From Devonport to diva: The story of Lorde so far

Lorde, real name Ella Yelich-O'Connor.
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Lorde, real name Ella Yelich-O'Connor.

In January 2014, a 17-year-old from New Zealand was on the cover of Rolling Stone.

About half the cover was taken up by a bushy, dark mass of hair. The rest was a serious-looking teenager in a Cramps t-shirt.

The magazine called Ella Yelich-O'Connor "the unlikeliest superstar in pop".

Her debut album, Pure Heroine, was riding high in the charts, buoyed by number one hit single Royals.

Three years on, that teenager - now 20 - has the whole country waiting with bated breath for her new album.

How she got here was pretty unlikely.

THE QUIETER ONE

At 12, Lorde was reading Raymond Carver. At 14 she proofread her mum's Masters thesis.

She was born Ella Yelich-O'Connor in November 1996, the second of four children.

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In a 2013 interview she said she was the quietest of her siblings, the bookworm curled up in a corner.

"I'm much more within myself; I've always read a lot and been the quieter one," she said.

Mum Sonja Yelich is a poet and photographer, while dad Vic O'Connor is a civil engineer.

The family lived in Devonport, on Auckland's North Shore. Lorde went to Vauxhall School, Belmont Intermediate and later Takapuna Grammar, where she completed Year 12.

 

ROLLING STONE.

A post shared by Lorde (@lordemusic) on

The shoots of her success can be traced back to seeds in her childhood: the drama classes from age 5, the jazz, soul and Fleetwood Mac albums on rotation in the family home, the unrestricted access to books by the likes of Chandler, Kurt Vonnegut and Sylvia Plath.

She told Glamour her earliest memory was her dad singing her to sleep with Stairway to Heaven.

She was signed to Universal Music Group when she was 12. She'd been performing with schoolmate Louis McDonald, and his dad sent a video of the duo to the label's scout, Scott MacLachlan, who signed her on a development deal.

In subsequent years MacLauchlan tried pairing Lorde with different songwriting partners to start producing her own material, but couldn't find one that clicked. "I think Ella inherently sensed that she was never going to sing other people's songs," he said in 2013.

He finally found her a suitable creative partner in former Goodnight Nurse frontman Joel Little.

The pair worked together on her first release, The Love Club EP, which came out in November 2012. Lorde was 16.

She wanted the EP to have an air of mystery about it, so the tracks were released for free download on Soundcloud without any pictures of her in the promotional images. The focus was firmly on the music.

After The Love Club hit 60,000 downloads, Universal released the EP and it hit number two on the charts in New Zealand and Australia.

But it wasn't until the release of Royals in June that things really took off. The song crossed the Atlantic, peaking at number one on Billboard's US Hot 100, where it sat for more than two months.

 "I put my music out with no kind of commercial expectation," Lorde told Rolling Stone,  "and found out I was a pop star."

POP ROYALTY

Pure Heroine, Lorde's debut album, was released in September 2013, and by the end of the year had sold more than 1.5 million copies.

With commercial success came opportunities to meet other artists. Photos filtered back to New Zealand of Lorde meeting David Bowie, Kanye West, Jay Z, Tilda Swinton, Arcade Fire and a host of other stars. She was meeting her heroes.

 

heroes

A post shared by Lorde (@lordemusic) on

Perhaps the most well-known celebrity connection is Taylor Swift, who became a close friend of Lorde's despite the New Zealander calling her "too perfect" in an early interview. Every time the pair were photographed together, it made headlines in back in New Zealand.

 

took a wonderful cooking class in rhode island alongside the already-super-good-cook, ms. @taylorswift

A post shared by Lorde (@lordemusic) on

Royals won two Grammys in January 2014, taking out Song of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance. Lorde's parents, friends and other family members were there, and they told RNZ they celebrated by jumping fully-clothed into their hotel pool. Then-Prime Minister John Key congratulated her in parliament.

"She has just achieved something no New Zealander has. And it has happened so quickly and so comprehensively it's taken the world by surprise. In less that a year, Lorde has gone from a Year 12 Takapuna Grammar student to superstardom," he said.

Lorde spent the first half of 2014 headlining some of the world's biggest music festivals: Lollapalooza, Coachella, Laneway. She appeared on late night talk shows and played gigs throughout the world.

In September she dropped Yellow Flicker Beat, a single she wrote for the Hunger Games movies. The track was nominated for Best Original Song at the Golden Globes.

A WORLD ALONE

Fittingly, Lorde's world tour finished in Auckland in November 2014.

An NZME story published around the same time as her 18th birthday estimated her wealth at NZ$11m.

Since then the stream of shows, the interviews, the public appearances, dried up as Lorde headed back into the studio to work on her sophomore album. Disclosure's September 2015 song Magnets is to date the most recent track her voice has appeared on.

Throughout that time she kept in touch with fans through social media, although details of the new album have remained scarce.

In April 2015 Lorde split with manager Scott MacLachlan, who told NZME:

"It was pretty clear she was unhappy with the way things were going for a bunch of reasons, which I can't talk about because there are ongoing legal issues."

The singer issued a cryptic series of tweets days after news of the split broke, saying:

"hey, men - do me and yourselves a favour, and don't underestimate my skill ... yes, i'm a young lass, but i'm also making the best decisions for me each day."

In January 2016 she bought a house in the upmarket Auckland suburb of Herne Bay for a rumoured $2.8 million.

Towards the end of the year, her producer Joel Little told NZME that he was no longer working with her on the second album.

"We wrote together, but I'm not producing the record ... This time I'm coming at it more as a fan than being super-involved. I'm excited to see what she's working on," he said.

What has the diva from Devonport been working on? Fans are set to find out on Friday.

 - Stuff

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