Few teen-orientated, inspirationally-messaged phenomena have taken off at the speed of The Hunger Games in the past few years. Besides, of course, Lorde. Which why it makes total, utter sense that New Zealand’s prodigal daughter has curated the soundtrack for the next movie installment (titled The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1). As the universe waits to find out which other acts she’ll pick to join her on the tracklist, Lorde has laid down the gauntlet with her own contribution, ‘Yellow Flicker Beat’.
Before casting a critical eye over the first new Lorde offering since the release of debut album ‘Pure Heroine’, let’s rewind the clock… All the way back to one year ago, almost to the day. Lorde played her first show on these shores at Madame Jojo’s – a tiny basement dirthole in London’s West End – to a room full of baited critics and industry bods. At the time, stalking the stage with a petulant look on her face – a look that said she didn’t really want to be there – it would seem that she might have fucked it by not pandering to the collective examining gaze of this particularly expectant audience. Funny to even entertain the thought of this now, to imagine a world where Lorde isn’t the first name on everyone’s tongue when asked who the fastest rising star of the moment is.
But to now, and Lorde has achieved the sort of things you daren’t even dream up for your fantasy annual to-do list. Her first single ‘Royals’ went to Number 1 in the US and became an international super hit, eventually winning her two Grammys. The album that followed – ‘Pure Heroine’ – sold in the millions worldwide, and received huge critical acclaim (though there were some *cough cough* who left the then-16-year-old room for growth and improvement).
Just before the festival season kicked off in full, she returned to London to play TWO sold-out shows at both Brixton O2 Academy and Shepherds Bush Empire. She’s formed friendships with other pop feminists Taylor Swift and Grimes, she’s been photographed with the elusive David Bowie, she’s even performed with the surviving members of Nirvana at the Rock’N’Roll Hall Of Fame. The likes of Madonna would be hard pushed to achieve that much in a decade now, nevermind in their first 12 months after leaving school in Devonport (population: 11,000).
‘Yellow Flicker Beat’, then: it chimes in at the perfect pop time of 3 minutes 30 seconds. It begins in a Lorde-y way; a deeply hymnal chant set to sparse beats about her ‘silver and gold’ scars as she imagines herself as an invincible heroine, specifically the film’s lead protagonist Katniss Everdeen (watch out, Jennifer Lawrence!). As the defiant motif builds, her blood growing hotter, her name gradually striking fear in the hearts of all who stand in her path, it may as well be a theme tune for Lorde’s swift global domination itself; The Hunger Games effectively now exists merely as Lorde’s biography thus far.
Via a gigantic chorus – one of her biggest yet – she silences any theories that she migh be a one-trick pony. It’s a bigger, bolder, catchier refrain than anything from ‘Pure Heroine’, with a salient statement: “I never watch the stars, there’s so much down here/So I just try to keep up with them…”. ‘Yellow Flicker Beat’ has the grander scale of a pulsating groove, it has the immediate chorus befitting of a Hollywood blockbuster and it’s delivered with the assured vocal strut of someone who’s evolved to become a total crossover warrior. Above all, it reinforces what we already know: Lorde is still a teenager, Lorde has only made one album, and Lorde is not the finished article. And yet the future isn’t a mere yellow flicker for Ella Yelich-O’Connor; it’s searing like the biggest star of them all. Soon, the sun will have to learn to keep up with her.