#2378 An open apology to Lorde

Lorde boyfriend
Ella Yelich-O’Connor aka Lorde, shot by James K Lowe.

In today’s over-saturated pop world, it’s just as easy to become a fan of a musical artist by osmosis as it is to discover something that you believe has merit and listening to it intently because you think there’s something there that deserves your attention. By that I mean you can start liking just about anything if you hear it enough, so if you sit there listening to the radio all day long, you’ll no doubt love any number of songs or artists simply because you’ve heard them so much. We all do it, and that’s why I think it’s stupid when people complain about how record labels manufacture music in a laboratory, because those clever business heads are just making money off the fact that the vast majority of us are too lazy to put the work in discovering whatever it is that we love for ourselves. I am one of those classic lazy people, but I don’t even listen to the radio. I know what I like (a winning combination of Drake, Kanye West, Toto, LCD Soundsystem, my Dad, and The Cure), and I can quite honestly say that I wasn’t an early fan of any of them. Take Drake, for example — I got obsessed with his song Forever two years after it was released, and then I started buying up everything he’d done once I’d thrashed that radio smash to death. Now let me tell you the story of how I had the opportunity to become one of the first people in the entire world to become a fan of Lorde, and I didn’t take it. Here’s what happened.

I’m friends with a guy called Justin Warren who works at Universal Music in Auckland. He’s hooked me up a lot over the years with cool things like invites to Kanye West press conferences (and this started way back when nobody took bloggers seriously at all), and he’d always make sure to call me and Katherine to ask if we wanted to gift Thugged Out Since Cub Scouts tee shirts to stars who were coming to town.  On the 21st of November last year, he sent me and Katherine an email asking if we’d like to give Nicki Minaj and Tyga some tee shirts, and he slipped this note on the end of the message: “BTW, this is interesting: http://lorde.co.nz/# I’m quite fond of the downloadable one.”

Katherine being Katherine listened to it straight away and replied, saying, “I just checked out that Lorde thing, it’s cool – who is she?” to which Justin responded, “She’s amazing. A girl from Auckland, just turned 16 like a week ago. We don’t know a lot about her, but she’s EXCITING!” Me being me, I didn’t listen at all, and replied, saying, “Get one to Tyga for sure!!!!” Now that I think about it, that one email says quite a lot about me (lolz).

For the next few months, Katherine would regularly message me about Lorde, pleading with me to listen to her, and telling me in no uncertain terms that I was an enormous idiot for not being an early adopter and promoter of a person that she assured me was going to be a worldwide pop sensation. “Just listen to that one song Royals!!!!!” she’d say to me. Finally in February, I downloaded the EP, and was pleasantly surprised that it was every bit as good as Katherine told me, especially that one song Royals. I then started tweeting and blogging about her which potentially made me look like an early adopter, but in reality I was jumping on a bandwagon which at that point was pretty much a done deal.

I met Ella Yelich-O’Connor aka Lorde in Auckland when I was back there in April, and I remember walking away, thinking, that girl is precocious in a way that makes me uncomfortable. By that stage Katherine had been hanging out with Ella for a while, and was always telling me stories about how she  had turned down this interview request or that collaboration, which to me always sounded ridiculous, because as you might have gathered from the Tyga email quoted above, I’m far more attracted to the commercial option than the slow burner. So my reaction to Ella when I met her in real life had a lot to do with the fact that I felt like she was playing the role of a cool indie artist as opposed to just being herself. Blame the New Zealander in me — we’re very judgmental people.

Then she came to New York. I emailed her a couple of days before she arrived and said I’d love to do a story with her and get her shot by a great photographer friend of mine while she was in town, and guess what? She said no. But not only did she say no, she finished the message with this line that quite literally made me seethe with rage: “Maybe next time, buddy.” Looking back now I imagine she was just being friendly, but oh my God did I get mad. So mad, in fact, that I messaged Katherine to complain, and then called up my parents and told them about this little shit who had DARED to say no to me. (In other words, she bruised my ego.)

The anger lasted a few days, and then I got over it. I went to her show, which impressed the bejeezus out of me, and I felt a strong sense of pride that a New Zealander who was friends with my friends from back home was doing that well. I messaged her and told her congratulations and she said thanks, and then I didn’t hear from her for a long time. And then last week she messaged me from LA saying that she’d just met Kanye West, and she very kindly put me on the door for her show last night — which, for the record, I had tried to buy tickets for, but it was sold out.

So last night I went along and saw her at Webster Hall, and watched as hundreds of people danced and sang along to her songs. And I thought to myself, here is an extreme exception to the typical pop music story. Sure there must have been some brilliant machination behind the scenes, and being signed to an enormous label like Universal can’t have hurt, but for the most part, Lorde’s success has been due to fans seeking her out and hungrily consuming everything she has to give. She went viral as a musician because of the fans and I can’t think of too many brand new artists you can say that about.

And her decision to tightly control how she presents herself to the world is obviously paying dividends, because she hasn’t sold out or said yes to the corporate money, but she is still having all the success in the world, and she’s paving the way for a longterm career as opposed to a flash in the pan.

Ella wrote this brilliant piece for the Sunday Star Times in the weekend, which kinda explains everything that irked me about her, and made me feel stupid about being annoyed with her in the first place. And if you read the comments, you’ll see a bunch of likeminded idiots who don’t get it at all, just like I didn’t.

She included a quote that has always stuck with her, that William S Burroughs once said to Patti Smith: “Build a good name for yourself, because eventually that will become your currency.”

Can’t argue with the results.

Ella, my apologies for misjudging you, I think you’re a very clever lady, and I cannot wait to see what happens next.


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  1. Josh Santangelo says

    Just saw her in Seattle and can attest that just listening to the record doesn’t come close to doing her justice. She doesn’t even realize how huge she’s going to be, and it’s going to be a bit awkward when she finally gets her own tiger on a gold leash. And yes, you are a fool for not being fan #1. :)

  2. Isaac's Dad says

    Well I just read Lorde’s article for the Sunday Star Times. She sounds more mature than me and I’m 63.

  3. Jaded says

    Great way for a true ego-ist to fall on his sword – use it as material to write a blog! Still all about “look at me!”.

  4. Sceptical says

    It seems like you’re not the only one who has misconstrued Lorde’s words. Perhaps a little PR training wouldn’t go amiss, especially if she feels content with giving her (often negative) 2c on every second ‘mainstream’ artist’s music and career.

  5. isaaclikes says

    I have no problem whatsoever with what she says about the messages her fellow pop stars are sending out to teenage girls. She’s the core audience and she’s making music that will be consumed by that same core audience, so who better to have an opinion about it?

  6. isaaclikes says

    I wouldn’t usually even think twice about a comment like this but honestly how does me being a white male have anything to do with what I’m writing?

  7. says

    Katherine tweeted in January that she would be huge and I have been following her ever since. She’s coming to Toronto next week and her show is sold out, I sadly didn’t get tickets quick enough. I think she is so rad. As a Kiwi and human, I’m really proud of her. Good one Isaac, miss ya :)

  8. Anna says

    Cool post. I know what you mean about not putting “the work in discovering whatever it is that we love for ourselves” etc cuz I do that to! but I have been trying really hard this year to listen to new music etc and its awesome! we New Zealanders are so bad at being judgmental aye. tall poppy syndrome and all that. I heard a few people say things that shows they clearly don’t get it after reading the times article (like shes up herself and all that). why can’t we just be proud and supportive?? anyway sorry rant over. thanks for your post!!

  9. jennifer says

    Thanks Sophie, and I have no idea, my guess would be something slightly less than twice Lorde’s age.

    Isaac, I think in this case your place in society (yes as an older white male writer) is worth questioning yourself about… did your reaction of rage to being denied an interview have anything to do with her being a ‘little girl’? If not, good for you. You’re not the first writer to get unreasonably mad about being denied a Lorde interview.

  10. Zac de Silva says

    Hey Isaac. Nice honest blogging and eating your thoughts. I have watched Ella this year and have been thinking ‘holy girl, you are not making the most of these opps” but “holy” has she (and her team) been onto something or what! The interesting thing is that there are some great songs by her that are not on her album too so I can see some nice little songs coming up next year that will keep the momentum going along with whatever hits she gets off the album (there will be so many!). She is a true kiwi heroine and I am excited to see where she has got to in 5 years time. I was wishing that you could have bought shares in her ha ha a year ago! Of course Ella would not have been into that in anyway… Anyhow bring on Laneways in NZ. Hope all is well in NYC mate… Pity bout Little Brother, I am wearing some today!

  11. Michael says

    I’m another Michael, who’s first thought was this is a cool story, but where can I get one of those T-shirts?

  12. Michael says

    I’m another Michael, who’s first thought was this is a cool story, but where can I get one of those T-shirts?

  13. shut up says

    oh please!!! ‘this little shit dared say no to me’ that sounds like you felt you were more important and senior than her. she owes you because you are better and your association with her is a favor to her. how could you have the same friends? she is a teenager and you are damn near 30. if you do know people that ‘hang out’ with a teen it is only because she is a rising pop star.

  14. shut up says

    yes please send me one so i can send it to the boy scouts of america so they can sue you because using their logos outside of sanctioned activities for personal profit is illegal. also pirating lyrics to rap songs for personal profit is illegal too. the poor organization is a host that attracts all sorts of leeches from pedophiles to thief bloggers. guess you’ll have to take the whole operation to the hipster underground where they will be even more cool. omg you are so much more original and talented than that ‘little shit’ Lorde who is not legitimate at all because she was manufactured by a label at puberty like a disney pop tart. or maybe you are both the same fake hipsters. wouldn’t it be hilarious to see an idiot wearing your tshirt at a Lorde concert hahaha! you wrote an apology but still haven’t changed!!

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