Pure Heroine

Pure Heroine

100 Best Albums During the aughts, the teen-pop pantheon was a sea of sugary-sweet lyrics, misappropriated school uniforms, and twerking Disney stars. Then came Lorde. On Pure Heroine, her 2013 debut album, the Auckland-born singer-songwriter eschews bubblegum pop and stage-school grins, and instead focuses on the realities of suburban teenage ennui. This is an album that declares its disillusionment from the very first track, “Tennis Court,” which opens with the line, “Don’t you think that it’s boring how people talk?” Arriving at a moment when chart music was dominated by air horns, Auto-Tuned vocals, and four-four house beats, Pure Heroine offered a welcome antidote to the party-hearty pop of the time, relying instead on restrained, almost growled, vocals set to skeletal, programmed beats. The album’s centerpiece—and the song that propelled the singer-songwriter born Ella Yelich-O’Connor to the global stage—is “Royals,” which describes the inherent disconnect of being a broke schoolkid listening to luxe-life rap tunes: “But every song's like, 'Gold teeth, Grey Goose, trippin' in the bathroom'/We don't care/We're driving Cadillacs in our dreams.” A song about the absurdity of fame, “Royals” became one of the biggest hits of the 21st century, moving more than 10 million units in the US alone. Elsewhere on Pure Heroine, Lorde recounts the trials of being an introvert in the internet age, pairing tales of platonic sleepovers, aimless drives, and long walks home with throbbing synths and muffled percussion. The album’s best song, “Ribs,” builds from a pulsing, ambient start to a euphoric cascade of overlaid vocals (“This dream isn’t feeling sweet/We’re reeling through the midnight streets/And I’ve never felt more alone/It feels so scary getting old”). It’s a moment in which the album’s detached, almost anesthetized tone makes way for something more visceral. Pure Heroine marked the advent of a star wise beyond her years (so much so, one website bought a copy of Lorde’s birth certificate from the New Zealand government, to prove that she wasn’t an imposter). And the album’s success made room for a new raft of teenage stars, including Billie Eilish and Olivia Rodrigo, who could make music as moody and menacing as adolescence itself.

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