Just over a year ago, Ella Yelich-O’Connor, the 17-year-old New Zealander known as Lorde, dropped her first single, “Royals,” into the swirling maelstrom of pop culture. Maybe it was the song’s minimal aesthetic matched with its gospel-like chorus, maybe it was the critique of pop music itself contained in the lyrics, or maybe it was because it was so damn catchy — using the most basic of chord progressions — but overnight Lorde was everywhere, and she hasn’t really misstepped yet. She appears at the Santa Barbara Bowl this Thursday, and if audience videos of her tour are an indication, the scene will be one of teen hysteria. In lieu of that, let’s quickly examine how Lorde dominated the charts and pop culture in the short span of a little over a year, while hovering above the excesses of the Mileys, Iggys and the Nickis out there.
Her manager Scott Maclachlan discovered her at age 12, covering Duffy’s “Warwick Avenue” at a school talent show, and started to work with her on material. Four years later, this thoughtful, well-read goth team had produced “The Love Club EP,” a collection that came out fully formed, with no fumbling around trying to find an identity or in thrall to obvious influences.