Last week, Sinead O’Connor attempted to offer some advice “in the spirit of motherliness and with love” in open letters to Miley Cyrus. Spurred on by the raunchy nature of her music video, some shots of which Cyrus claimed was inspired by the Irish singer’s iconic Nothing Compares 2 U video, O’Connor encouraged Miley “to send healthier messages to your peers.”
While all that was happening another O’Connor was quietly climbing to the top of the US charts doing just that, knocking Miley and her Wrecking Ball off the top in the process with a song called Royals and becoming the youngest singer to take the number one slot in 26 years.
Ella Yelich-O’Connor, the singer of the chart hit in question is a 16 year-old New Zealand singer who goes by the name of Lorde is the complete anthesis what has defined Miley Cyrus in 2013: that is a 20 year-old former tween star attempting to graduate to grown up pop idol by twerking, shedding clothes and showing tongue.
By contrast, Lorde, let’s the music speak for itself because crucially she has something to say. Royals is a great song but it is most notable lyrically as it takes an opposing stance to the youth and pop culture that Miley seems so desperately trying to conquer.
“But every song’s like: Cristal, Maybach, diamonds on your timepiece, jetplanes, islands, tigers on a gold leash, we don’t care, we aren’t caught up in your love affair,” goes the song, kicking back against pop’s established aspirational obsessions with status and wealth.
Later on in the song she gives us a dose of real life. “My friends and I we’ve cracked the code / We count our dollars on the train to the party / And everyone who knows us knows / That we’re fine with this, we didn’t come from money.”
Lorde didn’t need to resort to cheap stage tricks to top the charts. And live, a Lorde show will contain more focus on singing than gyrating. There won’t be any kind of stage choreography and she won’t be whipping up the crowd. “I’m kind of over gettin’ told to throw my hands up in the air,” she sings on Team.
Whether Lorde’s jaded anti-luxury teenage stance is a calculated disposition isn’t clear at this point but it has resonated on a large-scale and her music, at least feels authentic. Yelich-O’Connor is a young woman in control. By contrast, Miley Cyrus attempts to provoke with what she described to MTV as “a strategic hot mess.”
There’s space for both artists of course, but only one of them is saying something interesting.
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