Lorde’s Grammy win versus my self esteem

Boy, it’s great to be a Kiwi this week. We’re super proud of Lorde’s massive couple of wins at the Grammy Awards and we particularly approve of her demeanour in the face of all that glitz.

Being a fellow New Zealander, Lorde is our very own wunderkind. She’s our most favourite teen since Hayley Westenra, but cooler, edgier, and people her own age like her music.

I have no idea what it’s like to win a Grammy when you’re only 17. I have no idea what it’s like to win a Grammy when you’re anything. I’m pretty sure it must be a very personal triumph played out on a very public stage.

Her win is inspiring for many and discouraging for some. Twitter was full of this sort of cheekily depressed statement on Monday night: “Lorde is 17 and has 2 Grammys and I can barely get out of bed.” And: “Lorde is 17 and has 2 Grammys and I have 2 packets of crisps.”

Futile as it is, it’s human nature to compare other people’s successes with our own. I’m a shocker at it. When Bret McKenzie won an Oscar for his work on the Muppet movie I think I had a genuine mid life crisis. It was always my dream job to work on The Muppet Show. My dream, not Bret McKenzie’s.

Bret and I are roughly the same age. I was writing my own funny songs at Auckland University about the same time Bret and Jemaine were starting to write their funny Flight of the Conchords songs in Wellington. I got some good reviews at student festivals but back then I had grander, more earnest aspirations. I thought to myself: funny songs are only funny once, they’ll never get me anywhere.

Fool. Now Bret has an Oscar for working at my dream job and I have a day job for working at my mortgage. (I should perhaps concede here that Bret’s songs are funnier.)

If there’s anything funny about Lorde it’s that overseas people seem to find her a little bit scary. The black nail polish she wore at her Grammy performance really freaked some of them out. One person tweeted: “Lorde is 17 and looks like she eats the souls of children.”

For the record, I think she’s all class and deserves every success.

If you’ve only started to pay attention to Lorde this week, the beauty of her award winning song Royals is its distinctive vocal style and the minimal, stripped down music. That’s possibly a quality that producer Joel Little brings to the mix. He peels back the fuss and pushes that attention grabbing voice to the fore.

Whenever it plays on the radio, Royals cuts right through the bland sameness of all those other over-produced pop songs. Now that the Grammys have shone their mental spotlight upon Lorde, I figure we’ll start hearing copycat Royals songs pretty soon.

Royals isn’t even Lorde’s only great song. She has a whole album of well crafted gems, all produced with a similar combination of elegance and restraint.

I’ve traditionally been more of a Nick Cave and Radiohead kind of guy, but having spent several months with Lorde’s Pure Heroine album I’m still really enjoying it.

Lorde is 17 and has two Grammys; I have her album. To think I’m hooked on music written by a school girl. If I ponder that fact too much it weirds me out a bit. So long as I don’t start painting my nails black I’ll be fine.

First published in Bay of Plenty Times 31 January 2014. Reproduced with permission.