Lorde – ‘Million Dollar Bills’

Apr 9th, 2013
| posted by: Jonno |

I don’t even want to know how old Kiwi singer and enigmatic Internet darling Lorde actually is, because chances are it’s far too young to make me feel remotely good about myself on a Tuesday. Signed to Universal on the back of (presumably) a handful of songs, Lorde’s debut EP had been foisted rather quietly onto the general public and yet here it is in my inbox about four times over since I first heard it a month ago. Major labels do this kind of thing sometimes, where they go the slow burn approach rather than trying to hit you over the head with something new and hope that you’ll go for it. And it works. Releasing next to no information about Lorde has helped craft her into something of a secretive figure, which is hilarious given how brassy and balls-out her vocals are. In small communities, it’s often harder to stay cloaked beneath the shadows of anonymity. It didn’t take anybody long to figure out who Flume was. Ditto Chet Faker, or even seriously anti-press figures like Jahnne. But for now, we get to judge the music purely on its merit, which is sort of nice. It’s what we did with SBTRKT, initially, albeit already swimming in a sea of hype. Lorde’s not at that stage yet, but given the cycles of the Internet and the undeniable allure of her songwriting, I give it five days. Tops.

Lorde sounds like a weird hybrid mix of a British female brat pack singer, fellow New Zealander Kimbra (particularly in her instrumentation) and a trap producer like Hudson Mohawke or RL Grime. If that sounds bizarre, it isn’t really. Because of her age (it’s sixteen, kill me) and inclination, her voice skews bubbly but her music dives deep. What you get is a nice sort of Bertie Blackman paradox, where a relatively innocent sounding tone is completely blown out by instrumentation that seems to have been cut and pasted from another genre. Grimes is someone who does this quite well, and it’s no surprise that she’s already namechecked Lorde in the past few months, because their aesthetic is not dissimilar. If you listen to her debutThe Love Club, though, you’ll notice that this isn’t a one-trick gimmick. Those deep swoops of melody and souped up bass drums that sound like they’ve been parsed through a bitcrusher are noticeable on every single track. I don’t know which producer she’s working with (and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was Francois Tetaz) but it may be that the super-active young one is well on the way to marking out her own sound. For context, at sixteen I still hadn’t really discovered rap music yet.

‘Million Dollar Bills’ will not get as much adoration as lead single ‘Royals’, but I like it better because it does everything you need in a very short timeframe. It’s got those drum-trigger vocal beats, a Carribean lilt to a beat that is so goddamn huge sounds like it was pulled off a Drake joint or a TNGHT vinyl. It actually pulverises you from the second you hear it, which is why it’s impressive that little Lorde – who evidently isn’t that little if you look at the photo – has a big voice that can actually lead it rather than be drowned by it. Playing with this kind of backing track can prove perilous for even the most seasoned singer. I’ve seen plenty of live shows where artists are overwhelmed by their laptops. It’s less obvious in the pop delivery here, but Lorde has this shit down. She also possesses the rare quality of making a track that is pretty much a serviceable club banger without having ever stepped foot into a nightclub.

The Internet. What would we do without it?

Lorde – ‘Million Dollar Bills’

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