The Welcome Contradictions of Lorde

I used to think of music taste as a kind of hierarchy. On the first level, you listened to what was available, which was likely to be pop. The second level was the first sphere of being critical--you stopped listening to pop, because that's what everyone else listened to. And the third level, where things got interesting, is when you realized that being reactionary about pop didn't distinguish you or say that much about you. After that, you at least attempt to listen to both "pop" and "not pop" on their own merits.

That hierarchy is outdated because the lines aren't clear anymore--there need not be any crossing back and forth between how you feel about pop. (Mumford and Sons, who are definitively first level, are not necessarily "pop.") Lorde is 16. That's the right age to understand how little your message's package matters to its content. For the next generation, choosing a musical allegiance won't be as cut and dry as pop vs. alternative. As is the case in choosing between Miley Cyrus and Lorde--two young women who make catchy, upbeat songs--the difference will come down to substance, rather than what liking one or the other says about you.

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