Women in Music 2016

Lorde Leaps Onto Radio With 'Yellow Flicker Beat'

Kevin Winter/Getty Images for iHeartMedia
Lorde performs onstage during the 2014 iHeartRadio Music Festival at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on September 20, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The song from the 'Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1' soundtrack makes the highest Alternative Songs bow by a female artist since 1995

Lorde logs the highest launch by a female artist on Billboard's Alternative Songs chart since 1995, as "Yellow Flicker Beat" charges in at No. 17.

The first single from the Lorde-curated The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 soundtrack also soars onto Adult Alternative Songs at No. 19 and the all-rock format-based Rock Airplay chart at No. 15. On the latter list, the track starts with 5.2 million in first-week audience, according to Nielsen BDS.

Lorde Unleashes 'Yellow Flicker Beat' from 'Hunger Games: Mockingjay' Soundtrack

No song by a woman had made so high an entrance on Alternative Songs since Juliana Hatfield's "Universal Heart-Beat" also began at No. 17 on March 25, 1995. (It's also the last song to start at such heights by any soloist, not just a female singer; in between Hatfield and Lorde's arrivals, 71 songs by groups bowed at No. 17 or higher.) The last song by a woman (or soloist) to begin at a better rank? P.J. Harvey's "Down By the Water," which splashed in at No. 15 in February 1995. (How long ago? Lorde was born the following year.)

Lorde continues to bring variety to the traditionally male-dominated format, having arrived with last year's seven-week Alternative Songs No. 1 "Royals" and follow-up "Team," which reached No. 2 in February. Lorde's debut full-length Pure Heroine, which also yielded the No. 17 hits "Glory and Gore" and "Tennis Court," has sold 1.4 million copies in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Similar to Lorde's lofty debut this week, "Royals" became the first Alternative Songs No. 1 by a solo female since Tracy Bonham's "Mother Mother" in 1996.

Still, Jeff Regan, program director of Sirius XM's Alt Nation, says that Lorde is simply now making headlines for her fast-building stream of hits, regardless of flying her gender's flag.

"I love that, this time, her being a woman is not the focus," he says. With 46 plays for "Yellow" in the Nielsen BDS tracking week ending Oct. 5, Alt Nation led all Alternative Songs reporters in first-week spins for the track. (KROQ Los Angeles ranked second with 42 plays, followed by WSUN Tampa, Fla., with 40.) "It's a very good song. The writing is genuine. There's depth to the lyrics and phrasing.

"It's not sappy pop, but it's also not too dark to be off-putting. I'm also beyond psyched that she worked with Paul Epworth [Adele, Florence + the Machine, Bruno Mars] on it."

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Regan says that anticipation for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, in theaters Nov. 21, adds to the song's draw. "It makes it very interesting for us to present, since it's likely going to be one of the biggest movies and soundtracks this year.

"[The soundtrack] is also kind of her next album. She wants to be a true artist, not just a song-by-song pop act," he notes. "That's nice to say when you're winning Grammys, but tougher when it's time to deliver. But, I think she's done that."

Ultimately, Regan says, adding the song was a "no-brainer. She's still so new, but now very much in play for this format. Her type of rise doesn't happen for many artists so quickly. I think that the trajectory of her career will go up and up."

For Regan and Sirius XM, the song's success is especially rewarding, as Alt Nation was the first outlet on which Lorde performed in the U.S. last year, as "Royals" was beginning its ascent to the format's throne.

"We exist for music like this."