They say history is bound to repeat itself, and Lorde’s music career thus far may as well embody that notion when it comes to award nominations and wins. Throughout her short four years in the music world, Lorde has been the recipient of a towering amount of music award nominations and wins from every conceivable noteworthy outlet, so much so that the singer’s list of nominations and wins requires its own dedicated Wikipedia page.
Most recently, Lorde’s critically acclaimed and nearly universally loved sophomore album, Melodrama, has earned her a 2018 Grammy nomination nod for album of the year. The 21-year-old wunderkind has since her emergence grown to be an irrefutable staple in the world of modern pop. However, before Lorde had become a household name, she was One To Watch, so join us in not only celebrating Lorde’s Grammy nomination but in charting her path that led her to this very moment.
Ella Yellich-O’Connor first made her official debut into the music world as Lorde at the impressive age of 16, but what is arguably more impressive than the budding pop icon’s age was the debut itself. Lorde’s debut single, “Royals,” took the world by storm in the summer of 2013, shining the spotlight on a relatively unknown name up until that moment. To say “Royals” was an explosive debut would be an understatement. “Royals” was more than just a critical and commercial success, peaking atop record charts worldwide and spending nine weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100, it also served to set the tone for Lorde as a seeming prodigy in the world of pop. With her debut, Lorde had instantaneously become the first New Zealand solo act to top the Hot 100, as well as the youngest act to achieve such a feat in over 25 years. After achieving such a massive and startling feat, most artists would take some time and ready themselves before releasing new music, but Lorde proved that she was no stereotypical artist, releasing the follow-up hit “Tennis Courts” less than a week after the original release of “Royals.”
What may serve to explain Lorde’s remarkable career beginnings are the less often publicized moments that led up to it all; after all, stars are not made magically overnight. Lorde’s infatuation and talent for music can be traced back to years before her official debut, where at age 12 she performed with her childhood friend Louis McDonald, winning her middle school talent show. Now for most, winning your middle school talent show doesn’t equate to signing with Universal Music Group in the same year, but then again this is Lorde we’re talking about. For the next four years, Lorde would meet with songwriter after songwriter with little success until at the age fourteen she began to read short fiction and learn to craft songs of her own. This would inevitably lead to her pairing with Joel Little, now acclaimed producer and songwriter for the likes of Ellie Goulding, Sam Smith and others. The pairing made in heaven would bring to fruition Lorde’s signature minimalistic electronic-infused pop, as the duo self-released The Love Club EP on Soundcloud in spring of 2013, which featured the first version of what would become Lorde’s definitive hit introduction to the world, “Royals.”
Jumping back to the end of 2013, Lorde would release her final single, “Team,” ahead of her phenomenal debut album Pure Heroine, which would officially cement herself as the voice of a new generation in pop. In what would become typical Lorde fashion, the reception to Pure Heroine was universal acclaim and praise as it topped year-end lists, including our best albums of 2013, and the at the time 17-year-old pop sensation nabbed four nominations at the 2014 Grammy Awards. Pure Heroine would have a lasting impact on modern pop music, as it challenged other artists of the time with its level of sonic cohesiveness and clarity, showcasing the levels of artistry that were possible within the genre of pop.
Lorde’s success following Pure Heroine was astronomical and rightfully so based on the clear level of originality and talent the young artist had brought to the genre with only a single full-length release under her belt. Lorde would spend the remainder of 2014 touring the world, as she launched two successive North American tours, including pit stops at nearly every major music festival on the planet. As Lorde continued to tour across the world, she would release “Yellow Flicker Beat,” the lead single for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay soundtrack, causing fans and critics alike to champion her as the voice of the millennial generation. Lorde’s revolutionary take on not only the genre of pop itself but the honest and gripping way in which she portrayed teenage life in Pure Heroine enraptured the world at the time, and left the world wondering what could possibly be next for the teenage wunderkind who took over the world overnight. Not one to disappoint, Lorde hinted in summer of 2016 what the future held in store,
“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.”
And what awaited the new world was Lorde’s follow-up to Pure Heroine, Melodrama. Melodrama, released in the summer of 2017 signified a musical maturation for the shining pop star. While Pure Heroine showcased Lorde’s talent for channeling the glory of her teenage years in a series of meticulously crafted minimalistic electropop productions, Melodrama showcased Lorde’s talent for crafting stunning electropop all within one overarching thematic experience. Lorde’s Melodrama is impressive not only for its host of features and collaborators, from Jack Antonoff to Flume, or for its stunning production that leverages the full breadth of electronic elements that were hinted upon in Pure Heroine, but in the way Melodrama manages to present all of this within the framework of single house party and its proceeding events.
Arguably, the most worrisome thing about a young artist who is immediately elevated into stardom is if they will be able to continue that climb upward from what already appears to be the peak. Melodrama proves that worry to be nonexistent. As Lorde continues her inevitable climb upwards, we can’t help but look back fondly to the days we were wishing her a happy 17th birthday, as we proudly root on our Ones To Watch alumni at the 60th annual Grammy Awards.