Great Sounds Great; Bad Sounds Bad: Lorde ‘The Love Club’

Lorde

Great Sounds Great; Bad Sounds Bad is a column which sees a panel of writers for The Corner review a range of local singles and grade them out of 10. Check out the song below, read through their opinions and let us know in the comments section your own thoughts and what you’d like to see reviewed next time around.

[Soundcloud / iTunes]

[Grade: 5.9]

Dan Taipua: Look, this is fine. It’s a reasonable and inoffensive song with a track made out of neat little studio tricks. If you’re over the age of 15, for goodness sake don’t go out there and get gassed up on the hype. This is plain pop music with a gimmick to make you feel like it isn’t – this is the last ten years of majors pitching teenage singers to a largely female market in their late-20’s who are trying to reclaim some lost cool. It’s Kings of Leon, it’s the Black Keys with a decade and gender differential, it’s on ZM and will chart this week as Universal have removed free downloads from Soundcloud and moved to iTunes and Spotify. These things are all fine, but I will point and laugh when you fall off the bandwagon. [5]

Eden Bradfield: Lorde has the same bratty knack for melody Lily Allen does, except when I went back and listened to some songs by Lily Allen, she tosses off lines like they’re nothing at all- “it’s not okay to be gay/well I think you’re just evil/you’re just some racist who can’t tie my laces”- if they were given any more attention than what she gives them they wouldn’t work. Lorde’s lines are strained and have that forced pushed-forward diarrhea quality that Adele/Grimes/Sky Ferreira occasionally have.

I went back and listened to ‘Royals’, and it’s a damn good song. The bass is understated and cool as hell, “let me live that fantasy” is weirdly reminiscent of the Hannah Montana theme tune, and Lorde’s knack for melody is out in strength, coupled with lyrics that aren’t over-stroked. It’s fun. It’s catchy, and it doesn’t collapse under its own weight as a Pop Hit, which is exactly why it is a Pop Hit. ‘The Love Club’ sounds enticing at first, but collapses under its own weight of this obligation it seemingly has to meet up to ‘Royals’ and be a Pop Hit. [4]

Miriama Aoake: Unmistakable white girl anthem. That shouldn’t connote a checklist of white girl attributes, but rather the likelihood of young white wimmen everywhere identifying themselves with that of young Lorde’s music. Stunning voice. Interested to see the progression under Universal. [7]

Hayden Currie: This reminds me of that song ‘Royals’ – fact-check: it is by the same artist. The voice and content of that song also reminds me of ‘Price Tag’ by Jessie J (a bit unfair because ‘Royals’ isn’t as venal) – both of which have been unpleasantly assaulting my ears at work. I like this song a lot better. It seems more sincere or something, plus I like the melody and tune better. Not really something I’d listen to by choice but not bad. Her song ‘Bravado’ is great. I like ‘Biting Down’ too. Maybe because they’re darker and more personal-feeling and the lyrics seem less of an amateur attempt to comment on our crappy consumerist culture in a catchy pop tune. [6]

Nick D: I honestly don’t think I’ve been this excited about an emerging artist in New Zealand music since I first heard rumours of this guy Darcy Clay who cruised round Ponsonby in a grand prix outfit handing out demo’s of his first EP. There was something exciting about the myths, the half-truths and once you saw the guy play – the truths, and of course, the music. From the get go he had this sound that was truly his own and unlike anything you’d heard before – and once word got out, his notoriety spread like wildfire.

And okay, so there’s definite reference points and vocal comparisons you can make with 16-year-old Takapuna Grammar student (slash friggin talented singer/songwriter) Lorde. There’s been something similarly exciting about watching this buzz go from seedling to giant fucking oak tree in literally no time at all. It’s great seeing this new breed of young Kiwi artists starting to rise up whose influences past and present know no limits. With Lorde you’ve got an artist who is vibing off Fantastic Mr Fox & Blawan b-sides whilst name checking Odd Future cohorts and mid-90s Wu-Tang affiliate Shyheim as influences. Martyn Pepperell had a great name for this new generation of music-making kids born post 1995 weaned on a steady diet of ‘net and Lorde is exactly that, and just one of many signs of great things to come for the future of music in Aotearoa.

It’s been funny watching people (mainly from people 2–3 decades her senior) quick to point out her record company ties like they’ve uncovered some major conspiracy. Like most people who discovered Lorde in the last few months, I did so in a way which is so rare these days – good old fashioned word of mouth. Her meteoric rise has only been a by-product of shock horror, because people actually dig the music and feel the need to share it and tell their mates about it.

‘Royals’ was a killer, but ‘The Love Club’ takes it up a notch for me – that same snappy minimalism but warmer, and she’s a great story-teller, taking me back to a precise moment where being a way wayward teenager, sneaking into gigs, battling with the folks, and blasting Darcy Clay was the soundtrack to my 15-year-old life. Already getting big up’s from Grimes, this is for me the strongest track on the EP and hell I’m excited to see what’s next for her. Big talent. [9]

Sean Quay: There seems to be a lot of excitement around Lorde at the moment. But I’m not feeling it. Don’t get me wrong: this is a capable song. It’s well composed, structured and performed and Lorde seems to have her / their sound well defined. It’s all pretty inoffensive without any particularly glaring faults, but it just doesn’t move me. [5]

Katherine Lowe: I’m not an expert on music but I do know what I like, and I think this song is pretty fucking good. I like it better than ‘Royal’s even. It’s incredibly catchy, it’s cute, and it’ll be super popular. I know some people hate things that are popular because popular means you’re probably making money and lots of people know about you and like you, which is the opposite to underground and cool and able to reference obscure shit, but we’re talking about a (then) 15-year-old girl who wrote a song and recorded it and when do you ever see anything a 15 year old has done, let alone actually genuinely think it’s good?

I know I shouldn’t really be taking age into account when reviewing a song but before I even knew how old she was I was already giving The Love Club the thumbs up. I think there are dozens of 16-year-olds in New Zealand who could sing a song and get it to number one on iTunes, but Ella is different. She’s clever and considered and I think people are starting to get that she’s beyond some pretty face with a decent voice. I know this because I’ve met her in real life and she’s incredibly well read and well spoken and you can tell with her lyrics. I really think she’ll go the distance. I’m sold.

Full Disclosure: I know Ella. She’s kind of a friend, which makes me biased in some ways, but I can honestly tell you that before I met her and interviewed her and liked her all I’d seen was her website, and I liked her back then too. [8]

Louie G: Love Club < Trap Love Club.
Get some real beats, studio team. [2]

Luke Jacobs: Last time a single by Lorde arrived to listen to I sat on the polar opposite of my fellow reviewers. I listened back to that single and I still think what I said was accurate. This song addresses what I thought about the last single. It feels less generic in terms of instrumentation and it moves at a much more lively pace. I think her songwriting is much stronger here and the background textures make it all work so much better.

In terms of structure it feels like there is a bit more body and Lorde really shows off her vocal abilities in a much better fashion than before. She has a lovely voice and can really project it. She is not being masked by studio trickery, although since there is plenty of polish present it accentuates the positive rather than trying to hide an inherent vocal weakness.

I still find it hard to like in an objective sense though. Maybe it’s the story of the song that I cannot really get lost in. Maybe it’s the sense that if this were part of an album, most of the songs would sound like this. I think a big part of it is that the bittersweet nature of this song does not feel as biting or as syrupy as it needs to be. I hate to mention her age, but at 16 she still has a long time to work at it and so as she matures it will be very interesting to see what type of material she produces. As she learns and grows as an artist she could turn out some work I really do connect with. [6]

Andrew B. White: This is quite an upbeat number. I like the bass line and the track is nicely (sonically) produced. The vocal sample through the whole song gets pretty grating though – there probably should be less of it or it should be further back in the mix. Checking out some of Lorde’s other stuff it seems that’s something that is one of her trademarks.

Again, here’s another vocalist with that Kimbra vocal style and what-not. I don’t know much about the artist except there has been some controversy about her and whether she’s ‘keeping it real’ or not. Apparently she’s young and to some people that means you can’t be critical of her. You can hear the youth in her vocal so that does make some of the lyrical content seem a bit unbelievable but hey, this is pop music so who really needs to analyse? Overall Lorde is kinda like a 2013 version of Fast Crew. Make of what you will with that statement. Will probably be 2013’s ‘Kimbra’. [5]

Joe Nunweek: In the ranks of female performers lauded for their youth, aesthetic, and sass (or failing this, their sassy youthful aesthetic) who put out EPs in the past twelve-odd months (this, Azaelia Banks, Sky Ferreira, others I’m forgetting), Lorde’s EP is still probably the best, to the point that this title track’s probably the second-weakest cut and it’s still really good. Even if you’re convinced that every last element of her presentation and image has been faked by someone else, of which more anon, girl’s got a way with meter, and the verses weirdly and amazingly have this abstract echo of Shaggy’s ‘It Wasn’t Me’. A clever production does something with cooing vocals and makes the whole proceeding feel like it bobs along on a bed of feathers – this also means the chorus is a bit too beatific for these ears, but again, it’s a really lyrically adept song with some lovely turns of phrase (“roll up your maps and papers/find out your hiding places again”), and it’s maybe the most “teenage drama” of her first batch – the one that makes the most sense coming from a 16-year-old.

As a postscript I’m pretty over the Lorde backlash already, which appears to constitute:

A – People determined to convince the masses that Lorde is not a one-person vertically-integrated ingenue and will have received assistance in her production, promotion and marketing (ie: that Lorde is pop music) with the zeal of anti-fluoridation conspiracy bros (“WAKE UP SHEEPLE”);

B – Tireless advocates for music justice portraying ‘Royals’ as some sub-Macklemore rejection of materialist hip-hop (to these ears it’s always been more of a “our lifestyles are incongruous with the lyrical content of what we listen to but that’s fine because there’s a valuable role for escapism and fantasy in music”, but w/e);

C – A sort of goo at the bottom of the barrel consisting of 90s drum and bass producers who don’t like Lorde because she is a hipster and various “real music” (Japandroids) dudes.

Too much hype for any artist is always pretty annoying (although now, unlike 15 years ago, you can just filter it out) but getting worked up about this feels ineffably wrong. By all means if you just don’t particularly like the music, say so, but there are better high horses to mount out there. [8]

22 Comments

  1. re Joe Nunweek (this is Popeweek BTW) – reading your review makes me think of the criticisms levelled at Lana Del Ray. Personally I really like Lana Del Ray and to me its not about whether Lorde is ‘manufactured’ or not. I don’t care – its pop music after all.
    But good points you make there.

    • Maddie says:

      joe said some smart things like this about ldr once too, they might even be on the internet somewhere

      • Nah they’re gone – way down the APN K-hole in some sort of weird flip-through format if anything from Volume survives at all. Total bummer thinking about it. Would love someone savvy to wrangle a bunch of different permissions and get out a coffee table book of the best of Real Groove and Volume featuring Wicks, Greive, Kaye, Buchanan, Hussein’s Dane Rumble interview, et al…

  2. Michael McClelland says:

    here it comes

  3. When did Nick D’s writing start to sound like bad PR? Head back to B nick, commercial radio was a good move but it’s rubbing off on you in the wrong way.

    :P

  4. sorry for genuinely being excited about a new artist notch – i’ll refrain from any enthusiasm from now on

    • Oh no Nick,
      Don’t do that. We love your enthusiasm.

      It’s obviously hard to balance credibility and commercialism, I personally prefer Nick D when he doesn’t sound like he is reading from a script, which the above and an increasing amount of your radio work does. Then again a lot of successful commentators lack self awareness so don’t take my comments as career advice.

      And I don’t envy your position, not many manage a media career as long term and high quality as yours.

      For the record I quite like Lorde, but the shallow hype is setting her up to fall.

  5. Maddie says:

    can’t wait for maurice to get here

  6. Endsongs says:

    First listen to Lordes. Ever. Surprised that I liked it and listened to the end. Better song and voice than 99% of contemporary pop. The only annoying thing here is those ‘beats’ which are pretty rubbish to the the point of being annoying – the song to me would suit something less harsh – but what do I know? However, the thought of a 16-year-old signed to a major label just fills me with dread. It will all be downhill from here. They will destroy her and her music. I hope she has good advisors/ minders – not ‘industry’ ones.

  7. Dan Taipua says:

    Is “Stop Snitching” really the antidote to “Wake Up Sheeple’?

  8. TRAP GOD 420 says:

    s/o 2 Louie G, I feel u

    who produced this? did she?

  9. Buffalo Bill says:

    You watch Universal chew her up and spit her out.Put money on it.They are ruthless.Sad thing is that with a bit of mgmt behind her she could do a fat freddies and keep 100% of her music.The fan base is there, it would be like shooting fish in a barrel.

    • They’ve already spent four years working with her to get to this point. Seems unlikely they’d just dump her.
      And she will still own a percentage of her songwriting proportional to her input.
      The recording of said works will be a different story.
      Also how do you think all those fans got there?

      • I agree – nobody invests in an artist just to dump them point blank.
        You need to give Universal credit here, especially in 2013.
        Lorde seems to have been cleverly marketed and built up. As for management she most probably has someone handling that from the get go.
        Contrary to popular belief, major record companies are not the root of all evil and are still one of the most effective ways of getting music out there, especially these days when every man and his dog has their own record label and a gazzillion Soundcloud/Bandcamp releases.
        You need help to get noticed. Still.
        I was amused at the gushing article by Mike Chunn on The Big Idea which suggested this approach was somehow ‘new’ and that Lorde’s success was somehow by ‘word of mouth’. There are a couple of types of ‘word of mouth’ – one of these ‘just happens’ and the other is well planned and calculated. Read the article for yourself and make up your own mind:

        http://www.thebigidea.co.nz/news/blogs/strange-news/128048-good-lorde

      • Just one more thing – the Listener review has been made public (it was subscription only) for one reason or another. This may be to the interest or just part of the rather excellent publicity onslaught that is going on. If you are able to generate publicity that doesn’t look like publicity or PR – that is very clever indeed. That is when people believe the ‘word of mouth’ angle. It helps to give artists way more cred and is incredibly hard to pull off.

        This quote from the Listener article might illustrate what’s been going on behind the scenes to generate the profile. You can believe in the fairy tale of ‘word of mouth’, unicorns, leprechauns and getting ‘discovered’ on YouTube and Soundcloud but…:
        “However, with the backing she (Lorde) has already, the fantasy lifestyle may not be too far off. She has been signed in the US and UK by serious industry heavyweights whose résumés include the likes of Amy Winehouse, Mumford & Sons, Paramore and Jessie J, as well as the highly prestigious live Windish Agency, before even playing a gig. The cogs are turning furiously.”

        So these people don’t muck around!

      • stephen says:

        “before even playing a gig. The cogs are turning furiously.”

        That’s major-record-companies-root-of-all-evil-grade evil, right there.

  10. Andrew says:

    Hahahahahaha.

    Is the some sort of record, from “Wow, she’s awesome”..to “Shit, other people have heard of her & she’s on a major,, MEH!, she’s not all that” douchebaggery?

    I’m sure when the album comes out, it’ll be all “Blah blah, it’s all marketing, blah blah HYPE!!”

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