Call her queen bee: The edgy teen with the luxe vocals rules the charts 

This past summer, Lorde’s sultry slice of electronic pop, “Royals,” broke the record for weeks that a female artist spent at No. 1 on Billboard’s Alternative Songs chart. (The previous record holder was Alanis Morissette in 1995 with “You Oughta Know.”) It also marked the first time in 17 years that a female artist topped the Alternative chart. By the end of October, Lorde had bested Katy Perry and Miley Cyrus to top the pop charts for five straight weeks. Royal indeed.

Lorde—whose real name is Ella Yelich-O’Connor—celebrates her 17th birthday in November, a couple of months after the release of her debut album, Pure Heroine. She’ll end the year as one of the most buzzed-about artists, but her reaction is typical teen: “I know, it’s insane,” she says with a giggle.

A year ago few knew her name—those familiar with her fetching, soulful voice mostly numbered family, friends and Universal Music, which signed Lorde to a development deal when she was 13. All that changed last November when The Love Club EP was released. “It took five or six months in New Zealand to get to No. 1,” she recalls.

Lorde has never wanted to learn to play an instrument. “I want to focus on my voice,” she says. Despite her development deal, it wasn’t until she worked with producer Joel Little (New Zealand pop-punks Goodnight Nurse) that having a singing career seemed tangible. “I started working with Joel, who co-wrote the EP and worked on the album. It was at that point, when I thought I had a grip on what I wanted to sound like, that I realized maybe I can actually do this.”

Lorde’s September U.S. tour, her first performing outside New Zealand and Australia, included sold-out dates on the West Coast and New York City. It also immersed her in the world of buzz and bling that “Royals”—a song decrying superstar excess—willfully denounced. “Well, that song was written with just a bit of jealousy too,” she says impishly.

“It’s wild,” Lorde adds about her success. “But this is the first music I’ve ever released, so this is my first experience with a reaction. So I kind of assume this is normal. That’s good, because I’m not like falling over and freaking out with the pressure. I’m just, ‘OK, cool, perfect.’”

–Linda Laban


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