Lorde: A retrospective of her rise to international stardom

  • 17/04/2014

"Who is that?" A pause.

"Lorde, you idiot". The "Lorde" was pronounced "Lordie".

This was the conversation between two 70-somethings landing on an Air New Zealand flight two weeks ago. I was sitting across from them in the other aisle. They were very cute and looked like they'd been together, in love, for a very long time.

Air New Zealand has chosen a Lorde song as the first thing you hear when you land in New Zealand. As you breathe a sigh of relief that you're alive and well, the synthy pulse of 'Team' kicks in.

Pretty soon the seatbelt sign clicks off, and you can get the hell off the plane. 

By then, Lorde is singing at you: "We live in cities you'll never see on screen… not very pretty, but we sure know how to run things…"

Lorde certainly knows how to run things. This weekend, The North Shore-teen performs her second weekend at Coachella in the Californian desert. It seemed a good time to look back at some highlights from her career so far. Because, let's face it, she's done some cool stuff, right?

November 2012
Lorde releases her music on Soundcloud, in the form of The Love Club EP. In the mix is a certain song called 'Royals'.

No-one knows what Lorde looks like - it's just a photo of some gypsy woman with a snake. The illustration was by the incredibly talented Sam Yong. His friend, photographer Simeon Patience, took the photo it's based on.

December 2012
The internet begins chatting about this mysterious musicians called 'Lorde'. People are listening. More and more people are visiting Lorde's tumblr. George FM embraces her - said to be the first radio station to catch on.

January 2013
We haven't heard from Lorde. Until Katherine Lowe interviews her on her blog, Katherine is Awesome. The world sees the first image of Lorde's actual face… except she's covering most of it up.

It's a great interview between two talented people of similar age and is very casual and unaffected.

"I've always sung and I've always written, whereas songwriting is new to me in the last like, 3-4 years," said Lorde. "I've always wanted to marry the two. Kind of. I don't know, it just took me a while, then I started writing and stuff and once you start…"

February 2013
Fellow Kiwi musicians begin to tweet about Lorde:

March 2013
The Love Club EP is released officially by Universal Music. 'Royals' rockets to number one on the New Zealand Top 40 charts and remains there for three weeks.

April 2013
Lorde plays for the first time in front of an audience. It's in a small Auckland club. In the audience are family and friends, and some people from Universal music.

May 2013
The 'Royals' video drops on YouTube. It currently has at 49 million views.

June 2013
Lorde's second EP Tennis Court is released on June 8. A recut video of 'Royals' is released for an American audience, featuring more shots of Lorde. It currently sits at 248 million views.

A video is released for Lorde's second single, 'Tennis Court'. It features one take of Lorde singing to camera. This wasn't the original concept of the video, but it was released online anyway. The video inspired the video Lorde Wookie, where Lorde's "Yeah!" refrain is replaced with Chewbacca yelling.

July 2013
At the last minute, Frank Ocean pulls out of Australia's Spendour in the Grass Festival. Lorde fills in the space. It's her biggest show to date by far, and her first festival. She gets rave reviews.

Overseas celebs begin to tweet about Lorde. One of the earliest is Jared Leto, who insists people watch the 'Royals' video. He is retweeted 451 times.

August 2013
Selena Gomez decides it's a good idea to cover 'Royals' during her show. Footage of the performance is uploaded to YouTube.

Lorde plays her second show in New Zealand, this time at the headquarters of New Zealand brand Huffer. This time it is bigger and journalists are invited.

Lorde hits number one on the US Billboard Alt songs chart. This is the first time a female has been there in 17 years.

September 2013
Lorde plays a gig at New Zealand's Vector Arena. She covers Kanye West's 'Hold My Liquor'. The free concert means fans, young and old, can finally see their hero perform in person. My mum, Pam, attended and said, "She is just wonderful isn't she? I like her."

Leading up to the release of Lorde's debut album, New Zealand music critic Simon Sweetman writes some of the strangest words of 2013: "This 16-year-old is still being sexualised in the selling of her music - it's just to dudes that wank over Farmers lingerie catalogues rather than being honest and hiring porn … Soon she'll be seventeen! Game over. What will people write about then?"

TV3 current affairs show 3rd Degree runs The Story of Lorde by Samantha Hayes, including interviews with her, her management and her co-writer Joel Little.

Lorde releases her debut studio album Pure Heroine on September 27. It features simple white text and a black background.

"What's fueling Pure Heroine is a tension between the tweet and the truth, the cumulative effect of the little digital fictions we craft for ourselves daily," writes Pitchfork in their 7.3 review.

Plugged In, a music magazine published by conservative Christian outfit Focus on the Family, writes: "It doesn't help matters that Pure Heroine is so deeply secular in its musings, with God almost never creeping into the lyrical picture."

October 2013
Lorde wins New Zealand's top song-writing award, the APRA Silver Scroll, for 'Royals'. The song also hits number one on the Billboard Hot 100. It remains there for nine straight weeks.

Metro magazine runs a cover story on Lorde by Duncan Greive. It features an insight into the singer's upbringing, family and lifestyle.

Puddles The Clown releases a cover of 'Royals' on YouTube. It gets over six million hits.

Lorde performs live on Jimmy Fallon. If that wasn't mindblowing enough, next minute she's doing the same thing on Ellen.

November 2013
Tilda Swinton celebrates her 53rd birthday. Lorde performs, and afterwards Tilda and another guest by the name of David Bowie get a photo with her.

Days later, on November 7, Lorde celebrates her own birthday. She is now 17. Strangely, people still keep writing about her.

Lorde appears on Letterman on November 12. David Letterman looks puzzled, but pleased.

The soundtrack for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is released. It features Lorde doing a cover of 'Everybody Wants To Rule The World'.

On November 21, she wins four New Zealand music awards: Single of the Year, Breakthrough Artist of the Year, People's Choice Award and the International Achievement Award.

She also signs a publishing deal with Songs Music Publishing worth about US$2.5 million.

December 2013
Lorde releases the video to her third single, 'Team' on December 4. Vevo promptly crashes. The video was shot in an abandoned building in Brooklyn, and directed by Alex Takacs aka 'Young Replicant'. The video currently sits at 38.5 million views.

Odd Future's Tyler, The Creator tweets an image of Lorde with the words: "Hahahahahahhaah". Lorde tweets back "Was this supposed to make me feel something?" Tyler responds with: "NOT AT ALL, IT MADE ME LAUGH". It leaves a sour taste vibe behind, like slightly off eggs.

January 2014
Lorde wins two of the four Grammy Awards she's nominated for: Song of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance. She also performs at the Grammys. No big thing.

Days later, she returns to perform a Laneway sideshow at Silo Park in Auckland.

February 2014
Lorde wins International Female Solo Artist at the Brit awards. She also performs at the ceremony in a collaboration with Disclosure.

March 2014
Bruce 'The Boss' Springsteen plays two sold out shows in New Zealand. He opens each night with a cover of 'Royals'.

While this is happening, Lorde is touring the planet. This includes a performance at Lollapalooza in Chile.

April 2014
Lorde performs with the surviving members of Nirvana as the band was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

She then proceeds to play at Coachella, the giant music festival just out of Palm Springs, California.

In between Coachella weekends, she wins the NZ$10,000 Taite prize back home in New Zealand. The awards ceremony is held at Galatos, where she played her very first gig.

She records a message from Las Vegas to play at the awards ceremony and in it says: "I think everyone is kind of sick of me winning stuff at the moment and other people are in more in need of the funds and exposure right now. So if you will accept it, the prize money and the studio time have been split between this year's nominees. If you don't want it, that's cool too".

Lorde also appears to make amends with Odd Future's Tyler, The Creator, who tweets:

I tell my colleague Daniel Rutledge about this list I have spent the last hour compiling of what Lorde's been up to since she first put her music on Soundcloud for free. He stares at me with an expression that gives nothing away, before replying, "It's a crazy world out there being a bloody pop star, innit?"

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