Youth and talent make for a particularly volatile combination in the music industry, as critics and fans can trace an artist’s musical development, and by extension personal maturation, from the point of discovery to that first Grammy and beyond.
But some young artists ride a wave of celebrity to an early peak of notoriety before skidding and crashing on the rocks of train wreck reality television and fizzling out altogether.
In the past year, 16-year-old New Zealand songstress Lorde has gone from relative obscurity to turning down a world tour with Katy Perry.
But Lorde’s debut album, “Pure Heroine,” released Sept. 30 on Lava Records, sees the emerging teen sensation churn out a first impression that keeps her defiantly humble.
A fan of artists like A$AP Rocky and Kanye West, Lorde does not so much decry the material culture their music seems to promote, but she does question it.
Her smash hit “Royals,” which recently topped the Billboard Hot 100, touches on the disconnect between middle class fans and their favorite rappers’ showy lyrics.
As Lorde croons in the single’s opening bars, “I’ve never seen a diamond in the flesh,” and later, over a stripped down, restrained beat, “That kind of luxe just ain’t for us.”
With lyrics like, “I’m kinda over getting told to throw my hands up in the air, so there,” “Pure Heroine” sends a loud and clear message: although Lorde’s name is dropped by more famous people every day, Ella Yelich-O’Connor is still a teenage girl with a very ordinary set of likes and dislikes.
Unlike most teenage girls, however, Lorde found a way to take her angst, dress it up and sell it.
On the much more relaxed “Ribs,” Lorde laments how “It’s so scary getting old,” a line that nicely sums up the theme of maturity that holds the record together.
Cuts like “Glory and Gore” or “Tennis Court,” are still alive with Lorde’s nightclub hip hop influence, but new cuts like “Buzzcut Season” and, to a greater extent, “White Teeth Teens,” flesh out the growing pains of Lorde finding herself as a musician and writer.
Lorde clearly is not afraid to emulate and create. After all, this is the girl who has been known to perform Kanye West’s “Hold My Liquor” at live shows.
In terms of a one-off listening experience, “Pure Heroine” is a 10-track album with at least one hook in every song that will stick for a long time.
But with each listen, every catchy number manages to grow into something a little more meaningful.
Maybe the album lacked the length fans were hoping for, but 37 minutes of catchy pop gold beats an hour of pop built around filler tracks and unnecessarily long cuts.
The record arrives, it does its job and it ends leaving the listener wanting more but not in a dissatisfied sort of way.
The best music is like a good day, and it should end just before the listener wants it to.
Des Delgadillo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.