By Ray McDonald
There’s something at once awe-inspiring and chilling about being present at the creation of a new star. Once upon a time, music fans relied on magazines, radio, records, and possibly the odd TV appearance to familiarize themselves with new artists. The Internet changed the game: today you see a video on YouTube, tweet about it to your friends, and look to Google for more information. The web has also shrunk the globe – anyone anywhere can go viral in an instant.
At this moment, the most hotly-hyped singer in cyberspace is consciously avoiding any whiff of hype. Ella Yelich-O’Connor is letting us do the heavy lifting for her. Adopting the mysterious name Lorde, this 16-year-old New Zealand native has been waiting in the wings for four years. Discovered at a talent show at age 12, she signed with industry giant Universal and began writing music while still attending school. In March of this year, she released her debut EP “The Love Club,” which promptly stormed charts in New Zealand and Australia. Aided by a cool, understated video, her debut single “Royals” topped the New Zealand chart, and is now a Top 40 entry on the United States Hot 100 pop chart.
Study her output, and you’ll recognize that Lorde is not your typical chirpy teen-popper. Instead of saturating social media with photos and tweets, Lorde and her record label have adopted a different approach. Lorde says she maintains tight control over information and image, letting her own talent carry the day.
Last month, she created a sensation after replacing an injured Frank Ocean at Australia’s Splendour In The Grass festival. Her performance lit a fire which only intensified earlier this week, when she sold out her first-ever United States show. A second Los Angeles show followed on August 8. Lorde’s debut full-length album is due on September 30, and a glimpse at her upcoming United States concert dates reveals the extent of her record label’s hopes: she’s booked in big-name venues.
This girl is moving fast, and that’s where the “chilling” part of the process comes to the fore. Six years ago, a Canadian teenager named Justin Bieber first showed up on YouTube, singing living room-renditions of other people’s pop hits. He’s now a global superstar, and if you follow the headlines you know the road has been bumpy, to say the least.
That’s not to say that Lorde is headed down the same rocky path. She seems to have her head on straight, and I hope her family and friends will help keep her feet on the ground, even as her career takes flight.