Most popular artists announce they are returning from an extended break with a single release, album announcement or, at the very least, some winky-face social media posts that include head-scratching lyrical passages (we see you, Ed Sheeran!) or tease new music coming “soon ;).” In the few four days of 2017, Lorde has decided to forgo the norm — as she often has throughout her young career — and let her high placement in a couple of major festival lineups do the talking.
Less than two months removed from her teenage years and more than three years beyond her debut LP release, Lorde is at long last set to return to our lives in 2017, after a mostly silent 2015 and 2016. Tuesday’s Coachella lineup announcement included the New Zealand singer-songwriter in the second-highest slot on Sunday (Apr. 16 and 23) after failing to crack the main stage at the 2014 fest, while a day later, it was announced that she’ll make her Governors Ball debut during the first weekend of June.
No word on whether these will be her only fest appearances of the year, but considering that Lorde more or less ruled the circuit in 2014 — playing Coachella along with Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits, Osheaga and iHeartRadio Festival, among others — smart money would be on more lineup inclusions coming soon. Oh, and probably with new music to play at these festivals, too: the follow-up to 2013’s Pure Heroine has been in the works for a while, and Lorde has hinted that its completion and release are imminent on multiple occasions. “The record is written, we’re in the production stage now,” she wrote last August. “I’ve worked like a dog for a year making this thing great for you guys.”
Pure Heroine was released in September 2013 and its lead single, “Royals,” hit No. 1 on the Hot 100 chart the next month. Following those two achievements, The Artist Less Widely Known As Ella Yelich-O’Connor stayed extremely busy, with the aforementioned festival dates part of a world tour in 2014 that also included performances at the Grammys and BRIT Awards that year. In late 2014, Lorde curated the soundtrack to The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1, getting original contributions from Kanye West, Ariana Grande and The Chemical Brothers, among others; she also dropped a new single, “Yellow Flicker Beat,” to precede the soundtrack, and scored another Top 40 hit in the process. Since then, Lorde has been mostly quiet, although she did pop up on “Magnets,” an underrated house single with Disclosure, in late 2015.
In reality, Lorde has been absent from the album-promo game almost precisely as long as artists like Miley Cyrus and Katy Perry; Bangerz and Prism, respectively, were released within a month of Pure Heroine, and neither follow-up is in sight. Yet it feels like Lorde has been absent from our lives even longer than her pop-star compatriots, for two reasons. First, the teasing of a new album has become just plain cruel at this point: it’s always considerate to keep fans in the loop on the progress of an upcoming project, but posting a photo of the actual headphones you’re listening to the new album with is somewhat beyond the pale.
listen to the record on these every day. wanna hear it exactly how you will pic.twitter.com/R5Ove8g94z
— Lorde (@lorde) November 15, 2016
Second, there’s so little known about Lorde’s sophomore album — and an endless amount of promise. Pure Heroine was far more than a platform for “Royals”; as an examination of class, solitude and growing up in the digital age, Lorde’s debut featured a fully realized persona atop a deep sonic field of warm bass, slamming drums and sighing synths.
Three years removed from its release, it’s become clear that Pure Heroine is one of the most complete pop albums of the decade, and that it hinges on the perspective of a 16-year-old outsider from America and its celebrity culture. Now that Lorde is a 20-year-old international star that hangs out with Taylor Swift on the regular, where does she go from here, and how will her voice — literally and narratively — evolve? It’s the question that is surely bugging a lot of her fans, and that will likely be answered in 2017.
Lorde has written two tweets so far in 2017. “um, so… i think it’s time we danced,” she posted with the Coachella lineup on Tuesday, inviting questions of “Did Lorde make a dance album?!” with it. With the Governors Ball lineup, she simply wrote, “i can’t wait for this summer.” Judging on how it’s already shaping up, a lot of fans — casual and diehard — are right there with her.