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How Lorde Birthed a New Generation of Pop Stars

Lorde first stepped into the music industry as a beloved indie darling but has had the career of a mega pop star. Her debut hit “Royals” dethroned Miley Cyrus’ summer hit “Wrecking Ball” on the Billboard Hot 100 in October of 2013. This confused critics as her song was the antithesis of a typical pop song, with an 85-bpm production style, minimalistic drums, and soft vocals. It was miles away from the current pop climate that had been dominated by the likes of Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, and Britney Spears. Her singing style was a topic of controversy as it didn’t meet the vocal standards of her peers. Her lack of belting and vocal projection had isolated herself from the rest of her competition, but nonetheless, she had found herself integrated into mainstream music. Lorde had always made it clear that she focused on storytelling and detailed song writing, which not only captured the hearts of a younger generation but had led to critical acclaim.

In 2017, Peter Robinson, a writer for The Guardian, had coined the term “whisperpop” and credited its uprising to Lorde and Lana Del Rey. This new genre of pop music focused on a more mellow singing style, minimalistic production, and often more narrative based lyrics. This birthed the new age of pop stars including Billie Eilish, Halsey, and Melanie Martinez. Gone were the days of thumping, loud pop anthems and in were the days of sad, mid-tempo songs. Lorde’s music felt like it was ahead of its time with its criticism on consumer culture and depiction of the deafening stillness and anxiety that comes with being a teenager. The hits of 2017, like “New Americana” by Halsey and “Here” by Alessia Cara, had similar production and singing styles along with social commentaries that were reflective of the music Lorde released back in 2013.

In the summer of 2017, Lorde had released her sophomore album Melodrama. She had completely switched gears away from her bare bones production and teen commentary. It was a staple pop break up album produced by Jack Antonoff and people were lost for words. As the pop industry was just now catching up to her old music, she had released a new project that was lightyears away from her initial album. The album was layered, personal, and emotionally unrelenting. Where Pure Heroine was a commentary on her surroundings, Melodrama was an insight into Lorde’s psyche. This album was perfectly polished, something Antonoff failed to do with Taylor Swift’s Reputation album that was also released in the same year. “Writer in the Dark” had Lorde belting her heart out, silencing the “whisperpop” critics, while her single “Greenlight” had listeners dancing in clubs. Although it was not as commercially successful as her previous work, it was a fan favorite that had garnered her another Grammy nomination.

To this day, a lot of the new generation of singers, such as Troye Sivan, Conan Grey, and most notably, Olivia Rodrigo, have credited Lorde as their inspiration. Rodrigo, who is arguably the most popular female pop star of 2021, has mentioned Lorde as her inspiration on multiple occasions. Lorde’s influence can be heard on the bridge of Rodrigo’s hit single “Driver’s License” and her album’s deep cut song “Hope Ur Ok.” The bridges of these songs have the signature Lorde sound with layered harmonies, spacey drums, and whispery vocals. There is no denying that at first listen, one could be reminded of Melodrama. Lorde has recently stated that she does not want to be perceived as a pop star, but it is difficult to think otherwise when her impact on the industry has been so prominent. Although she might never reach the heights of her debut single, her uniqueness and the intimacy that she has created between herself and the listener has helped her maintain a strong and loyal fanbase. Despite the several years it has taken for her to create albums, there will always be a slew of excited critics and fans ready to consume her content that oftentimes shifts the pop scene one way or another.

Krissie Cruz

McMaster '24

Krissie is currently a second-year political science student with a specialization in public law and judicial studies. In her free time, she invests her time in reading, taking film photography, and curating oddly specific Spotify playlists.
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