meta-script5 Artists Influenced By Paul Simon: Harry Styles, Lorde, Conor Oberst & More | GRAMMY.com
5 Artists Influenced By Paul Simon: Harry Styles, Lorde, Conor Oberst & More
Paul Simon onstage at the Auditorium Theater in Chicago, 1980

Photo: Paul Natkin/Getty Images

list

5 Artists Influenced By Paul Simon: Harry Styles, Lorde, Conor Oberst & More

Paul Simon’s songs linger long, and are examples of excellence for generations of musicians. Ahead of "Homeward Bound: A GRAMMY Salute to the Songs of Paul Simon," re-airing Wednesday, May 31, on CBS, artists reflect on Simon's profound influence.

GRAMMYs/Dec 16, 2022 - 06:10 pm

Updated Monday, May 22, to include information about the re-air date for "Homeward Bound: A GRAMMY Salute To The Songs Of Paul Simon."

"Homeward Bound: A GRAMMY Salute To The Songs Of Paul Simon" will re-air on Wednesday, May 31, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on the CBS Television Network, and will be available to stream live and on demand on Paramount+.

Paul Simon is a living legend. For nearly six decades, the New Yorker has gifted his songs to the world. An innovator — not just a folk singer — Simon’s curiosity led to constantly discovering new soundscapes. He incorporated these rhythms and instrumentation into his melodies, and then added poetic lyrics to create character-driven narratives.

These compositions are like old friends; they linger long after the needle lifts or the stream ends. Generations have sung Simon’s songs — finding joy in their playful rhythms and sorrow in their beauty.   

The accolades and awards are endless: a two-time inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, a 16-time GRAMMY winner, multiple recordings in the GRAMMY Hall of Fame and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Recording Academy to name just a few.

In a clip from "Homeward Bound: A GRAMMY Salute to the Songs of Paul Simon," which will re-air on Wednesday, May 31, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on the CBS Television Network, Elton John calls him "one of the greatest songwriters of all time" — high praise from an artist with 35 GRAMMY nominations and five wins. Simon’s contemporaries are not the songwriter’s only fans: The writer of iconic songs such as "Bridge Over Troubled Water," "Graceland," "The Boxer," and "50 Ways to Lose Your Lover," has generations of artists as worshippers of his art who continue to discover his deep catalog.

Singer-songwriters, pop stars, country artists and rappers all claim Simon as a musical mentor. For example, Kid Cudi sampled "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" on his debut mixtape A Kid Named Cudi in the referentially titled  "50 Ways to Make a Record." In a Forbes Q&A, Canadian songwriter Donovan Woods cites "Obvious Child" as his all-time favorite.  

In advance of the GRAMMY salute to Simon next week, here are five artists that credit the songwriter as a key to their musical education.  

Read More: How To Watch "Homeward Bound: A GRAMMY Salute To The Songs Of Paul Simon"

Harry Styles

Listen to Harry Styles’ turn of phrase and poetic lyrics, and hints of Simon’s influence are evident. Even back in his One Direction days, Styles cited Simon as a touchstone. In an MTV interview, following the release of the boy band’s 2015 bestseller Made in the A.M., Styles said his favorite track was "Walking in the Wind" since it was inspired by Simon. 

"I’m a big Paul Simon fan and I think the inspiration behind it is Graceland," Styles said. "The way in which the verse is so conversational and informal, and it’s not like melody melody melody — it’s like spoken word, and kind of drifts and peaks and troughs. I love that album and when I listen to it I love hearing the influence from that in his song."

In a 2019 Rolling Stone interview, Styles again gave a nod to Simon. "I wish I had written '50 Ways to Leave Your Lover,'" he said. "That’s the greatest verse melody ever written, in my opinion. So minimal, but so good — that drum roll."

Conor Oberst

In a 2011 New York magazine profile on Paul Simon, the singer-songwriter from Omaha, Nebraska, is quoted talking about what a major influence the writer of "The Boxer" is on his art. "I grew up with my folks listening to him," Oberst told writer Alan Light. "But as I got into songwriting, I realized how profound what he does actually is. His work over the years is a treasure trove of ideas."

Listen to Oberst’s cover of "Kodachrome," recorded with his alt-country band the Mystic Valley Band, which he once performed at the Austin City Limits Festival in 2008, telling the audience it was a popular sing-along on the tour bus.  

Vampire Weekend

These New York indie rockers burst onto the scene in the mid-2000, and comparisons to Simon abounded beginning with their 2008 self-titled debut. Listen to "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa" from their debut; the Simon influence is undeniable — especially his Graceland period. 

In a 2019 interview with Radio X, frontman Ezra Koenig was asked about a show that would stay with him forever. He paused, then answered Simon’s Homeward Bound Farewell Tour in 2018. "He is such a legend…We’ve been compared to him many times and he is an influence. We are from the same part of the country…I have a lot to look up to and find in common with him." 

Shawn Colvin

The three-time GRAMMY winner Shawn Colvin considers Simon a key piece of her songwriting education. Colvin’s father played guitar and taught her early on; he also played many of the singer-songwriters of the day that included the boy from New York. 

Particularly at the start of her career, Colvin always performed "Kathy’s Song" in her sets. In a 2015 interview, the songwriter cited Simon as one of her mentors. "Joni Mitchell was a big time [influence on] me, but also James Taylor, Paul Simon and Bob Dylan to an extent," she said. 

Lorde

The expressive and introspective New Zealand singer-songwriter considers Simon the benchmark for excellence in her craft — a bar she reaches for each day. In a 2017 profile in The Guardian she revealed the following goal:. "I want to be really, really good one day. I think I’m pretty good now. I think I’ve made a good start. But I want to be Paul Simon."   Four years later, Lorde named Simon’s "Graceland" as the song she wishes she’d written in this Vogue 73 vide interview

Listen to Lorde and Jack Antonoff (Bleachers) perform a stripped down duet of "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard" at the 2017 Outside Lands Festival in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. 

8 Highlights From "Homeward Bound: A GRAMMY Salute To The Songs Of Paul Simon"

Who Is Rhiannon Giddens? 3 Things To Know About The Banjoist & Violist On Beyoncé’s "Texas Hold ‘Em"
Rhiannon Giddens

Photo: Ebru Yildiz

list

Who Is Rhiannon Giddens? 3 Things To Know About The Banjoist & Violist On Beyoncé’s "Texas Hold ‘Em"

Rhiannon Giddens has been esteemed in various folk circles for years — and her appearance on Beyoncé’s "TEXAS HOLD ‘EM" just broke her into the mainstream. Here are three things to know about the eclectic singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist.

GRAMMYs/Feb 13, 2024 - 06:40 pm

After the club-storming Renaissance, its Act II begins with an unexpected sound: a burble of banjo, later joined by flowing viola. Welcome to "TEXAS HOLD ‘EM," one of two advance singles from Beyoncé’s forthcoming album, along with "16 CARRIAGES."

Beyoncé’s recently announced Act II promises to be an immersion into country music — which is both a fresh aesthetic and one deeply rooted to her Texan upbringing. The 32-time GRAMMY Winner has spoken about the "overlooked history of the American Black cowboy" and nodded to the culture with a Western getup at the 2024 GRAMMYs.

All of this is a completely natural fit for Rhiannon Giddens, who played said fiddle and viola on "TEXAS HOLD ‘EM."

"The beginning is a solo riff on my minstrel banjo — and my only hope is that it might lead a few more intrepid folks into the exciting history of the banjo," Giddens explained on Instagram. "I used to say many times as soon as Beyoncé puts the banjo on a track my job is done.

"Well, I didn’t expect the banjo to be mine," she continued. "And I know darn well my job isn’t done, but today is a pretty good day."

The "job" defines Giddens. Sure, she may be completely new to certain contingents of the Beyhive, but the two-time GRAMMY winner and 10-time nominee’s been on the scene for almost two decades.

Since making her mark with the Carolina Chocolate Drops in the mid-aughts, Giddens has forged a singular legacy. She’s not only a purveyor of traditional musics, but as an investigator of the racial and cultural cross-currents that forged our modern-day understanding — and misunderstanding — of Americana.

At the 2024 GRAMMYs, Giddons was nominated for two golden gramophones — for Best Americana Album (You’re the One) and Best American Roots Performance ("You Louisiana Man"). You’re the One was her first album of all-original material; in that regard, these noms show that a new, exciting chapter for Giddens is just beginning.

Here are five things to know about the artist who just played "TEXAS HOLD ‘EM" with Queen Bee.

Her Interrogation Of Black Music History Is Indispensable

Giddens has worked in a diverse array of fields, including opera, documentary, ballet, podcasting, and more. Her mission? To explore "difficult and unknown chapters of American history" through musical lenses, like the evolution of the banjo from Africa to Appalachia.

"In order to understand the history of the banjo, and the history of bluegrass music, we need to move beyond the narrative we've inherited," she’s stated. Elsewhere, she noted, "People seem ready for a more in-depth idea of folk music, culture and history.

Which extends beyond merely other people’s stories — but to her own.

…And It Led Directly To You’re The One

Speaking to GRAMMY.com about her GRAMMY-nominated first album of original material, Giddens was quick to note that "autobiography" doesn’t hit the mark.

"It doesn't express how I feel… they're still songs, and it's still a performance," Giddens said. "I'd say I'm drawing a little bit more from my experience, but I had to draw from my experience to write other people's stories.

"There's emotions that I feel that I then translate into these other stories," she added, "so I don't think this record is completely different from that."

She’s Made Killer Appearances With Paul Simon

Paul Simon’s ended his touring years, but he does make sporadic appearances, including at 2022’s "Homeward Bound: A GRAMMY Salute to the Songs of Paul Simon."

There, they performed a version of his epochal "American Tune," where he changed the words in nuanced ways as relates to the American origin story — and he enlisted Giddens to sing it with him.

"He didn't have to do nothing but sit back and collect his checks," Giddens told GRAMMY.com. "He made a statement with that song, and I don't want to take that away from him. I didn't change those words; he changed those words."

Where will Giddens go from her star turn with Bey? Wherever it might be, we’ll feel — and learn — something profound, one banjo strum at a time.

On You’re The One, Rhiannon Giddens’ Craft Finds A Natural Outgrowth: Songwriting

GRAMMY Rewind: Harry Styles Celebrates His Fellow Nominees (And His Biggest Fan) After Album Of The Year Win In 2023
Harry Styles at the 2023 GRAMMYs.

Photo: Kevin Mazur

video

GRAMMY Rewind: Harry Styles Celebrates His Fellow Nominees (And His Biggest Fan) After Album Of The Year Win In 2023

Revisit the moment Harry Styles accepted the most coveted award of the evening for 'Harry's House' and offered a heartfelt nod to his competitors — Beyoncé, Adele, Lizzo, Coldplay and more.

GRAMMYs/Jan 5, 2024 - 06:00 pm

After a wildly successful debut and sophomore record, you'd think it was impossible for Harry Styles to top himself. Yet, his third album, Harry's House, proved to be his most prolific yet.

The critically acclaimed project first birthed Styles' record-breaking, chart-topping single, "As It Was," then landed three more top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 with "Late Night Talking," "Music for a Sushi Restaurant" and "Matilda." The album and "As It Was" scored Styles six nominations at the 2023 GRAMMYs — and helped the star top off his massive Harry's House era with an Album Of The Year win.

In this episode of GRAMMY Rewind, revisit Styles' big moment from last year's ceremony, which was made even more special by his superfan, Reina Lafantaisie. Host Trevor Noah (who will return as emcee for the 2024 GRAMMYs) handed the mic to Lafantaisie to announce Styles as the winner, and the two shared a celebratory hug before Styles took the mic.

"I've been so, so inspired by every artist in this category," said Styles, who was up against other industry titans like Beyoncé, Adele, Lizzo and Coldplay. "On nights like tonight, it's important for us to remember that there is no such thing as 'best' in music. I don't think any of us sit in the studio, making decisions based on what will get us [an award]."

Watch the video above to see Harry Styles' complete acceptance speech alongside his collaborators Kid Harpoon and Tyler Johnson. Check back to GRAMMY.com for more new episodes of GRAMMY Rewind, and be sure to tune into the 2024 GRAMMYs on Sunday, Feb. 4, airing live on the CBS Television Network (8 -11:30 p.m. LIVE ET/5-8:30 p.m. LIVE PT) and streaming on Paramount+ (live and on demand for Paramount+ with SHOWTIME subscribers, or on demand for Paramount+ Essential subscribers the day after the special airs).

Here Are The Album Of The Year Nominees At The 2024 GRAMMYs

Harry Styles' Biggest Songs: 10 Tracks That Showcase The Versatility & Creativity That Have Made Him A Star
Harry Styles performs at The BRIT Awards in February 2023.

Photo: JMEnternational/Getty Images

list

Harry Styles' Biggest Songs: 10 Tracks That Showcase The Versatility & Creativity That Have Made Him A Star

Since his solo debut in 2017, Harry Styles has become one of pop's biggest names by pushing the boundaries of the genre. Dig into 10 songs that showcase Styles' musical genius, from smash hits like "As It Was" to beloved deep cuts like "Fine Line."

GRAMMYs/Nov 9, 2023 - 04:09 pm

Throughout his career, Harry Styles has proven that his music defies categorization. From his poppier days with One Direction to the more rock- and funk-inspired sounds of his solo music, every song and album have been a testament to his ongoing evolution as an artist.

His three solo albums thus far — 2017's Harry Styles, 2019's Fine Line, and 2022's Harry's House — have explored soft rock, psychedelic pop, and synth-pop. With such genre-fluid diversity in his discography, there's something for everyone to indulge in.

Styles' genre-blending techniques have undeniably made him a household name. The past two years solidified that, whether through his 169-show Love On Tour or his Album Of The Year win for Harry's House at the 2023 GRAMMYs. 

Though Styles has remained relatively quiet since the Love On Tour wrapped in July, he surely has fans anticipating his next move. For now, take a look at 10 Harry Styles tracks that illustrate the versatility and creativity that's helped him go from boy band member to solo sensation.

"Over Again," Take Me Home (2013)

A deep cut from One Direction's second album, Take Me Home, "Over Again" features an impressive solo from a then-19-year-old Styles. This song takes listeners on a nostalgic journey, looking back to the happier days of an ill-fated relationship, yearning for the ability to rewind time to a point before the love story unraveled.

Styles' emotionally charged vocal delivery accentuates and intensifies the profound sense of melancholy that is being relayed in the song. The depth in Styles' voice invites the audience to connect and empathize with the song's heartbroken narrative — a trait that still permeates in his solo ballads today. 

"Clouds," FOUR (2014)

Styles highlights his vocal prowess in a different way on One Direction's youthful FOUR cut "Clouds." Not only did it feature extensive, powerful vocal runs, but it also showcased the rock sensibilities of his voice. "Clouds" diverted from 1D's traditional pop sound and ventured into a more guitar-driven style, incorporating rock elements and arguably foreshadowing the sounds of Styles' debut album released three years later.

"Sign of the Times," Harry Styles (2017)

Styles kicked off his solo journey in bold fashion: a nearly six-minute ballad. The cinematic, '70s rock-inspired "Sign of the Times" presented a stark departure from his previous work with One Direction, hinting that he was more than ready to evolve musically on his own.

The release of the song marked a turning point in Styles' career, enabling him to embrace a more mature sound and gain credibility as a solo artist. His continued exploration of genres is a trait that Styles has carried into his later projects, ultimately establishing his status as a genre-fluid artist.

"Kiwi," Harry Styles (2017)

One of Styles' boldest steps into the rock genre, "Kiwi" tells a story about a rebellious and free-spirited girl who captures Styles' attention, despite knowing she's no good for him. In this lively track, Styles trades polished pop for unfiltered rock vocals, showcasing an edgier side he hadn't displayed in his boy band days — both lyrically and sonically.

The song's dynamic energy is further amplified by the rich supply of classic rock-inspired guitar grooves. While Styles hasn't revisited the raw sound of "Kiwi" much since, it serves as a reminder that he can tackle any creative technique he desires.

"Watermelon Sugar," Fine Line (2019)

One could argue that "Watermelon Sugar" is a perfectly crafted pop song: refreshing guitar grooves, a lively instrumental, sultry harmonized vocals. In fact, it's so flawless, it earned Styles his first GRAMMY in 2021 for Best Pop Solo Performance.

That's just one way the Fine Line single marked a pivotal moment in Styles' career. It also became his first No. 1 single on the Billboard Hot 100, proving that he has staying power as a pop star in his own right. And as one of two songs with more than 2 billion Spotify streams alone, "Watermelon Sugar" has also proven to be a Harry Styles classic. 

"Falling," Fine Line (2019)

One of Styles' most gut-wrenching tracks, "Falling" offers an introspective take on heartbreak. The haunting piano-driven melody emphasizes the pain in Styles' voice as he realizes his harmful habits caused him to lose a lover.

The song's emotional transparency and stripped-down vocals make it one of his most emotionally mature tracks, as well as one of his most captivating. While the track is Styles' lowest-charting single to date (it reached No. 62 on the Hot 100), "Falling" has proven itself to be a fan favorite, with more than 1 billion streams on Spotify. 

"Fine Line," Fine Line (2019)

Despite being the title track, "Fine Line" isn't just a deep cut from Styles' acclaimed 2019 album, it's an outlier in his whole discography — but in a beautiful way. The song is largely instrumental, with a lonely, yet emotionally-charged energy that highlights Styles' stunning falsetto.

In an interview with Capital FM, Styles cited a connection between the song's lyrics and his feelings throughout the album-making process; with the closing lyrics echoing, "We'll be alright," the song sheds light on the apprehension that often accompanies embarking on a new creative journey. The message foreshadowed Styles' subsequent ventures after the record's release, including a step into acting and the exploration of a new sound in Harry's House.

"As It Was," Harry's House (2022)

The lead single for Harry's House, "As It Was" served as Styles' first plunge into the synth-pop genre, which carried throughout the project. Despite the track's buoyant melody, its true essence conveys a more gloomy narrative. Styles explores the idea that nothing remains the same once being put into the limelight — a poignant message from one of pop's biggest stars.

Along with introducing a new sound for Styles, the brilliantly juxtaposing track also cemented him as a bonafide superstar. After "As It Was" debuted at No. 1 on the Hot 100 in April 2022, it reigned for 15 weeks, marking the most for a British artist in the chart's history. It was also a chart titan in Styles' home country, becoming the longest-running No. 1 and best-selling single of 2022 on the UK Singles Chart. What's more, it helped Styles earn his first Record Of The Year GRAMMY nomination, and undoubtedly contributed to his Album Of The Year win at the 2023 GRAMMYs.

"Late Night Talking," Harry's House (2022)

Taking the synth-pop of "As It Was" into the '80s, "Late Night Talking" blends retro-inspired vocal distortions and groovy instrumentation. Yet, somehow, it has a timeless groove that still feels contemporary — a skill that has become a Styles trademark.

The single had big shoes to fill as it followed the smash hit "As It Was" but it fiercely proved that Styles' had room for multiple hit songs under his belt. "Late Night Talking" landed the No. 1 spot on Billboard's Pop Airplay Chart and No. 3 on the Hot 100 Chart.

"Matilda," Harry's House (2022)

One of Harry's House's few somber tracks, "Matilda" instantly became another fan favorite in his catalog. As he gently sings over plucked guitar instrumentals, he comforts someone who feels out of place within their family at home ("You don't have to be sorry for leavin' and growin' up," he sings in the chorus).

While Styles has delivered plenty of tender moments, the storytelling and emotion of "Matilda" arguably helps it stand as his most thoughtful composition to date. Although it remains as an album cut, "Matilda" is further proof that Styles' has mastered the skill of making music that resonates with listeners — whether he's compelling them to shed tears or dance along.

Harry Styles' Sonic Evolution: How He Grew From Teen Pop Idol To Ever-Evolving Superstar

5 Ways Lorde's 'Pure Heroine' Helped Pave The Way For The Unconventional Modern Superstar
Lorde performs in Los Angeles in 2013.

Photo: Paul R. Giunta/Getty Images

list

5 Ways Lorde's 'Pure Heroine' Helped Pave The Way For The Unconventional Modern Superstar

On the 10th anniversary of Lorde's massive debut album, 'Pure Heroine,' take a look at five ways the star's defiant spirit — on and off the LP — influenced a generation.

GRAMMYs/Sep 27, 2023 - 11:01 pm

Over 10 years after Lorde released her breakout hit, "Royals," its opening line presents a profound sense of irony: "I've never seen a diamond in the flesh."

In the song, Lorde depicts a disillusionment with the lifestyle and status associated with diamonds — one based on excess, ostentation, and a departure from reality. But her scorned sentiment is so relatable that "Royals" itself has become a diamond.

In December of 2017, the single reached the rarely achieved diamond certification from the Recording Industry Association of America for selling 10 million units. The single now has over 1 billion streams on Spotify, and when it was in the throes of release, topped the Billboard Hot 100 for nine weeks, before earning two GRAMMYs: Song Of The Year and Best Pop Solo Performance at the 2014 ceremony.

"Royals" was the lead single for Pure Heroine, Lorde's debut album, which turns 10 this month. Like its first hit, the album demonstrated Lorde's foresight into the next generation of pop star — so much so that none other than David Bowie had proclaimed her as "the future of music."

In many ways, the title Pure Heroine is apposite to Lorde herself. In the early 2010s, she was a heroine with a pure message — a message of honesty and humanity that resonated with everyone, from fans to her fellow musicians. Even critics were intrigued: "In a moment when too many new artists seem afraid to offend or go off script, Lorde is an exciting contradiction," Pitchfork wrote in their review of Pure Heroine.

Going "off script" permeates everything about Pure Heroine, but it also goes beyond the album and into what Lorde represented for music and humanity at large. 

As Pure Heroine turns 10, here are five aspects of Lorde's rise that demonstrate that she helped create the blueprint for the modern superstar.

Defiance Of Industry Expectations

Lorde has been signed to Universal Music Group since she was 12 years old, after being discovered because of a performance at a talent show. However, she didn't let such a grand association play a role in her approach to her music.

"I've been dealing with the world's biggest record company for so long so I've never had that 'Holy Shit' moment with it being a major label or anything," Lorde told Spin in 2013. "It's just something I grew up with."

Even prior to the album, Lorde was prescient in her defiance of the industry when she released her 2012 EP, The Love Club, on Soundcloud for free. Per The Guardian, she told UMG, "Leave it alone — don't promote it, no ads, let it grow organically." This ended up working in her favor when singer/songwriter Grimes reposted Lorde's Soundcloud after "some random" alerted her to it. 

And when the time came for Lorde to make her first album, Universal initially suggested doing a series of soul covers, but she refused. "They got straight away that I was a bit weird, that I would not be doing anything I didn't want to do, and they completely went with that," she told The Guardian in 2013. 

What Lorde considered "a bit weird" in 2013 is now, rightfully, considered brave and forward-thinking because it was all in service to her simply being herself, regardless of what anyone in the industry expected of her. 

That mentality also bled into her appearance. "I'm not the sort of artist that TMZ can write about like, 'She stepped out with no makeup today!' Because 80 percent of the time I'm not wearing any makeup," Lorde told The Fader in 2013.

She also didn't care for the comparisons to other massive artists like her: "I read a piece the other day that said, 'Why Lorde is this generation's Nirvana,' and I was like, PLEASE DON'T! Don't do that to me! They meant it as a compliment, obviously, but what's the point in even making the parallel?" she said to Rookie in 2014.

Lorde has only ever wanted to do things her way, and that not only fueled the magic of Pure Heroine, but her career as a whole.

A Simple One Writer, One Producer Formula

One thing Lorde wanted to do on her debut album was write all of her own lyrics, even though she had never written a song before in her life. And she clearly aimed to have as much creative control as possible, opting to work with only one producer on the album, Joel Little.

Little and Lorde are the only two credits for both writing and production throughout Pure Heroine, a stark contrast to other albums released in 2013 including Robin Thicke's Blurred Lines, Justin Timberlake's The 20/20 Experience, and Beyoncé's self-titled, all of which followed the modern pop standard of gathering numerous songwriters and producers together on an album.

Now, 10 years on from Pure Heroine, some of the biggest artists and albums follow the Pure Heroine approach. For example, on both of Billie Eilish's studio albums, WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP WHERE DO WE GO? (2019) and Happier Than Ever (2022) the only credits are herself and her brother, Finneas.

Another is Olivia Rodrigo, who — other than an occasional extra producer or songwriter and a few interpolation credits to artists like Hayley Williams and Taylor Swift — wrote and produced the entirety of her two studio albums, SOUR (2021) and GUTS (2023) alongside producer Daniel Nigro.

A more intimate creative process makes sense given the candid nature of these artists' music, and the central topic of Lorde's honesty in Pure Heroine can be summed up by the pre-chorus in "Royals": "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."

Ten years ago, the de facto motto of pop music was "the bigger the better," emphasized by songs like "Love Me" from Lil' Wayne and Drake, "F—in' Problems" from A$AP Rocky, 2 Chainz, Kendrick Lamar, and Drake, and "Suit & Tie" from Justin Timberlake and JAY-Z. Then in comes a teenager from New Zealand who literally says "We don't care." She didn't care about the lifestyle pop music purported — and without a boardroom of writers and producers, her message rang out unimpeded.

A DIY Social Media Approach

Given her rise was in the early 2010s, Lorde was also one of the first stars of her generation to engage in the never-ending battle of social media — and, naturally, she only engaged with it as she saw fit.

"I would get an email from one of the record companies saying, 'Just realized that you're not social-networking to your fullest potential. Here's how! Use lots of hashtags! Only focus on the music, Do 'follow sprees' and constantly reply to fans!'" Lorde recalled to Rookie in 2014. "I was like, 'You've just got to trust me. Everyone will hate me in two months if I do that.'"

Yet another gem of foresight from the young Kiwi, given that numerous Gen-Z notables — from the country breakout star Bailey Zimmerman to the hip-hop/electronic crossover artist PinkPantheress — launched their careers from TikTok by posting DIY clips of their creative processes.

As of late, Lorde's Instagram account is rather bare. There are two posts: the cover of her latest album, 2021's Solar Power, and a carousel of her swimming with a cryptic caption about "a light on inside."

However, there is a highlight on her profile entitled "INSTITUTE" which gives a glimpse into the last year or so of touring. Within these slides Lorde's authentic approach to social sharing is unambiguous. There are numerous high-quality performance shots, of course, but there are also images of "TOUR BUS SHELLFISH" alongside shots of porcupines and her eating sushi in the bath.

In the timeline of Lorde's social media, there are examples that demonstrate even less concern with curation and presentation. She even started an account dedicated to onion rings in 2017 (though it unfortunately hasn't had a post since 2021). 

While she was certainly public about her feelings towards social media, there are also hints of that disdain throughout Pure Heroine. Like on the album's second single, "Tennis Court": "It's a new artform showing people how little we care."

Honesty In Lyrics And Beyond

One thing Lorde surely does care about is her audience, which is likely a major reason why the songs on Pure Heroine speak to inner value. She is on their side, and one simple method of demonstrating this is the shift from "I" to "We."

"This dream isn't feeling sweet/ We're reeling through the midnight streets/ And I've never felt more alone/It feels so scary, getting old," Lorde sings on "Ribs," recounting one of the aspects of life she finds most stressful: aging.

As "Ribs" suggests, the 10 songs on Pure Heroine are for real people in the real world — people who are complex and have varying life experiences. One minute, Lorde is celebrating her elevated status ("Getting pumped up on the little bright things I bought/ But I know they'll never own me," Lorde sings on opener "Tennis Court") and next, she's lamenting her declining ability to be carefree as she gets older ("I'm kind of over gettin' told to throw my hands up in the air/ So there/ I'm kind of older than I was when I reveled without a care/ So there," she quips in "Team," the album's third single).

This kind of honesty also extends beyond lyrics for Lorde, who, since the time of Pure Heroine, has been unfiltered in her opinions on topics including her fellow pop stars.

"I think a lot of women in this industry maybe aren't doing so well for the girls," Lorde told Fader in 2013. "She's great, but I listened to that Lana Del Rey record and the whole time I was just thinking it's so unhealthy for young girls to be listening to, you know: 'I'm nothing without you.'"

In that vein, you won't find a single breakup song on Pure Heroine, but instead, honesty in the form of her love/hate relationship with her sudden explosion into fame on "Still Sane": "All business, all day keeps me up a level/All work and no play, lonely on that new s—, yeah."

But even as she acknowledges her rising profile, through "White Teeth Teens" she maintains she hasn't lost sight of who she truly is, that she is still on the side of her people: "I'll let you in on something big/I am not a white teeth teen/I tried to join, but never did/The way they are, the way they seem/Is something else, it's in the blood."

And even when she does broach the topic of heartbreak on songs like "Liability," from Pure Heroine's 2017 successor, Melodrama, Lorde goes deep within herself instead of running back to her ex: "So I guess I'll go home/Into the arms of the girl that I love/The only love I haven't screwed up/She's so hard to please, but she's a forest fire."

Pure Heroine set the tone for the kind of honesty Lorde will always bring in her music — one that's more self-reflective than self-pitying.

A Punk Attitude

Lorde was not concerned with the standards of the music industry when she was making Pure Heroine, and there is a genre of music that is celebrated for this same lack of concern: punk.

While it might seem that a major pop star like Lorde and punk rockers like the Sex Pistols and Dead Kennedys have absolutely nothing in common, the ethos of how they approach their music and persona are actually quite similar. Because punk isn't simply not caring; punk is not caring what people tell you to care about.

If Sonic Youth truly didn't care about anything, they wouldn't have written "Youth Against Facism," their scathing indictment of the U.S. government. It's the same reason Anti-Flag wrote the plainly titled "F— Police Brutality." They use music to predicate change.

Lorde's lyrical approach may not be as on-the-nose as punk, but given the state of pop music at the time of Pure Heroine, ideas presented in "Royals" were well against what the general pop sphere was beckoning people to care about it: "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."

Here, the "code" is being happy and content without the gold teeth and the Grey Goose. That she and her friends (once again, alluding to her fans) have value that goes beyond money.

Although Lorde's November 1996 birthday technically lands her just shy of the Gen-Z cutoff, her values in standing up for the common person is a central tenet of Gen-Z culture. This generation is being forced to pick up the pieces of a climate and an economy ravaged by generations prior, and Gen-Zers are facing that necessary change head-on the same way Lorde faced the necessary change in the music industry at the start of her career.

Just before Pure Heroine reached its 10th birthday on Sept. 27, Lorde took to email to share a candid update on what's been happening in her life in the last year, denoting everything from hints at new music to health struggles, to laments on the decade past.

"I know I'm gonna look back on this year with fondness and a bit of awe, knowing it was the year that locked everything into place, the year that transitioned me from my childhood working decade to the one that comes next — one that even through all this, I'm so excited for. It's just hard when you're in it," Lorde wrote, according to a Tumblr account called "Lorde's Email Archive."

Lorde considers the last 10 years her "childhood working decade." In that decade, she redefined what it meant to be a superstar — who knows what she may redefine in the next decade.

For The Record: How Taylor Swift's 'Speak Now' Changed Her Career — And Proved She'll Always Get The Last Word