Usually I’m in the know when it comes to up and coming pop stars, but I have to admit that Lorde totally flew under my radar until today. She released an EP called The Love Club during December 2012 — I just bought it from iTunes — but I don’t recall seeing any reviews or otherwise hearing about it, even though it’s available here in the U.S. Then again, my memory is terrible, so I could have read a rave review about her and forgot fifteen minutes later. (Yes, my memory is that bad.) In any case, I’m quite happy to have finally discovered her — she’s quite brilliant!

Her real name is Ella Yelich-O’Connor and she’s a sixteen year old singer/songwriter from New Zealand. Wiki states that she’s a Year 12 student attending Takapuna Grammar School on Auckland’s North Shore. They also indicate that she’s rumored to be of Serbian and Irish descent.

Wiki apparently does not know why she’s going by the name Lorde though. I think Ella Yelich-O’Connor is a pretty rocking name, so I definitely would have stuck with that if I was her. But I’m not. Obviously. But I just had to say that. Also, the name Lorde makes me think of that weird Gwar-ish band Lordi that won Eurovision a few years or so ago. And I really hate being reminded of Lordi. They kind of ruined the whole Eurovision thing for me.

Now, let’s talk about Lorde’s new single, the double A-side “Tennis Court” and “Swingin Party.” (In some countries her newest single is “Swingin Party,” but in others, like here, it’s “Tennis Court” with “Swingin Party” as the B-side. )

“Don’t you think that it’s boring how people talk?” Lorde sings at the very beginning of “Tennis Court.” She continues: “Making smart with their words again, well I’m bored.” Her voice is like a cross between Lana Del Rey and Sky Ferreira. And I have a feeling that they’re big influences of hers. In fact, I doubt very much that “Tennis Court” would even exist if it wasn’t for Lana. That said, Lorde still manages to sound unique and memorable. Her voice is ever-so-slightly smokey and she sings with a bit of a drawl. Not in a lazy sense, but in the way that she stretches out some of her words in a kind of sultry manner that also seems to imply “I don’t give a fuck.” As for the music, “Tennis Court” begins with some slightly eerie synth then adds some subtle beats. When it hits the chorus, the synth grows louder and more ominous, meanwhile the beats — which are very hip-hop-ish — intensify, getting rather punchy. And that luscious chorus begins: “Baby be the class clown / I’ll be the beauty queen in tears / It’s a new art form, showing people how little we care.” (I told you she doesn’t give a fuck.) And then a voice with the pitch turned way down to make it sound twisted and deep goes “yeah.” (These “yeah”s appear throughout the song, placed in all the right spots to emphasize Lorde’s potent lyrics.) It reminds me of that weird voice in the new Miley Cyrus song, but it works so much better here. I thought it just made Miley’s song sound too desperate to be different, but that’s just me. I’m digging her make over though.

Another thing about Lorde’s delivery of the vocals during “Tennis Court”: her pacing or her timing or something is definitely hip-hop influenced. She practically raps some of the lyrics. If she slowed it down a bit more, it would basically be that. (I’m sure some clown on the internet will slow the track down and post it on Youtube. I’d probably do it myself if I still had Acid Pro. (I really miss Acid Pro. Tell them to send me a copy, will you?))Lorde

Now, onto “Swingin Party”… This one begins with a barely audible beat that almost sounds like a click track or metronome beat. But the beat is not the point: it’s Lorde’s devious vocals. And, besides, there’s funeral-esque, humming organ in the background, which is all the music the song really needs and, also, it almost makes it feel like she’s making a mockery of church, which I have to applaud. Regardless, the beat does get a bit louder, later. And then there’s a mesmerizing banging sound.

Lyrically, “Swingin Party” is less hip-hop-ish and more poetic. The slow, codeine-feeling chorus: “If being wrong’s a crime, I’m serving forever / If being strong’s your kind, then I need help here with this feather / If being afraid is a crime, we hang side by side / At the swingin’ party down the line.” If the song has a story, or a theme, the idea would seem to be to party until you get thrown in jail for partying and then to anticipate the next party while you’re in jail. At least that’s my take on it. It’s not the easiest song to interpret. I mean, it begins, “Bring your own lampshade, somewhere there’s a party.” What does that even mean? Is it a theme party where you’re supposed to wear lampshades on your head? Is that how they roll in New Zealand? I don’t know, but I can’t stop listening to this song. It’s entirely hypnotic and more than just a little addictive. And I strongly suggest that you get hooked. (Do it now before everybody else does.)

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An entertainment journalist for 20 years, Michael McCarthy was a columnist and contributing editor for the magazines Lollipop and LiveWire. He co-created and wrote for Cinezine, one of the '90's most popular movie E-zines. The only time he's not listening to music is when he's watching television shows and movies or reading, usually music magazines.


  1. Laurie Harrington says:

    Okay, you win. As in ‘win me over’ with this review of yours of Lorde. Ella. Lorde. And you…keep up the good work. Please. And thank you.

  2. Garry Sills says:

    dont think serbian she has Croatian blood thats for sure from her Mothers side her Fathers name is Oconnor so not sure if its Irish or not.

    • curious says:

      Garry how do you know about her heritage? I’m really interested to know whether she is Serbian.

      • Karla says:

        1. Because of her surname.
        2. Her mother stated clearly in her biography that she’s from Dalmatia, so yes, she’s half Dalmatian.

  3. Jelić says:

    She is Serbian origin of the family of Jelics!

  4. curious says:

    Well Jelich goes either way, it’s not strictly either Croatian or Serbian but both. And there are plenty of Serbs from Dalmatia. This website interview with her claims that her mothers father was Serbian.

    Either way, very proud to have the half-Yugoslav achieving so much!

  5. Sam says:

    The whole thing about a “swinging party” is a bunch of people trussed up together on a tree, literally hanging for being different than from what society wishes them to be. It’s a tongue in cheek stab at societal norms. The organ music denotes death since they’re all hanging; the lampshades are to hide their “shame” from being different; and they’re all swinging together as a group to show that they’re cool with being outcasts since they have each other.

  6. Kipple says:

    re: Swinging Party
    You couldn’t have been farther off the mark. I find it appalling that there was no credit given to Paul Westerberg of the Replacements who wrote the song.
    Lampshade refers to the cover on your head when people were hanged.
    A “Swingin’ party” is just that — a party, but also a reference to the historical public hangings of groups of people who were different.
    search for:

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