Let’s start with the basics here. No, this talented lady’s real name is not Lorde. It’s actually the exotic and culturally eclectic sounding Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O’Connor – her mother is of Croatian descent whilst her father is of Irish stock.
This will come as no big revelation to die-hard fans here – and will probably come as no surprise for those who haven’t stopped to think about it before – but Lorde is obsessed and interested in the whole idea of royal families, old money, and the aristocracy. This comes across loud and clear in Royals, the track that put her on the map, as well as in her stage moniker. She originally wanted to call herself Lord but added the ‘e’ to make it more feminine.
It’s no wonder that Lorde has risen the way she has with such brilliant parents behind her. Her father is a civil engineer who actually used to employ her during school breaks. Her mother, Sonja Yelich, is an award-winning poet who encouraged Lorde to read a ton during her childhood. Interestingly, in this modern age of smart gadgets, Lorde’s parents barely let her watch TV, and when she was allowed she watched old classics like Wonder Woman, The Partridge Family, and Little House on the Prairie.
Lorde really is the epitome of your everyday Kiwi kid who took the world by storm. She was born in Takapuna and raised in Devonport, which is a sleepier suburb of Auckland that lies across the bay from the city proper. Since becoming a household name, she has bought her own house in the area and, when not on tour, still loves to potter around picking up free furniture and knick-knacks on hard-rubbish day. It’s a day in the year when people get rid of their old but still serviceable furniture and stuff they can’t fit in their houses anymore, but don’t want to just throw it away.
Lorde was signed to a development deal with Universal Music Group in her early teens and began performing her own songs in 2011. She was signed after winning a school talent show with her friend Louis McDonald, and subsequently saw them invited to sing covers on a local radio show. 2011 was the year she teamed up with producer Joel Little and within a few weeks of working together they had produced her first EP, The Love Club.
Traditionally, dropping out of high school was considered a terrible life choice. There was this idea that without the cornerstone of traditional – and many think these days antiquated – education, your life would crumble around your ears before you even had a chance to get going. Tell that to Lorde, whose net-worth in 2018 has been tentatively speculated to be around $12 million dollars. She decided not to finish her last year at Takapuna Grammar School. Doesn’t look like skipping out on that last year of algebra has slowed her down too much.
Several of the songs on Melodrama – Lorde’s second album, released in 2017 – were inspired by the artist’s real-life heartache. She broke up with her longtime Kiwi boyfriend James Lowe in 2015, and the resulting feelings went into some intense music. The lead single “Greenlight” from the Melodrama album is based on the demise of their relationship. She has said that this period of her life was extremely eye-opening and a bit of a sensory overload.
As you’d expect from someone who was raised in a slightly less conventional home by free-thinking, inspiring, and creative parents, Lorde’s music taste isn’t limited to one or two genres. She listens, loves and takes inspiration from artists such as Billie Holiday, Rihanna, Kendrick Lamar, Etta James, Katy Perry, Sam Cooke, Fleetwood Mac, and Thom Yorke.
Now, this could sound worrying, but in her typical Lorde way this is actually quite a buzzy and interesting quirk of the singer’s brain. Lorde has sound-to-colour synaesthesia, a neurological condition that allows her to see colours when particular musical notes are played. As an artist she works to make the music and colours cohesive, and it’s when they come together and merge and match that a song can be considered to be complete.
Yes, she’s won grammies and Brit Awards, but how has she fared on her native soil? Well, Lorde won four New Zealand Music Awards at the 2013 ceremony. “Royals” additionally earned the New Zealand APRA Silver Scroll Awards in that year. The Love Club EP – Lorde’s first released album – reached no. 2 in New Zealand and Australia, eventually attaining certified platinum and multi-platinum status, respectively. When the album Pure Heroine debuted, it hit the top of the charts in New Zealand.
Lorde writes her music vocally and does not play musical instruments on her records or on stage. 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.” You can’t help but think that if she wanted to learn anything though, all she’d need to do is pick it up.