Now Reading: Lorde, Guide Us: How The New Zealand Pop Star Guided Fans Through Adolescence


Lorde, Guide Us: How The New Zealand Pop Star Guided Fans Through Adolescence

June 17, 202115 min read

It was 2013 when Lorde’s “Royals” was first released and became a radio hit. A majority of its listeners were preteens and teenagers transitioning into early adolescence, which is characterized by rebellion and deep, ever-changing emotions. Whatever it was about the song and its grimy, romanticized lyrics, it hit home to many teenagers discovering who they were and ultimately propelled the New Zealand teen to stardom.

Since then, the singer’s career has reached incredible heights: multiple world tours, critical acclaim, Grammy-nominated albums. She has navigated through many important phases of her life during her music career, including leaving behind her teenage years and entry into adulthood.

Accumulating her fanbase at such a young age, a majority of the singer’s fans were around her age. Many fans felt as though they’ve grown up with her, going through similar phases of their lives and relating heavily to her music as she matures. After the time in-between her first two albums, the teens were leaving their childhood. They were forgetting their high school crushes and first experiences with adolescence. Melodrama seemingly served as guidance into the next phase of life that initially seems less shiny and new, but, in reality, is more meaningful and mature.

Why Do We Relate To Her So Much?

As humans, we can’t help but project ourselves onto the media we consume. We are dying to relate to something, whether it encapsulates the most beautiful or even the most painful parts of our lives. It comforts us to see ourselves in the art. However, Lorde’s music has been truly relatable to the vast majority of her audience. She was just sixteen when she released her debut album. In it, she perfectly captured the feeling of falling in love for the first time, even if that love is naive and consists mostly of driving through empty streets and buying orange juice. It’s the teenage feeling of being rebellious, sneaking out late and partying, and being excited for the first time about someone you probably shouldn’t be excited about.

In her sophomore album, her relationships had changed and grown to center on herself more. There’s a strong overall message of growing throughout the album. People fall out of love and realize they’ve changed, but they still long to feel those teenage emotions again. And she reinforces the idea that another part of growing up is realizing that self-dependency is the only kind of dependency you should experience.

These are tangled, messy feelings we can’t often explain ourselves. It hurts a little to much to come to terms with these epiphanies on your own, but when she explains your entire relationship in a nutshell with angelic backing vocals, it hurts a little less.

Pure Heroine: Teenage Rebellion and First Love

Pure Heroine was one of the first albums of the grungy alt-pop movement that began in the earlier 2010’s. It explored the niche lifestyle of teenagers trapped in the suburbs, and ultimately romanticized the carefree attitude and angst that came with it.

Lorde was a young teen when she wrote many of the album’s tracks. Her career was just taking off and she was surrounded by many of her childhood friends in New Zealand at the time, so all of her experiences were authentically youthful. Tracks like “Tennis Court” captured her new experiences in fame and popularity, admitting how she got tripped up by all the boys and new experiences. “Still Sane” acknowledges her rise to stardom and upcoming tour, as she sings “I still like hotel rooms, but I think that’ll change.” Her youth is also extremely evident in the album’s lyrics, with earnestly innocent lyrics like “mom and dad let me stay home, feels so scary getting old,” in “Ribs.”

When we are teens, we feel we are at the crossroads of childhood and then the rest of our lives, mainly because we are. It is terrifying to look into the next chapter of your life and see college, separation, work and painful growth. When you are hanging out with your high school friends and throwing parties in your parents’ living room, you don’t have to face those looming obligations. You feel more mature than you truly are, but not in a way that carries the burden of true adulthood. Songs like “Ribs” and “Buzzcut Season” just portray that juvenile sense of comfort so well, which is why is resonated with so many teens in a crisis over their new-found and already slipping youth.

One of the most painful truths in love is the fact that no love will ever be as exciting and equally as excruciating as your first. In “400 Lux,” Lorde sings “I love these roads where the houses don’t change, and I like you.” There is something so magical in developing a crush at such a young age, usually someone from your childhood or high school that you’ve admired for the longest time. And there are only so many thing you can do in high school—driving around, going to the occasional movie, going out for food. So for you to want to date them is wanting to spend true quality time with them. You get butterflies when they pick you up, you fall asleep thinking about your time spent with them that day. It’s so innocent, and bittersweet too, because you know you’ll probably never experience that kind of blind excitement again.

As teenagers, we related to Lorde’s lyrics so deeply because she was us. She was having all her firsts and feeling all of the sporadic emotions. It felt like we had insight into how other teens were feeling, like a blueprint for our experiences. As we grew up, though, we needed guidance into the next phase, and in the process, Lorde was growing up too.

Melodrama: Heartbreak, Solitude and Maturity

After four years, the star returned as her fans began entering their late teens and adulthood. Reaching a similar age, she had many new life experiences under her belt: a move to the U.S., breakups, new friendships and independence. And from those experiences came Melodrama. 

It’s an extremely emotionally raw album. She touches on the full spectrum of love, hatred, heartbreak and self-sufficiency. Love is no longer this wading pool that you’re slowing dipping your toes into. It’s an immersive experience that can either tear you apart or make you feel like you’re living a movie. She’s no longer a teenager sneaking her parents’ alcohol, but visiting bars and partying in places other than the suburbs. She lives on her own and doesn’t need her parents’ permission to stay home. In her sophomore album, Lorde has matured and faced the pro’s and con’s of such independence.

In “Hard Feelings,” she sings “now we sit in your car, and our love is a ghost, I guess I should go.” During your teenage years, you’d drive around with the person you thought was your soulmate, but one day, you look at each other and realize you aren’t the same people anymore, and neither is your love.  The truth is: the first love is more exciting, but when the excitement fades, it’s the secure and matured love that you’ll crave. Because there is only so much you can get out of a relationship based on the adrenaline rush of newness; one day you’ll run out of experiences to have and be stuck with the realization that the experiences are all you’re holding onto.

In Melodrama, she proves that loving changes when you grow older, both positively and negatively. “Writer in the Dark” explores codependency and learning to live without the person you once loved so deeply. In one moment, she sings “I’ll love you ’til my breathing stops, I’ll love you ’til you call the cops on me,” but in the next she says, “I’ll find a way to be without you, babe.” Self sufficiency is a big part of growing up. In her experience, it’s impossible at first, but as she learns more about life and herself, she admits, “I love it here, since I stopped needing you.” Mature, or at least older, love is more intense, rather than exciting, because you’ve invested a lot of yourself and your life into them.

Heartbreak and change are essential parts of the formative years of adolescence fading into adulthood. “Green Light” displays the feelings of not wanting to move on, as well as the naive realization that people aren’t as honest in love as you’d hoped. However, tracks like “Loveless” are more empowering, becoming the person on the other end of those toxic relationships. She taunts her ex, teasing “yeah, I’m gonna mess your life up, gonna wanna tape my mouth shut.” Lorde shows that love isn’t as innocent and optimistic as sentiments found in Pure Heroine had once made us believe.

As the singer matured more and continued to grow older, she disappeared once again after laying down the blueprint for our next four years with her second album. Her melodramatic ways were over as she began exploring new paths in her adulthood.

Image via Lorde/YouTube

Solar Power: The Confidence That Comes With Adulthood

Lorde is back, four years later, and has decided we’ve cried enough over silly boys and life’s hardships. Her new single “Solar Power,” came as a surprise last week and has officially marked the new era for many.

The track is different than any music she’s put out in the past and has a more upbeat tune and message. The star sings confidently about her time on the beaches, along with her “overripe peach”-like appearance. The album cover features her jumping over the camera in a bikini, her bikini-clad body and sun in full focus. To rephrase: it’s happier than anything she’s ever put out before. The music video features the singer absolutely glowing in her adulthood.

Lorde is full confident and thriving in her new explorations of adulthood. She doesn’t need to overthink her actions and her relationships. She solely relies on the beach and the “solar power” of nature for her happiness (though she allows “her boy” to tag along and take her bikini pictures). It’s such a confident and comfortable song—no deeper meaning or opportunity to cry.

In her long-awaited email, entitled “Hey Cuties,” she even said it’s a Summer song and meant to just help you unwind on a hot day. So much of her music has been relatable because of how sad and heartbreaking it is, but now she wants her fans to relate to it because they’re happy, as well.

With Lorde’s upcoming album, Solar Power, she is intending to guide her fans into their next phase of their life by leaving behind all the sadness and overthinking they’ve wasted their youth on. While it might not be as relatable as her past music, she has matured and finally reached a point where she feels she can guide her fans safely into the next chapter of life, accompanied by sunniness and joy, rather than the tears of Pure Heroine and Melodrama.

Featured image via Lorde/YouTube

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Mary Dodys

I cover the politics of pop culture—from celebrities scandals to the flaws in cancel culture. I'm always down for an album review, too. You can find me creating, whether I'm writing or painting.