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Friday, December 8, 2023

The two songwriters Lorde wants to emulate

From the moment that ‘Royals’ was released, Lorde has been a star. The New Zealand-born artist not only soundtracked an entire generation’s teenage years with her debut album Pure Heroine, but her further releases carried her fans through their coming of age and early 20s. Lorde carved out her niche area of contemporary pop music by pioneering a moodier pop sound thanks to her sharp lyrical pen and penchant for dark synths.

Lorde, real name Ella Yelich-O’Connor, shot quickly from a bedroom producer to a global star. After her debut single, released when she was only 17, became a mega-hit, she quickly graced the enormous stages of Coachella, Glastonbury and beyond. She even received a personal endorsement from David Bowie, with the Starman believing Lorde to be the future of music, leading to her performing his Brit Award tribute.

It was her take on teenhood that first captured attention, writing about cruising around her hometown, toxic friendships, and wanting to get out of the place you grew up in. On her second album, Melodrama, her pen turned to her early adulthood and first tastes of love and heartbreak. But in 2020’s Solar Power, Lorde was no longer a teenager and no longer a hometown nobody, instead writing about the trappings of fame. 

You could say that Lorde is really the ultimate confessional writer of Gen-Z. Sharing her in-the-moment musings on her life and releasing music for fans that are mostly the same age as her, Lorde’s albums feel like a survival guide for the times or a peak into her diary. To Lorde, her music is an attempt to feel seen and understood, telling The Guardian: “There was an element of reaching out. Do you see me? Do you hear me? I’m over here.”

You can see why Joni Mitchell stands out as a significant inspiration for the artist. Mitchell’s pioneering, deeply personal work is clearly influential to Lorde. When listening to her track ‘Liability’, you can’t help but feel the painful self-reflection present in ‘Both Sides Now’. Or, as Lorde sings about loving and being loved as an artist on ‘Writer In The Dark’, it draws reference to ‘Blue’, as Mitchell calls attention to her own role as a musician and sings, “There is your song from me”.

It is also Mitchell’s mythical status that Lorde hopes to emulate, wanting to reach their dizzying heights. “I want to be really, really good one day,” she told The Guardian. “I think I’m pretty good now. I think I’ve made a good start.” But a start isn’t good enough for Lorde; she wants to be revered and respected far beyond being a pop star. “I want to be Joni,” she proclaimed. And who is the other songwriter she wants to emulate? “I want to be Leonard Cohen,” she insisted.

The Canadian singer, songwriter and poet also stands out to Lorde as a shining example to look up to. While their styles greatly differ, Cohen’s poetic and literary take on the everyday feelings and relatable experiences of life and love make sense in the context of Lorde’s work. Expanding the experiences of love, loss, sadness, joy and beyond into grand imagery, Lorde looks up to the godliness of Cohen’s material. 

With Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell being two of the greatest songwriters to exist, Yelich-O’Connor’s aspirations are sky-high.

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