the Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame. On 1 August 2014, Lorde performed at Lollapalooza again in Grant Park, Chicago. Lorde's set was critically well received, with Billboard selecting it as the fifth-best performance of the festival, while Rolling Stone deemed it the best segment of the Chicago event.
On 29 September 2014, Lorde released "Yellow Flicker Beat" as the first single from the soundtrack album for the film The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1; Lorde oversaw the collation of the album's content, in addition to contributing vocals to several songs. By her 18th birthday in November 2014, it was estimated that Lorde was worth NZ$11 million. In 2015, Lorde was featured on "Magnets", a track on Disclosure's second studio album Caracal.
In January 2016, Lorde purchased a $2.84 million home in Herne Bay, Auckland. In that same month, Lorde ended her relationship with Lowe, after three years of dating. At the 2016 Brit Awards, she gave a performance of "Life on Mars" in tribute to the late English singer David Bowie with Mike Garson and other members of Bowie's final touring band.
While responding to a fan on her Instagram account in August 2016, she said that the record had been written and they were in production stages. In November, she posted a note on her Facebook account stating: "Writing Pure Heroine was my way of enshrining our teenage glory, putting it up in lights forever so that part of me never dies, and this record – well, this one is about what comes next. [...] The party is about to start. I am about to show you the new world."
On 16 February 2017, her record label, Republic Records, published a date of 7 March under "Confidential Title" that revealed her anticipated sophomore record, which was later cleared by the label. On 26 February, Lorde teased her new song in New Zealand in several ads with the dates 3.2.17 NYC and 3.3.17 NZ. Two days prior to the release, it was revealed that her debut single from her second album would be "Green Light". The single was universally praised by critics, with many publications placing it in their year-end lists; it was awarded the NME Single of the Year.
Following the release of "Green Light" on 2 March, Lorde revealed the title of her second album, Melodrama. She released "Liability", a promotional single from the album on 9 March 2017. Lorde performed both tracks publicly for the first time as the musical guest on 11 March 2017 episode of Saturday Night Live. The album's track list was revealed in May. The second single, "Perfect Places" was released on 2 June 2017. Two months later, a remix of "Homemade Dynamite", featuring vocals from Khalid, Post Malone and SZA was released on the third single from the album.
Melodrama was released on 16 June 2017 to "universal acclaim" from critics. To promote the album, Lorde embarked on an international tour, the first leg of which was held in Europe in late 2017, with Khalid as a supporting act. She later announced the North American leg, held in March, with Run the Jewels, Mitski and Tove Styrke as the opening acts. At the end of 2017, many publications placed Melodrama at the top spot of their respective year-end lists. It was also awarded the NME Album of the Year. Metacritic, which collates reviews of music albums, named Melodrama the third best-reviewed album of 2017, behind Mount Eerie's A Crow Looked at Me (2017) and Kendrick Lamar's Damn (2017). It also received a nomination for Album of the Year at the 60th Annual Grammy Awards ceremony.
Lorde grew up listening to American jazz musician Billie Holiday, and soul musicians Sam Cooke, Etta James and Otis Redding, whose music Lorde admires for "harvesting their suffering." Additionally, she listened to her parents' favourite records by the likes of Cat Stevens, Neil Young and Fleetwood Mac in her early years. Among those records, Lorde deemed Rumours by Fleetwood Mac as "a perfect record".
She cites the unusual vocals of Grimes, Sleigh Bells and producer SBTRKT as her prominent influences. Furthermore, Lorde names Thom Yorke as an influence for his "smart" way of using his voice, as well as Nicki Minaj and Kendrick Lamar for their "sassy" tone. Other inspirations for Lorde include Lady Gaga, Fiona Apple, Kate Bush, Lana Del Rey, Grace Jones, James Blake, Yeasayer, Animal Collective, Bon Iver, Radiohead, Jamie Woon, Arcade Fire, Kurt Vonnegut, Laurie Anderson, Kanye West and Prince.
She cites rapper J. Cole and electronic music producers as influences, saying that she was impressed by "their vocals in a really interesting way, whether it might be chopping up a vocal part or really lash or layering a vocal". Katy Perry, Justin Timberlake, Bruno Mars and Sara Bareilles have also influenced Lorde vocally. Lorde also stated that she was inspired by the initially hidden identities of Burial and The Weeknd, explaining, "I feel like mystery is more interesting". She names her mother, a poet, as the main influence for her songwriting. In addition, Lorde names several authors including Raymond Carver, Wells Tower, Tobias Wolff, Claire Vaye Watkins, Sylvia Plath, Walt Whitman and T. S. Eliot as lyrical inspirations – particularly noting their sentence structures.
When writing her second album, Melodrama, Lorde took inspiration from the melodic styles of a variety of musicians, including Phil Collins, Don Henley, Tom Petty, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, and Robyn. She cites the emotional vocals of Kate Bush and Sinéad O'Connor as well as Laurie Anderson's use of the vocoder as inspiration for her own vocal delivery on the album. During the recording process, Lorde stated that Frank Ocean's 2016 album, Blonde inspired her to experiment with using an "anti-chorus". She frequently listened to Paul Simon's 1986 album, Graceland and Rihanna's 2016 album Anti while riding subways in New York City and on taxi rides on the way home from parties in her hometown of Auckland. Lorde cites the science fiction short story "There Will Come Soft Rains" (1950) by Ray Bradbury as inspiration for much of the record's story, relating it to her own realities she faced.
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Lorde's music has been described as art pop, dream pop, indie pop, electropop, and indie-electro. Multiple reviewers also note the influences of hip hop and R&B on Lorde's releases. In a review for Consequence of Sound, Jon Hadusek details the minimal production on Lorde's music "allows [her] to sing any melody she wants, layering them over one another to create a choral effect". Jason Lipshutz of Billboard shares that her works features deep bass rumbles, lilting loops and programmed beats. Paul Lester from The Guardian compares Lorde's music to that of Sky Ferreira and Eliza Doolittle.
Lorde is an alto; however, on "Royals", she performs with a mezzo-soprano vocal range. Lorde writes her music vocally and does not play musical instruments on her records or onstage. She states that her main focus is her voice, elaborating, "I don't play any instruments, so my voice needs to have the focus. My vocal-scape is really important." PopMatters's Evan Sawdey describes Lorde's vocals as being "unique and powerfully intriguing". Jason Lipshutz of Billboard praises her vocals for being "dynamic, smoky and restrained". Lester describes Lorde's voice as "sweet, sultry and sour", while James Lachno from The Daily Telegraph describes it as "twitchy electro". In an article for The A.V. Club, Kevin McFarland writes that "[Lorde's] voice is the alpha and omega of her talent. She has the presence and vocal development of singers more than twice her age. Her voice isn't booming or overpowering, but rather mystifying and alluring, both floating on its own in a sea of reverb and digital blips and awash in an army of chorused overdubs." Noisey wrote that her melodic structures follow the mixolydian mode which is a common scale used in "blues-based and alternative rock". This sets her songs apart from those in pop music as they do not fit a major or minor chord.
Songwriting and lyrics
Talking about her collaboration with Joel Little, Lorde said that Little's refining of her "raw potential to end up with [the music]" was one of the best aspects of him. She also views Little as "the only one who was working with electronic music in the way [she] was interested in at the time". Lorde details that her songs are shaped by her lyrics, which she felt as a "more cohesive way of working." Furthermore, she states that the foundation to her songs first begin with the lyrics, saying that the seed of a song can sometimes be a singular word meant to summarize a specific idea she has tried to pin down. Nonetheless, she points out that the songwriting process of "Tennis Court" was different to how she normally writes a song: the lyrics are built on the instant music and beat.
The lyrics of her two first major releases, The Love Club EP and Pure Heroine, criticises mainstream popular culture. Lindsay Zoladz from Pitchfork noted that Lorde expressed her indifference towards modern-day's culture. On behalf of Rolling Stone, critic Jonah Weiner also noted the typical themes of teen pop music, including "social anxiety, romantic yearning, debilitating ennui [and] booze-soaked ragers". Jim Pickney from the New Zealand Listener writes that Lorde's lyrics are structured in a short story manner and praised that her songwriting ability "combines unmistakably teenage confusion, curiosity and confidence with word skills beyond her years." Her lyrics are noted for incorporating "teeth" which several publications have compared to social class structures and economic inequality.
Lorde chose her stage name because she was fascinated with "royals and aristocracy". However, she felt the name Lord was too masculine, thus she added an "e" to make it more feminine. She described her public image as coming "naturally" to her. Her music is noted for its "counter-culture" view on themes found on modern pop culture, which is contrasted with those from her contemporaries, such as Miley Cyrus and Rihanna. Lorde is a self-identified feminist.
In a November 2013 interview with Q, Lorde expressed frustration about "certain things about music": "There are a lot of shock tactics these days. People trying to outdo each other, which will probably culminate in two people fucking on stage at the Grammys." Following the release of Pure Heroine, she also described herself as a "sex-positive" person.
In November 2013, Lorde was included in Time's list of the most influential teenagers in the world, with Mark Metcalfe from the publication commenting that she was "forging her own path". In January 2014, Forbes placed Lorde on their "30 Under 30" list of young people "who are changing our world". She was the youngest individual to be featured on the list. In October of that year, Lorde was included in the list "The 25 Most Influential Teens of 2014" by Time. Featuring Lorde in its 6 September 2013 cover story, Billboard named Lorde "your new alt-rock heroine". Britney Spears is an admirer of Lorde, commenting that her music "[is] really different and cool."
In June 2014, Lorde released a two-piece make-up limited edition collection in collaboration with MAC Cosmetics, consisting of a lipstick titled after her debut album, Pure Heroine, and an eyeliner. She filmed a video for the Electoral Commission to encourage voter turnout of young people at the 2014 New Zealand general election, despite being too young to vote at the time. On 13 May 2015, a wax figure of Lorde was introduced to the Madame Tussauds Hollywood.
Lorde and the music industry were parodied in the episodes ″The Cissy″ and "Rehash" of South Park (season 18, episode 3 and 9; broadcast in October/December 2014). The South Park character impersonating her was also part of other episodes of the same season.
Lorde's on-stage persona, particularly her dancing, have attracted a wide range of critics and admirers since her rise in fame. Aimee Cliff from The Fader wrote that Lorde should be celebrated for her dancing as it "more freeform and spontaneous" than structured choreography, and it "speaks an entirely different expressive language". Sara Houston, a British dance academic at the University of Roehampton echoed Cliff's statements, saying Lorde's "stage presence [is] more impactful than the average pop performance," which can come across as "uncontrived" and "unchoreographed". Houston also said that Lorde's "slightly wild movements" and the way her body "bends" over lends a "sense of freedom".
In December 2017, Lorde cancelled her scheduled June concert in Israel following an online campaign by Palestinian solidarity activists supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign. This online campaign included an open letter published on The Spinoff online magazine by both the Jewish New Zealander activist Justine Sachs and the Palestinian New Zealander activist Nadia Abu-Shanab urging Lorde to cancel her Israel tour, citing "Israeli government's policies of oppression, ethnic cleansing, human rights violations, occupation and apartheid." Lorde also issued a statement on Twitter thanking her fans for educating her about Israel–Palestine, and saying "I'm not too proud to admit I didn't make the right call [by booking this tour]."
Lorde's cancellation of her Israeli tour was welcomed by Palestinian activists and supporters including the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel and the New Zealand Jewish pro-boycott group Dayenu; of which Sachs was a founding member. By contrast, Lorde's actions were criticised by pro-Israel groups and supporters including Shalom.Kiwi and the actress Roseanne Barr. The Israeli Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev and the Israeli Ambassador to New Zealand Itzhak Gerbeg also issued statements urging Lorde to reconsider her cancellation; with the latter inviting Lorde to meet him. American rabbi Shmuley Boteach paid for a full-page advertisement in the Washington Post, with the headline "Lorde and New Zealand ignore Syria to attack Israel", and called her a "bigot", noting that she will be touring Russia despite Putin's support for the Syrian regime.
In response to Boteach's poster, one hundred actors, writers, directors, and musicians including Roger Waters, John Cusack, Angela Davis, Mark Ruffalo, and Viggo Mortensen issued a joint letter on The Guardian defending Lorde's stand. On 31 January 2018, the Israeli lawfare firm Shurat HaDin sued the activists that wrote the open letter on behalf of three Israelis for "emotional damage" resulting from the concert's cancellation. On 11 October 2018, the Jerusalem Magistrate's court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, ordering the activists to pay 45,000 NIS (NZ$23,600) in both damages and court fees. This ruling is believed to be the first application of Israel's 2011 anti-boycott law.
On February 2018 Floridian lawmaker Randy Fine called for the cancellation of Lorde's upcoming April 2018 concerts in Florida in Tampa Bay and Miami, based on anti-BDS legislation in Florida which bars companies that receive state funds from doing business over $1 million with organizations associated with BDS. Fine said that "When Lorde joined the boycott in December, she and her companies became subject to that statute. The taxpayers of Miami and Tampa should not have to facilitate bigotry and anti-Semitism, and I look forward to the Miami Sports and Exhibition Authority and the Tampa Sports Authority complying with the law and canceling these concerts." The concerts took place as expected on 11 and 12 April 2018.
Awards and nominations
Following her breakthrough, Lorde won four New Zealand Music Awards at the 2013 ceremony. "Royals" additionally earned the New Zealand APRA Silver Scroll Awards in that year. At the 56th Annual Grammy Awards, Lorde received two Grammy Awards for her single "Royals" in the categories Best Pop Solo Performance and Song of the Year, and at the 60th Annual Grammy Awards, her second album Melodrama received a nomination for Album of the Year. She has also won two Billboard Music Awards, one MTV Video Music Award and three World Music Awards.
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