It’s an old music industry maxim: You have your whole life to write your first album, but only months or years to write your second. If there’s anyone who knows the pressure of the sophomore record, it’s Ella Yelich-O'Connor, better known as Lorde. Her 2013 debut album, Pure Heroine, sold a million copies in just five months and launched her to stardom, buoyed by the blockbuster single “Royals,” two Grammys and praise from the likes of David Bowie.
With such a heady start, it’s no wonder Lorde’s new album, Melodrama, took another four years to make. “I would go to sleep thinking about it and I would dream about it, and I’d wake up in the morning thinking about it,” she tells NPR’s Michel Martin. “Its grip on me was unrelenting. I knew I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I didn’t make something different, singular and something that I would be proud of.”
My mother had just died, and I had to walk a long way behind her coffin, surrounded by thousands of people watching me while millions more did on television. I don’t think any child should be asked to do that, under any circumstances. I don’t think it would happen today.
When I was trying to come up with a stage name, I thought ‘Lord’ was super rad, but really masculine—ever since I was a little kid, I have been really into royals and aristocracy. So to make Lord more feminine, I just put an ‘e’ on the end! Some people think it’s religious, but it’s not.