Almost all the people we know have the single from this 16-year-old New Zealander (aka Ella Yelich-O’Connor) stuck in their heads. Taylor Swift is singing about “feeling 22,” while Lorde sounds miles ahead in terms of worldly wisdom, singing about being raised by the Internet, the dread of getting older, and the languor of the party-all-the-time lifestyle. This album is another hot-new-thing that you’ll hear about from everywhere, but the preoccupation is two-fold: yes, the single, “Royals,” is as cursedly catchy as any of 2013’s overplayed hits, with its nimble choruses, double-tracked harmonies, snappy beats and minimal synth splashes; nothing too extraordinary. But her drawing voice — low, cool and confident — demonstrates a beyond-her-years lyrical sensibility. The production, a blend of sparse guitars, hip-hop beats and shadowy synths, is sharp and sensible, surpassing the graceful minimalism of groups like the XX. But it’s her intelligent, melodrama-free lyrics that impress the most.
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