Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O'Connor (born 7 November 1996), known professionally as Lorde (pronounced "lord"), is a New Zealand singer and songwriter. Taking inspiration from aristocracy for her stage name, she is known for employing unconventional musical styles and thoughtful songwriting. Born in the Auckland suburb of Takapuna and raised in neighbouring Devonport, Lorde expressed interest in performing at local venues in her early teens. She signed with Universal Music Group in 2009 and collaborated with producer Joel Little in 2011 to start recording material.
Universal Music commercially released the pair's first collaborative effort, an extended play (EP) titled The Love Club, in 2013. The EP's international chart-topping single "Royals" helped Lorde rise to prominence. Her debut studio album Pure Heroine followed that year and achieved critical and commercial success. The following year, Lorde curated the soundtrack for the 2014 film The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 and recorded several tracks, including the single "Yellow Flicker Beat". Her second studio album Melodrama (2017) garnered widespread acclaim and debuted at number one in the United States.
Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O'Connor was born in Takapuna, Auckland on 7 November 1996, to 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. They announced their engagement in 2014, after a 30-year relationship, and in 2017, they married in a private ceremony in Cheltenham Beach.
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 formed a duet called "Ella & Louis" and performed covers live on a regular basis at local venues, including cafés in Auckland and the Victoria Theatre in Devonport. In 2011, UMG hired vocal coach Frances Dickinson to give her singing lessons twice a week for a year. During this time, Maclachlan attempted to partner Lorde with several different producers and songwriters, but without success. As she began writing songs, she learned how to "put words together" by reading short fiction.
When Lorde and Little had finished their first collaborative effort, The Love Club EP, Maclachlan applauded it as a "strong piece of music", but worried if the EP could profit because Lorde was obscure at the time. In November 2012, the singer self-released the EP through her SoundCloud account for free download. UMG commercially released The Love Club in March 2013 after it had been downloaded 60,000 times, which signaled that Lorde had attracted a range of audiences. It peaked at number two in New Zealand and Australia. "Royals", the EP's single, helped Lorde rise to prominence after it became a critical and commercial success, selling more than 10 million units worldwide. It charted at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, making Lorde, then 16 years old, the youngest artist to earn a number-one single in the United States since Tiffany in 1987, and has since been certified diamond by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). The track won two Grammy Awards for Best Pop Solo Performance and Song of the Year at the 56th ceremony.
Lorde's debut studio album Pure Heroine containing the single "Royals" was released in September 2013 to critical acclaim; it appeared on several year-end album lists. The album received considerable attention for its portrayal of suburban teenage disillusionment and critiques of mainstream culture. In the United States, the album exceeded sales of one million copies in February 2014, becoming the first debut album by a female artist since Adele's 19 (2008) to achieve the feat.Pure Heroine earned a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Vocal Album, and has sold four million copies worldwide as of May 2017. Three other singles were released from the album: "Tennis Court" reached number one in New Zealand, while "Team" charted at number six in the United States, and "Glory and Gore" was released exclusively to US radio.
At the 2016 Brit Awards in February, Lorde and David Bowie's final touring band gave a tribute performance of his 1971 song "Life on Mars". Pianist Mike Garson, a frequent band member for Bowie, explained that Bowie's family and management selected Lorde because he admired her and felt she was "the future of music". Later that year, Lorde co-wrote "Heartlines", a song by New Zealand music duo Broods from their album Conscious (2016).
The lead single from her second studio album Melodrama, "Green Light", was released in March 2017 to widespread acclaim; several publications ranked it as one of the best songs of the year, NME and The Guardian placing it in the top spot on their respective lists. It achieved moderate commercial success, reaching number one in New Zealand, number four in Australia and number nine in Canada. Later that month, she co-wrote and provided background vocals for American indie pop band Bleachers's song "Don't Take the Money", taken from their album Gone Now (2017).
To promote Melodrama, Lorde embarked on an international concert tour, the first leg of which took place in Europe in late 2017, featuring Khalid as the supporting act. She later announced the North American leg, held in March 2018, with Run the Jewels, Mitski and Tove Styrke as opening acts. A political controversy occurred in December 2017 when Lorde cancelled her scheduled June 2018 concert in Israel following an online campaign by Palestinian solidarity activists supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. While Lorde did not explicitly indicate her reasons for cancelling, she admitted that she had been unaware of the political turmoil there and "the right decision at this time is to cancel". Pro-Palestine groups welcomed her decision, while pro-Israel groups were critical of the cancellation.Billboard included Lorde on their 2017 edition of 21 Under 21. In November 2018, Lorde became a patron of MusicHelps (formerly the New Zealand Music Foundation), a musical charity helping New Zealanders who are vulnerable to or experiencing serious health issues.
Lorde utilises her vocals and does not play musical instruments on her records or onstage, elaborating, "[My] voice needs to have the focus. My vocal-scape is really important".PopMatters described Lorde's vocals as "unique and powerfully intriguing", while Billboard characterised her voice as "dynamic, smoky and restrained".The A.V. Club wrote that Lorde's voice "is the alpha and omega of her talent", characterising it as "mystifying and alluring" that harmonised well with the electronic production.Vice noted that her songs incorporated the mixolydian mode, a melodic structure used in "blues-based and alternative rock" music, which set her songs apart from those in pop music for not fitting a common major or minor chord.
Regarding her songwriting process, Lorde explained that the foundation to her songs began with the lyrics, which could sometimes stem from a singular word meant to summarise a specific idea she had tried to identify. For "Tennis Court", Lorde wrote the music before lyrics. She stated that the songwriting on Pure Heroine developed from the perspective of an observer. Similarly, in an interview with NME, Lorde acknowledged that she used words of inclusion (such as "we" and "us") throughout her debut album, while her follow-up Melodrama presented a shift to first-person narrative, employing more introspective lyrics inspired by Lorde's personal struggles post-breakup and viewpoints on post-teenage maturity. Lorde's neurological condition chromesthesia influenced her songwriting on the album; it led her to arrange colours according to each song's theme and emotion.
Lorde is known for her unchoreographed dancing onstage, which has polarised audiences.
Lorde's stage name bears her fascination with "royals and aristocracy"; she added an "e" after the name Lord, which she felt was too masculine, to make it more feminine. She described her public image as something that "naturally" came to her and was identical to her real life personality. Lorde is a self-identified feminist.The New Zealand Herald opined that her feminist ideology was different from her contemporaries due to Lorde's disinterest in sexualised performances. The singer proclaimed herself in an interview with V as a "hugely sex-positive person", saying, "I have nothing against anyone getting naked. ... I just don't think it really would complement my music in any way or help me tell a story any better".
Critical reception of Lorde is generally positive, praise concentrated on her maturity both musically and lyrically.The New York Times called her "the pop prodigy" who was not conformed to boundaries and always sought experimentation.Billboard recognised Lorde as a spokesperson for a "female rock resurgence" by introducing her works to rock and alternative radio, which had seen a traditional male dominance. The publication also named her the "New Queen of Alternative" in a 2013 cover story. Journalist Robert Christgau was less enthusiastic towards Lorde's styles, labelling the singer as "a pop property" that was indistinguishable from other mainstream artists.
Lorde's critiques of mainstream culture on Pure Heroine earned her the title "the voice of her generation", a label she dismissed, saying that "young people have never needed a specialised spokesperson".Jon Caramanica, writing for The New York Times, credited Lorde for bringing forth a "wave of female rebellion" to mainstream audiences that embraced an "anti-pop" sentiment. Sharing a similar viewpoint, an op-ed of Vice recognised the singer as the reformer for the teenage pop scene, shifting from Britney Spears's renowned bubblegum pop to modern-day "mainstream melancholy" and "millennial darkness".Rolling Stone and NPR credited her debut studio album Pure Heroine as the foundation of that transformation.
From late 2013 to early 2016, Lorde was in a relationship with New Zealand photographer James Lowe. In January 2016, she relocated from Devonport to Herne Bay, an affluent suburb in Auckland, where she purchased a NZ$2.84 (USD$2.01) million home. She holds both New Zealand and Croatian citizenship.
^Lorde (2013). Lyrical Influences (VEVO LIFT): Brought to You By McDonald's (video). VEVO/YouTube. Event occurs at 1:49. Retrieved 22 November 2013. I think my writing process with 'Tennis Court' was quite different to how I normally write. Generally, I will have a lyric forming before I go into the studio. But with this one, we wrote the music and beat before we wrote anything lyrically