This week's Listener cover story about Kimbra asks if she is the next Lorde. How sad. And here we go with another desperate attempt to sell a New Zealand artist to the world (Kimbra is Kiwi-born, beyond that we have no claim to her success - that's if she ever makes it beyond bit-part player in a one-hit-wonder).
A couple of years ago on the back of Kimbra's debut album she was being called "the next Prince". That was absurd too. And insulting. And unrealistic. It didn't work - obviously. So time to go in the other direction. The Prince comparison and I talked about this when Vows was re-released was, like most comparisons, well-meaning and it aimed to promote Kimbra's skills as pop-omnivore and multi-instrumentalist. The Lorde comparison does what exactly?
Tells us that we should buy into it because it's a Kiwi; a Kiwi heading out to the world stage no less; a one-hit-wonder fuelled on hype and industry coddling, a lucky-to-be-there, right-time/right-place hopeful, one step up from a TV talent show winner (or runner-up) and following on in the footsteps of someone whose path was entirely different.
Lorde had a hit before she'd ever left the bedroom. Her nervous early performances lasted just a few minutes and a handful of songs, there was not even a hint of stagecraft. She had to learn the game as it was happening. Beyond the salivation over a hooky single there was no real clue of talent - there definitely was no suggestion of craft let alone graft.
Kimbra, on the other hand, has been gigging all her life it seems - she'll turn up in a bar to play a solo set, she'll pack out a stadium, she's been performing since she was younger than Lorde at her discovery point. Where Lorde is bored (borde?) and worldly-wise and nonchalant but engaged with her Twitter following Kimbra seems a bundle of nervous energy, she bounces off walls and is over-thinking everything and pouring so much colour into her music - possibly far too many colours - where Lorde is all monochrome daydream listlessness.
This isn't an endorsement for Kimbra. I thought Vows showed she had talent - I'm curious to see what she does next. That said, I think her new single is pretty awful. I'll stand by my assessment of Lorde's album - I really don't think you can gauge talent from that album, of course she's a success - you can't ever quite plan that sort of pop-phenomenon, you can manipulate it though. And anyone convinced - at this stage - that Lorde is any sort of real deal just hasn't been following the music industry. These fly-by-nighters just don't count. Their opinion isn't worth jack.
I should at this point tell you that the Listener story about Kimbra in the current issue is very good. A well-written piece, an interesting read. It's written by Duncan Grieve - a very good writer. He also covered Lorde in a cover story for Metro. It's (I presume) not his tag-line on the cover linking Kimbra to Lorde. He makes mention of this in the article - that such comparisons are bubbling away - it's not his fault that his story is being pushed to us under this hook.
The next female author to have a half-pie decent book in New Zealand will of course be written up as "the next Eleanor Catton". We're a sad bunch like that. It's sadder here for two reasons - try as we may (and we are!) Kimbra isn't a Kiwi artist. That's just how it is. She ditched this place to create a career. And if anything - even though she showed talent and toiled away regardless of any hype - she was in fact "the first Lorde". Didn't they create Lorde because Kimbra didn't want that?
Kimbra certainly had her "takes America by storm"-type stories. And she had her night at the Auckland Music Awards where she collected an armful of meaningless trophies. We've fawned all over her once. And we'll do it again godammit!
And now The Listener starts in on selling us a sad-hype lie. Anything to sell a Kiwi-battler story, especially when they clearly didn't have a "too much fluoride could change the way you vote when you're trying to lose weight and raise kids in the right school zone as you stumble towards the right mental-health balance without ever having too much salt" story this week.
Well, there's always next week for that. And next year after failed album number two Kimbra might be sold to us again as, what, "the next Boh Runga?"
I still want to hear Kimbra's new album. I hope it goes well for her. She did the right thing running a mile from this country.
You can also check out Off the Tracks for The Vinyl Countdown, reviews and other posts