What a great week this has been! I have truly enjoyed contacting friends from my childhood who helped me look back in time. Being able to see how folks from your childhood have grown into adults is eye opening, because it helps you notice your own growth. All of this reminiscing about my early life brought back memories of some of the things my parents said to me years ago. Of course much of what they said did not make much sense until years later, when I gained the perspective to view the larger picture. My mother would tell me that I would later laugh at some of the minor disappointments and pains I experienced as a child. She was right. I sometimes look back on things that seemed like the worst events ever only to reflect with amusement at how I feel about it today.
However, my father told me something that contained much more impact and provided insight into his young days. He said, “I want you to have a happy childhood and look back with enjoyment”. My dad explained that he did not have a happy childhood and that it left him with indelible scars that still pained him in his adult years. He never wanted me to have such experiences. Well, my dad was successful in providing a great foundation for me as I did enjoy an extremely happy childhood that I can look back upon favorably. Nevertheless, there is a difference between a happy childhood and a normal childhood. If you asked me I would readily tell you that I had a happy childhood, but I’m not sure if you could call my childhood normal. What is normal? Three words combine to define the word normal – usual, healthy and natural. When speaking about normal childhoods most raise the question as it pertains to young celebrities. The debate arose again this week as we look at featured artist: Lorde.
Fresh off her seventeenth birthday earlier this month, Lorde (Ella Yelich-O’Connor) who was born and raised on Auckland’s North Shore is also young within the music industry, but gaining popularity quickly. In August 2013, with “Royals”, Lorde became the first female in 17 years to top the U.S. Billboard Alternative Songs chart, since Tracy Bonham with her 1996-hit, “Mother Mother”. Following the release of “Royals” in the United States in June 2013, 85,000 copies were sold during a single week in July. In addition, earlier this month Lorde signed a publishing deal with Songs Music Publishing worth a reported $2.5 million after a bidding war between various companies including Sony and her label Universal. The agreement gives the publisher the right to license Lorde’s music for films and advertising.
From what has been discussed so far, Lorde is living far from the life of the typical seventeen year-old. What about the seventeen year old in the music industry? Lorde’s father Vic O’Connor, a civil engineer and her mother Sonja Yelich, a prize winning New Zealand poet raised her in suburban Devonport, Auckland alongside three siblings: a younger brother and sister; and an older sister. At the age of five, Lorde followed her friend into a drama group and discovered a love of singing and acting. Lorde was encouraged to read books by her mother, who is quoted as saying that when 12 years old, Lorde was reading Raymond Carver and Kurt Vonnegut and that at fourteen, Lorde was proofreading her master’s thesis for her.
Certainly, the young musician can be defined as a gifted, well-read child. Most might wonder if this had any impact upon her songwriting. Notice what Lorde said about her songwriting technique, “I started writing songs when I was 13 or 14, because I’ve always been a huge reader. My mum’s a poet and we’ve always had so many books, and that’s always been a big thing for me, arguably more so than music.” Her bio states that Lorde is possessed of a singular ability to capture the majesty, and mundanity, of teenage life – in striking melodic snapshots that belie her age and experience.
As I read about her young life and listen to her music I am reminded of something my mother says about such children. She says they have an “old soul“; meaning that they think and interact with others like a person much older in years. One thing happening now is music fans are reacting positively to Lorde’s music from every corner of the world, a fact that bodes well for her career. Yes, she was reading poetry and great works before the age of twelve, and writing music far more insightful than her seventeen years of life experience should allow. Has she enjoyed a happy childhood? I think so. Has she enjoyed a normal childhood? What is normal?