It’s the summer of 2013, and we are all obsessed with that song, ‘Royals’. I’m sat in my bedroom in a house we just moved into. It’s a nice room, but I can’t help but think of my old one, my childhood one, that’s been left behind.
I’m 13 (still in the midst of childhood, but of the unshakeable belief that I’m at the height of maturity), and I’m starting to feel the weight of the words that Lorde sings – about how, as much as we dream about it, ‘we’ll never be royals’ and I’ll probably also never see ‘a diamond in the flesh’. It’s a weird moment of realisation, and a young point at which to be plunged into ennui as I listen to the sung words of a seventeen-year-old girl from New Zealand – also, in the grand scheme of things, too young to be bored of the world.
It might have been an Instagram post, or a Facebook post, or a profile picture change – I can’t remember – but I remember the photo of myself that I captioned with Lorde’s lyrics. ‘Jet planes, islands, tigers on a gold leash / We don’t care, we aren’t caught up in your love affair’. I don’t remember if I really knew what Lorde was singing about, but I remember liking the way the words sounded together, and liking the shape they took in her voice. So I captioned the picture, publicly declaring my love for the song, and, in a sense, my new love for Lorde.
Lorde was a goddess to my thirteen-year-old self. She was different to most other artists, reluctant to subscribe to their traditions or aesthetics. When performing, she moves in mysterious ways, and she’s been criticised – laughed at – for her dancing; I always just thought she seemed free, not restricted by the ‘proper’ way to perform, with pristine choreography, like so many others.
‘Royals’, for whatever reasoning I had in my adolescent mind, resonated with me. It, to some extent, resonates still. I’m just a little bit more self-aware at this point, a little less convinced that I’m alone in my existentialism. It isn’t just me and Lorde against the world, and Lorde isn’t the mouth piece for my thoughts and my thoughts alone – it’s the world against all of us.
My music taste has varied massively over the years, but there are a few still points amidst all of the movement:
- Vampire Weekend
- The 1975
- The Neighbourhood (not a continuous one, but whenever their songs come on, I’m still a little bit in love)
- Lana Del Rey
Most of these artists were, funnily enough, absorbed into my music taste at similar times. I remember first discovering Vampire Weekend in 2013 with their release of Modern Vampires of the City, and falling in love with The 1975’s ‘Chocolate’ a few months later. I discovered The Neighbourhood, HAIM and Lana Del Rey at a similar time. As it turns out, 2013 was a big year for my ears, with Lorde also appearing that summer.
Maybe twelve/thirteen are the ages where we start to discover what we really like – or maybe I’m just reminiscent of simpler times, when the captions of my selfies were what mattered most, along with a weird obsession with perfecting my online persona.
Lorde feels the most special, perhaps, because she is the artist with the smallest amount of material. She has released two albums to date, and released other songs in collaboration with people, but not to the extent of any of these other artists. The extended gap between Vampire Weekend’s 2013 Modern Vampires of the City and their 2019 Father of the Bride felt cavernous – but at least I had three albums of music to tide me over in that six-year gap. Lorde released Pure Heroine in 2013 and Melodrama four years later in 2017. Maybe 2021 will be the year of her return.
It might also be the marked change in style between her albums – they could almost be by completely separate artists. It reminds me of being seventeen, listening to Melodrama, and feeling like a completely different person to the Olivia that first listened to Pure Heroine in 2013. But I’m sure thirteen-year-old me would have enjoyed Melodrama, just as seventeen-year-old me still loved Pure Heroine, and just as nineteen-year-old me still adores both.
I’ve been listening to Melodrama a lot recently. I’m not completely sure why, other than the magnetism of Lorde and how I do keep coming back to her, however intermittently. Sometimes, I struggle to separate music from the emotions it accompanied. There’s a song by The Smiths that I can’t listen to because it defines a particular breakup and state of mind. There’s another song – one that Lorde actually covered recently – that reminds me too much of what if situationship to listen to anymore. There’s a song by Vampire Weekend that reminds me of sunshine in Cambridge, because I listened to it once when I was sixteen, visiting, and not yet acquainted with the city.
I’ve listened to Lorde a lot during sad times – a lot of Melodrama is about falling in and out of love – and yet the music isn’t haunting in the same way that those songs haunt me. Maybe it’s because I’ve never really dissected Lorde’s music into individual songs in the same way I usually would, but I guess that makes sense when you rarely like every song in an album. Lorde is one of these few distinguished artists where I’d listen to any of her songs, and I think I’ll always be a little bit in love with her.