Reflecting on Pure Heroine’s legacy as the album enters its 10-year anniversary
By Audrey Elwood, Newswire Intern
10 years ago, you may have heard the song “Royals” by Lorde for the first time. Now, the song is cemented in the cultural zeitgeist. On Sept. 27, Lorde’s debut album Pure Heroine turned 10 years old. Every day since then, we have felt the cultural impact of the album on music, culture and angsty 14-year-olds on Tumblr.
When Pure Heroine came out, Lorde was only 16 years old, living in the suburbs of Auckland, New Zealand. Her debut single “Royals” was record-breaking, winning Lorde her first Grammys for Song of the Year and Best Solo Pop Performance. Hailed as the most revolutionary song in the mainstream since Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” “Royals” captured the moment.
This song and the album overall paved the way for many of the young female stars today. This niche carved out by Lorde is the reason we have women like Clairo, Billie Ellish, Olivia Rodrigo and Halsey. Pure Heroine perfectly encapsulates the melodrama of teenage years and brought them into the mainstream.
In the early 2010s, there was a distinct sound hailed as “recession pop:” over-produced vocals, jabbed by backtracks, with lyrical themes of overindulgence and looming doom.
Lorde broke this mold and gave us a minimalist tone. The lyrics are simple, but they relate to the uncertainty of growing up.
While other songs were club tracks about spending beyond your means, Pure Heroine was about the social dynamics of high school and staying up too late. In the album not making any social commentary, it makes the ultimate social commentary: Change is inevitable.
“Royals” may have been the mainstream hit, but the real standout track within the fandom is “Ribs.” “Ribs” induces all the anxiety that comes with coming of age. The back track is a sleepy melody at first, which speeds up slowly and almost overwhelms the listener.
With lyrics like “My mom and dad let me stay home / It drives you crazy getting old, and You’re the only friend I need / Sharing beds like little kids / And laughing ‘til our ribs get tough,” we are painted an image of a child moving into teenhood.
The small milestones of adolescence, such as being able to stay at home by yourself, contribute to the overarching fear of growing up. “Ribs” is the anthem of a generation who doesn’t want to grow up.
In “Tennis Court,” Lorde impresses a feeling upon the listener of “What do you have to lose?” Nothing matters, we are young and we can just hang around and do whatever. We can be boring old people one day, but not today. It’s a Camus-esque absurdist take from a teenage girl’s perspective. Life is scary and hard, but don’t take it too seriously, “It’s a new art form, showin’ people how little we care / We’re so happy, even when we’re smilin’ out of fear.”
Pure Heroine was groundbreaking for its time. It birthed an icon within the “sad girl” genre. 10 years on, is the album one of the best? Not at all. But, it set the new standard for alt-pop, especially with women. It is a marvel for what it is. The backtracks can be repetitive along with the vocals. However, Lorde has had more than enough time to grow.
Her legacy is solidified in the history of music, and Lorde has changed how we view the craft forever.