Lorde is aptly named — since releasing her groundbreaking first single “Royals” in 2012, she has firmly secured her place as one of the music industry’s aristocracy. “Royals” was a surprise hit — after being released unceremoniously on Soundcloud, the song racked up hundreds of thousands of downloads before breaking the Billboard record for longest stint atop the Hot 100 list. The song later won Song of the Year at the 2014 Grammys. Lorde went on to release her debut album “Pure Heroine” in 2013, followed by her much-awaited second album “Melodrama” four years later. She has toured all over the world and picked up several other Grammy Awards (via Billboard). In 2021, Lorde’s third album “Solar Power” is set to drop after another long four year wait (via Insider).
Lorde shot to fame when she was still a young teenager. But before she was a world-acclaimed singer, Lorde was just a quiet bookworm from New Zealand — so it’s hard to imagine how she became the superstar she is today. Here is the stunning transformation of Lorde.
Lorde was born as Ella Yelich-O'Connor and grew up in New Zealand
Lorde was born in New Zealand in 1996 as Ella Yelich-O’Connor. Her mother, Sonja Yelich, was a poet and her father, Vic O’Connor, was an engineer (via Time). Growing up near Auckland, Lorde had a quiet, normal childhood. As she said in an interview for the Grammy Awards, “I’m glad I grew up there and didn’t, like, get jaded towards weird industry stuff.”
As Lorde told Rolling Stone, she is one of four children. One of Lorde’s sisters is a film and business student, another is “super-personable and bubbly,” and her brother is “into sports and maths,” she said. “I’m much more within myself,” Lorde explained in comparison.
It seems that Lorde’s New Zealand roots still have a strong hold on her. In 2017, she told NPR that she still lives in New Zealand, “because I do get to just be regular … I don’t have security or anything like that.”
Lorde was a super-smart introvert as a child
As a child, Lorde didn’t show signs of being destined for a career in the music industry. In fact, she liked her own company more than being in the spotlight. As she once told Time, “Since the day I was born, I was the kid who stays at the party for an hour, then walks upstairs and sits with her book.”
Despite her introversion, Lorde was clearly exceptional from a young age. As The Guardian reported, a New Zealand journalist found out that Lorde was an extremely gifted child. In fact, at 6 years old, she was said to have a “mental age of 21.” When Lorde was 10, Stuff reported, she won a district-wide school speech competition. The next year, Lorde came close to winning the Kids’ Lit Quiz, which would have seen her competing in Oxford. One year later, her team came second in the world final in South Africa.
Lorde was discovered at 12 at a talent show
Lorde was whisked away from her normal life at just 12 years old. After performing “Warwick Avenue” by Duffy at a school talent show, music producer Scott Maclachlan took her under his wing. “She had this amazing voice,” he recalled to Rolling Stone. According to The Guardian, Lorde was initially offered a record deal to perform covers of soul songs, but she refused. Instead, she was given a two-year developmental deal to work on herself. In those two years, Lorde honed her voice and her musical style and got ready to release her own music. As she explained, having voice lessons helped her to get rid of her nasal twang.
In an interview with the Grammy Awards, Lorde explained how the developmental deal meant that music remained a hobby rather than a career. “I liked being able to work at my own pace and figure out who I was,” she revealed.
Lorde created her stage name and persona to get over her shyness
Of course, the name “Lorde” was an invention. As the singer told 60 Minutes, “It’s that kind of nobility, aristocracy obsession that I had. I hit upon ‘Lord’ and loved the way it sounded, and then I guess I was just like, ‘it would be quite cool to add an E to feminize it.'” And so that’s exactly what she did.
In 2013, Lorde told The Fader that the moniker helped her create an on-stage alter ego. “When I perform I have to switch something on, because I’m a very reserved person in general,” she explained. By being “Lorde” rather than “Ella,” she was able to get past her shyness. Over the years, the two sides of her personality have mixed. As she told The Fader in 2014, “I think that I’m Ella most of the time, but Ella is Lorde now. Right? The Venn diagram is overlapping more, whereas before it was like: switch on a light, walk in the room.”
Lorde released her first single, 'Royals,' in 2012 and shot to fame
In 2012, Lorde was finally ready to release her first single — and it was worth the wait. “Royals,” written by Lorde and Joel Little, was released on Soundcloud in 2012. It quickly became a chart-topping, record breaking song. As Time explained, the song showed she was “intellectually credible,” which set Lorde apart from her peers.
“Royals” was a huge success and Lorde was suddenly catapulted into stardom. As she said in an Australian interview with James DeWeaver in 2013, the experience was “pretty weird, because [it] happened quite fast as well.” Luckily, her friends stood by her. As Lorde put it, they were “super supportive.” She went on to explain that she had managed to stay grounded through her rise to fame thanks to her support system. “My whole family’s really good at saying, ‘You’re not as cool as you think you are,'” she laughed.
Lorde's first full-length album came out in 2013 and she solidified her place as a star
Shortly after the release of “Royals,” Lorde put out her first album, “Pure Heroine.” The album sold more than three million copies and as The Guardian explained, she was swept up by the likes of Taylor Swift, Kanye West, and David Bowie as the latest protégée of the music industry.
Lorde’s new fame also brought with it plenty of opinions about her work. As she told Vogue, “People decided that I was the teenage perspective … It was an interesting thing, and especially because I felt like my writing was so specific and so personal, and people did really take it to be this much wider thing, which is super-flattering.”
It’s no wonder Lorde found this wide lens a little confusing. Even at the time, she felt that her writing was hyper personal. She explained to Elle, “I’ve always been brutally honest with my writing, even if it makes me look dumb or one of my friends gets annoyed at me because I wrote something that happened to us.” In any case, Lorde’s songs struck a nerve and she quickly found herself at the top of her game at just 16 years old.
Lorde struck up a transformative friendship with Taylor Swift
Of all of the music icons who supported Lorde in her early days, Taylor Swift may have had the biggest impact on the young singer. As Lorde told The Fader in 2014, Swift helped her learn how to be famous. “She’s probably the most graceful person at being famous that I’ve seen … whenever I’m struggling with something, whether it be a loss of privacy or extreme exhaustion, I remember her way of thinking about it,” she revealed. Apparently, Swift was also one of the first people to hear some of Lorde’s music and she couldn’t have been more supportive. How sweet!
Later, in 2017, Lorde explained that her relationship with Swift was still going strong. When Swift announced that she was taking a step back from public life, Lorde told The Guardian that she was happy to take precautions to stay out of the public eye. “It’s like having a friend with very specific allergies,” she explained. “There are certain places you can’t go together. Certain things you can’t do.” Since Lorde frequently took time out of public life, too, it seems this pair was perfectly suited.
Lorde executive produced The Hunger Games soundtrack and toured for several years
After Lorde released her debut album and almost instantaneously became a household name, the singer took an unexpected route: she went into music producing for the soundtrack of “The Hunger Games.” Lorde handpicked songs for the album and contributed a few of her own as well. As she told The Fader, being a producer was a whole new experience. “It was kind of funny being on the other side of that and being like, ‘We have deadlines, we have budgets, we have different demographics to think about,'” she recalled. The project was also a lot more pressure than her first album had been. “I’m lucky enough that I never put pressure on myself making my own music, but with this I definitely felt the pressure of making it cool but also commercially viable,” she continued.
In addition to dipping her toes into music production, Lorde also spent a few years touring all over the world, and performing was another new aspect of the job that she had to get used to. Lorde explained her preparation process to Rookie: “Usually I need a couple minutes by myself. I warm up and I stride around the room in different weird ways, which probably comes from taking drama classes.”
When Lorde was 19, she had a tumultuous year full of changes
After “Pure Heroine,” Lorde didn’t release new music for four years, and during her break she did a lot of growing up. As she told Vogue, 2015 was a particularly pivotal year. “I basically turned 19 and the world was like: ‘Alright, we’re going to toss everything up in the air and it’s all going to come down in a really crazy way,'” she recalled. In one year, Lorde moved out of her family home and she broke up with her boyfriend at the time, James Lowe. The pair had been together for three years at the time of their severance.
With all of these changes happening in quick succession, Lorde suddenly felt that she was being thrust into adulthood. “I really felt like a young adult for the first time, kind of socially,” she continued. While these changes weren’t always easy, they helped Lorde to grow and mature as an artist. “I just couldn’t write it all down fast enough,” she added.
Lorde took a step back from music to recalibrate
Even though Lorde was busy with tours and producing projects after her first album, she ended up taking a significant break before her second album. As she told Zane Lowe’s Beats 1 radio show, the break was carefully calculated. “For me it was kind of about processing what I want to say next and I knew it just couldn’t be any old thing … There was a lot of discovery that went on,” she shared.
While the break gave Lorde a chance to think carefully about what she wanted to create next, it also gave her a chance to step out of the spotlight and return to her normal life at home in New Zealand. “I was like, ‘This is incredible, nobody cares about me,'” she explained to Stuff. “I definitely wasn’t bothered.” In fact, Lorde disappeared for so long that she felt completely refreshed when she finally came back. “I haven’t really felt like I’ve been living in the public eye for a long time,” she added. “I’ve been so off the beaten track.”
In 2017, Lorde released 'Melodrama,' her break-up album
Even though Lorde took a lengthy four year break from music, her second album was anything but a disappointment to her fans. As she told The Guardian, her second album “Melodrama” was a collaborative effort with Jack Antonoff. The pair spent two years working on the record and, as Lorde recalled, they “had taste and feelings but [they] didn’t really know how to make anything.”
Along with having a new collaborator and co-producer, Lorde also had new material to draw from: her break-up. As she shared with Vanity Fair, the album was filled with highly emotional break-up songs, which was new territory for her. “It wasn’t until I went through heartbreak, and moved out of [my parents’] home into my own house and spent a lot of time totally alone, that I realized I do have very serious, vivid feelings I needed to get out,” she confessed. “Working with [co-writer/co-producer] Jack Antonoff opened me up to feeling a lot; he was the perfect person to help me do that.”
Lorde got a dog in 2018, which helped her to learn about herself
In 2018, Lorde got a dog called Pearl in an attempt to bring some stability and normalcy into her life. “He was the ultimate tour guide,” Lorde told The Guardian. He was with her while she wrote her third album — and for Lorde, his presence became extremely meaningful. “To feel this energy that was not being generated by me was really profound,” she recalled.
Sadly, Pearl died in 2019, which deeply affected the singer. As she wrote in a letter to her fans at the time, “This loss has been indescribably painful, and a light that was turned on for me has gone out” (via People). Lorde was so devastated by the death of Pearl that she delayed the release of her album in order to grieve.
As Lorde later told The Guardian, Pearl’s death ended up changing her. “Grief is a really transformative force,” she explained. “I’d never experienced it fully like that, and it makes you question everything. It overturns a lot.”
Lorde spent the 2020 pandemic outside whenever she could
During the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, we all found ourselves sheltering inside to reduce the spread of the virus — but Lorde was determined to get outside as much as possible. As she told ABC, “I have a variety of secret spots that I go to [outside].” She added, “But I also spend a tonne of time in the studio … So, between the studio and a perfect beach somewhere, that’s kind of my vibe.”
Additionally, as Lorde shared with The Guardian, she also quit social media during the pandemic. “I think it was altering my neural pathways and homogenising my trains of thought,” she revealed. “I was losing touch with my ability to explore an idea at my own pace, which felt like losing my free will at times.” Connecting with nature and logging off helped Lorde to recalibrate and refocus her energy for album number three — the aptly named “Solar Power.”
Lorde came back with full force with her third album in 2021
Lorde’s third album “Solar Power” is set to drop in 2021. Her first single, also called “Solar Power,” has already made a gigantic impact. In fact, it quickly went to number one (via Billboard).
Lorde’s newfound passion for the natural world was the major inspiration for the project. The fascination began when she traveled to Antarctica in 2019. As she told The Guardian, “It was the middle of summer in New Zealand” when she left. “Going from the beach and tans to this hostile, cold environment and back to the beach, that whiplash helped set the scene to start writing this record,” she revealed. Her new music, she explained, would attempt to capture the power and mystery of nature. It sounds like a real departure from the moody introversion of “Melodrama.”
Another major influence for Lorde was the death of her beloved dog Pearl and the grieving process that followed. As she put it, “This record is about how precious life is, really.”
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