Ella Yelich-O’Connor, better known as Lorde, is skyrocketing to international fame with the release of her debut album Pure Heroine. The sixteen year old New Zealander started writing songs at age thirteen and released her first EP a year ago. With her hit single “Royals” sitting on top of the Billboard charts, she is steadily making her way to the top of the music world.

Lately, there isn’t much to be impressed about with young artists. Miley Cyrus became a sex symbol. Justin Beiber likes to go clubbing. Taylor Swift has dated every young and attractive male celebrity available. However, something about Lorde strikes a different chord.

Her maturity transcends her years in a way that makes her appeal to a wider range of audiences than Taylor Swift ever did. Her biggest fans are not her contemporaries, but industry leaders fascinated by her image. She doesn’t sing about high school or her first crush. The lyrics to her most famous single talk about rejecting the standards of wealth  in pop culture and how life can be fun without luxury. “But everybody’s like Cristal, Maybach, diamonds on your timepiece. Jet planes, islands, tigers on a gold leash. We don’t care, we aren’t caught up in your love affair.”

The world is caught up in a love affair with Lorde. Her allure goes beyond her edgy, powerful crooning and into the mysterious public image that she portrays. There are relatively few photos of her circulating on the Internet, and even fewer that show her outside of an organized photo shoot. Her trademark is dark, unusual, veiled, and fascinating, and she likes it that way. In an interview with Billboard, she said, “I feel like mystery is more interesting. People respond to something that intrigues them instead of something that gives them all the information-particularly in pop, which is like the genre for knowing way too much about everyone and everything.”

Lorde definitely works to portray an image through her music and videos, and it isn’t at all reminiscent of the usual teenage sensations. There is something haunting about her dark lipstick, unsmiling eyes, and brooding voice. Her lyrics are unusual for someone with sixteen years of life experience, too. She blends a mix of teenage angst with mature understanding in almost all of her songs. The song “Glory and Gore” on her new album celebrates youth and at the same time recognizes its frivolity and uncertainty.

“No-one round here’s good at keeping their eyes closed

The sun’s starting to light up when we’re walking home

Tired little laughs, gold-lie promises, we’ll always win at this

I don’t ever think about death

It’s alright if you do, it’s fine

We gladiate but I guess we’re really fighting ourselves

Roughing up our minds so we’re ready when the kill time comes

Wide awake in bed, words in my brain,

‘Secretly you love this do you even wanna go free?’

Let me in the ring, I’ll show you what that big word means”

Not everyone appreciates her honesty and unsual perspective. A contributor to a popular feminist blog, Vanessa Bayetti Flores, criticized the lyrics of “Royals” as being racist. Lorde’s criticism of hip hop culture in general was received as a defamation of African Americans, although it wasn’t intended to be. Many people rushed to defend the young singer, but she didn’t apologize for the misunderstanding. She writes what she knows, and she knows that driving Bentleys isn’t her life. Her most powerful lyrics are the stories of her making her own way through fame while also trying to stay true to her roots.

It seems like the question that everyone is asking- who is Lorde??-doesn’t have an answer. She is a teenager but doesn’t sing about high school rebellion. She is a pop star but scorns wealth and luxury. She tops Billboard charts and yet strives to keep out of the public eye as much as possible. No one knows what the future may hold for the young New Zealander, but the success of her revolutionary and somewhat controversial first album makes it look pretty bright. As far as the media is concerned, she’s already royal.

Photo credit: http://www.theguardian.com/music/2013/jun/07/new-band-lorde