10 years ago, Lorde emerged with her debut single ‘Tennis Court’, kickstarting a rapid rise to becoming one of music’s brightest stars of her generation. In the decade since, she’s given us everything from assessments of teen life to an unbeatable break-up album and a record to soundtrack existential days under the sun. Where will Lorde take us next? Hopefully, we’ll find out and get a fourth album from the star soon. While we wait, though, remind yourself of some of the artist’s most underrated songs.
‘Yellow Flicker Beat’ (‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 OST’)
A song based on the plot line of The Hunger Games has no business being as good as ‘Yellow Flicker Beat’ is. But the soundtrack contribution is supremely impactful – a haunting, ominous beauty. So good is it that it caught the attention of Kanye West, who released his own version, ‘Flicker (Kanye West Rework)’.
‘No Better’ (‘Pure Heroine’)
Lorde’s early releases gave us sharp portraits of suburban teen life, capturing the mundanities and melodramas of youth. ‘No Better’, a post-‘Pure Heroine’ single that was added to an extended version of that album, is a prime example, bottling the sticky rush of falling into a summer crush over gently fizzing trip-hop electronica.
‘Liability (Reprise)’ (‘Melodrama’)
The heartbreaking ‘Liability’ is far from underrated, but its sibling song, ‘Liability (Reprise)’, doesn’t get half the attention it deserves. Sure, it’s only just over two minutes long and takes the form of a sparse, skeletal snippet, but it puts Lorde’s incisive, emotional songwriting on full display. Just try listening to her sing “But you’re not what you thought you were” over and over as the song closes out and not question everything you thought you knew.
If ‘Melodrama’ was based around a house party, the night unfolding as the tracklist progressed, ‘Sober’ found Lorde fresh from her break-up in ‘Green Light’ and ready to find someone new. With a new partner to join her as “king and queen of the weekend”, she slinks through the party, knocking back shots (“Oh God I’m closing my teeth / Around this liquor-wet lime”) and making the most of what’s left of the night.
‘White Teeth Teens’ (‘Pure Heroine’)
On this ‘Pure Heroine’ cut, the musician turns her lens on the cliques and social groups of her peers. Although she separates herself from the “white teeth teen”, she shares her observations of them and “their molars blinking like the lights” with poetic precision.
‘Million Dollar Bills’ (‘The Love Club EP’)
‘Million Dollar Bills’ is something of an outlier in Lorde’s world, both sonically – its upbeat, tropical rhythms feel whole universes apart from where her sound would evolve – and lyrically. “There’s nothing I want / But money and time / Million dollar bills / And tick-tick-tick-tick,” she declares in its opening lines, a very un-Lorde admission.
‘The Path’ (‘Solar Power’)
You could argue that much of Lorde’s third album ‘Solar Power’ is underrated, but ‘The Path’ is certainly up there for the title of that record’s most overlooked song. A beautiful, shuffling dive through the star’s story so far, it contains great wisdom – namely not to expect artists like Lorde to save us from ourselves and look to the world around us instead.
‘The Man With The Axe’ (‘Solar Power’)
‘Solar Power’ was an album that ditched the 808s in favour of acoustic instruments and ‘The Man With The Axe’ stripped back the layers almost completely. Over the squeaking chord changes of an acoustic guitar, Lorde details both a romantic relationship and her relationship with her job. Subtle and stunning, it deserves more attention.
‘400 Lux’ (‘Pure Heroine’)
Still one of Lorde’s most evocative songs, ‘400 Lux’ pulls you right into listless days and nights, driving around boring suburbia trying to find some thrills. “You pick me up and take me home again,” she sings of this routine. “Head out the window again / We’re hollow like the bottles that we drain.”
‘The Love Club’ (‘The Love Club EP’)
It might have gotten overshadowed by ‘Royals’ upon ‘The Love Club EP’’s release, but the record’s title track gave us another early insight into Lorde’s storytelling nous. This time, she dissects a clique from the inside, longing for freedom and escape. It might not be her best ever but it’s certainly still special.