Guest post by Pink Panther
Lorde, real name Ella Yelich-Cooper, is a seventeen year old Aucklander who has become a huge singing sensation internationally because of her chart smashing single “Royals” and her debut album “Pure Heroine”.
I’m a die-hard fan of Lorde so let’s get that out of the way. This is not a bitchy, envy-driven attack on perhaps the most commercially successful musician New Zealand has ever produced. Rather it is an attack on the ridiculous statements surrounding her success, not least that she is a role model for all young people.
The media have tried to make out that Lorde came literally out of nowhere and that she has become a poster child for anti-Establishment sentiments. The truth is that she is the very personification of the Establishment. Maybe not the Establishment in Hollywood but definitely the one that exists in New Zealand.
Lorde is the product of an upper middle class family, lives in an upmarket North Shore subdivision and attends one of the most exclusive State schools in the Auckland region. She was signed up to a record label by talent scouts at a school talent show when she was thirteen. If she had been born and raised in the wrong part of Auckland, let alone anywhere else in New Zealand, such a great talent would probably never have been noticed. Or she would be pigeon holed into a musical genre deemed appropriate for her ethnicity. All polynesians in Otara just listen to hip-hop and therefore somebody from there could only be a rapper, right?
Even her success has been carefully orchestrated. Lorde used a very clever marketing strategy by uploading “Royals” onto Youtube for free. This got her noticed in the United States and the video went viral. It has now scored nearly 40million hits. This enabled her to launch the album to great acclaim in the United States. To be fair she is an extraordinarily talented musician but is she someone to be looked up to?
Lorde has become a poster child for people fed up with the slick marketing, commercialised music and totally unrealistic and often sexist portrait of women in music. However, the music industry is full of people who have made millions by marketing themselves as “anti-Establishment” and singing songs railing against this entity dubbed “Hollywood” and the music industry.
Describing herself as a feminist, Lorde has used her songs and media interviews to condemn the way music and music videos place totally unrealistic body image expectations on women and encourage materialistic greed. Raising such social issues in pop music is commendable. Nevertheless, the media and other pillars of the capitalist Establishment here, have largely ignored what she has said in both her songs and her media interviews. They have made her out to be someone who should be admired because she became successful through her brilliant talent alone . Never mind that behind Lorde is a very successful marketing team and that her phenomenal success is as much a product of using all the marketing strategies available to a well-to-do white teenage girl with successful parents and a very well connected corporate team behind her, as it is the product of her singing.
I don’t want to shatter the illusions of legions of Kiwi teenage girls who now believe that if Lorde can do it, then anyone can do it. The truth is though, it’s highly unlikely to happen unless they are either born into success or they have the right connections in the right places. It also helps to be living in the right part of Auckland because, let’s face it, as far as our business leaders, politicians and media are concerned you don’t exist if you live outside of Auckland.
Yes, let’s crank up the volume while listening to Lorde’s album “Pure Heroine” because it’s a brilliant album but please spare us the bullshit that she’s a poster child for the disillusioned or anti-Establishment youth of today. She is as much a part of the music industry as Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber and One Direction and her success is, to some degree, due to being born into a life of upper middle class privilege and all the benefits that come from living in that environment.