The Untold Truth Of Lorde

Lorde may be a Grammy-winning artist, but Ella Yelich-O'Connor is just your average Gen Zer who loves onion rings to the point of it being an obsession and spends her free time browsing Tumblr. And she isn't afraid to admit she's cried in the back of an Uber. (But really, who hasn't?)

The New Zealand-born star launched her career like any other teen in the digital age: a free SoundCloud debut. Since then, she's found major success. After later emerging from a years-long hiatus, she graced the Coachella stage and, according to The Guardian, released an album that received "more critical acclaim than any other 2017 pop record."

Lorde's Melodrama reads like a coming-of-age story, one where no teenager is immune to the pitfalls of young love or the strife of learning how to be alone, no matter how famous one is. From the top of the charts to the depths of the New York City subway, the untold truth of the Kiwi star isn't all that different from most people's.

She read over 1,000 books by middle school

Lorde is so undeniably talented that, when she first hit airwaves with Pure Heroine, it was easier for people to believe that she was secretly a 30 to 45-year-old woman than a teenager (at least until The Hairpin obtained a copy of the then-17-year-old's birth certificate). Beyond her birther conspiracy, the singer really does seem wise beyond her years. Why? Probably because Lorde's a total bookworm.

In an interview with Radio NZ (via The New York Times), the Melodrama singer revealed that she read "more than 1,000 books" before she even graduated from middle school. Prior to becoming a pop star, Lorde wrote fiction, and, at age 14, she proofread her mother's "40,000-word master's thesis." For this reason, it shouldn't be surprising that she didn't actually have very many songs when she first started. She was busy reading and writing. But the artist had tons of lyrics.

According to her Pure Heroine collaborator Joel Little, Lorde hadn't "really written any songs" when they sat down to create her debut LP.

"But she had all these amazing words," he told The Guardian. "So, initially, the process was finding a way to capture what she was saying with the music and melodies. We spent a couple of weeks trying out different styles to see what would fit the best."

She suffers from stage fright

No one is as known for dancing in the awards show audience as Taylor Swift — except for maybe her bestie Lorde. The "Green Light" singer may have brought her funky moves from the VMA's audience to the VMA's stage, but that doesn't mean she was dancing like nobody's watching. In real life, Lorde suffers from terrible stage fright and has a "robust prescription of beta-blockers" to help her cope (via Vanity Fair). These medications help keep the physical symptoms of anxiety — like a pounding heartbeat and shaky voice — under control.

"I'm a writer first, and writers are some of the most introverted kooks there are," she told Vanity Fair in a 2017 interview. "It definitely makes no sense, but I have to bridge the gap and do what needs to be done for the work. I'm painfully shy, and I have horrific stage fright."

The singer also typically avoids red carpets, which she doesn't consider one of her strengths. She claims no one needs to see her "looking like a dork trying to look cool on a red carpet," but she clearly didn't account for the way she made medical casts 2016's must-have accessory after debuting a broken arm at the Met Gala.

Lorde literally hears colors

Lorde joined the ranks of acclaimed artists like Pharrell Williams, Kanye West, and John Mayer when she revealed that she has a neurological condition called synesthesia. According to the American Psychological Association, the most common form of this ability is "colored hearing." In other words, people see sounds visually as colors. Only about one in 2,000 people are affected. In Lorde's case, certain colors correspond to certain musical notes.

In an interview with The New York Times, Lorde admitted that making an album is a very visual process for her. While writing Melodrama, she color-coded each song idea with different hues for different themes. For example, sad songs got one color, while songs about partying got a different color. She ended up tacking her color-coded notes to a wall to evaluate the patterns and fill in any gaps or rearrange things if needed. 

"From the moment I start something, I can see the finished song, even if it's far-off and foggy," she told The Times. "It's about getting the actual thing to sound like what I've been seeing."

She's a secret onion ring aficionado

Lorde is a Grammy winner, but her affinity for food isn't necessarily as high class as some of her celebrity peers. Though the singer has been known to favor a truffle mac and cheese, the starlet has an affinity for food that isn't necessarily Michelin-rated. As it turns out, there is no place more perfect to the "Perfect Places" singer than somewhere that serves up a really, really good onion ring.

Lorde's fat-filled, fried-up passion actually borders on semi-obsessive. In an interview on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon, the singer confirmed rumors that she was secretly behind the Instagram account @OnionRingsWorldwide. The account was exactly what it sounds like: pictures and reviews of onion rings from the singer's many travels. According to a screenshot captured by Spin, she was not a fan of Burger King's onion rings option.

"From my sort of semi-professional adventures, I think that a batter works better than a crumb," she told Jimmy Fallon. "It's like a little bit lighter, and the other thing that you can do to really make an onion ring magical is lightly pickle the onion before you batter it up."

Swipe that Metro Card

Next time you take a ride on the New York City subway, you may just find yourself waiting out the never-ending delays next to Lorde. In an interview with The New York Times, the Kiwi singer admitted that she took a lot of subway rides while recording Melodrama in Jack Antonoff's Brooklyn apartment. She wanted to hear how the music would sound to an average person in their daily life, so she grabbed some cheap earbuds, hopped on the subway, and gave her rough mixes a test-spin.

Weirdly enough, the superstar was able to slide through the transit system relatively incognito. She claimed, "Nobody recognizes me." In the event someone did recognize her, she usually smiled, put a finger to her mouth, and motioned, "Shh." Usually, that keeps her from being bothered. Hey, if Jay-Z — the arguable king of New York hip hop — can still meet people underground who don't recognize him, Lorde's probably got a lot of tracks left to cover.

She doesn't play an instrument

Lorde is one of the few artists with enough raw songwriting talent that she doesn't need to use an instrument to pen her hits. This is a saving grace because, according to The New York Times, the Kiwi singer doesn't actually play an instrument at all. She joins the ranks of the enormously talented Sia, who admitted to NPR that she can barely "crank out a chord" on piano but has written hits for Beyoncé and Katy Perry.

Though Lorde claimed Melodrama is an album "about being alone," the starlet eventually had to enlist a collaborator to make her songs come to life. Strangely enough, she keeps collaborations extremely limited. For Pure Heroine, it was Joel Little. For Melodrama, it was Jack Antonoff.

Lorde's artistic process is a rare move in the pop world, where most hits have a full team of all-star writers. For example, Zedd's "The Middle," which tied for the most amount of weeks spent on top of the Hot Dance/Electronic Songs chart, has a whopping seven writers. Even Taylor Swift's Reputation, which was largely crafted by Swift and Antonoff, has an upwards of three or four writers on the majority of tracks.

In contrast, most of Melodrama is solely credited to Lorde and Antonoff, but the album was still the singer's first No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 chart.

She cried to Rihanna, then wrote 'Liability'

Despite the fact that Lorde will never be a royal, the singer is definitely a relatable queen. Can you be a self-sufficient adult if you've never burst into tears in the back of an Uber while listening to Rihanna? This is one thing that's definitely part of a few of our coming-of-age tales.

During an iHeartRadio Secret Sessions event (via People), the starlet claimed her single "Liability" was the result of a particularly painful Uber ride and a well-placed Rihanna song. She had taken a miles-long "angry walk" to clear her mind but called an Uber to take her home. That's when the waterworks began, and she tried to cry quietly enough that the driver couldn't hear her (but let's be honest: Uber drivers hear everything).

"He definitely knew I was crying. And I was listening to 'Higher' by Rihanna. But I listened to that song and I was just crying, and I was crying because I was feeling this very specific feeling of being too much for somebody," she said, adding, "I felt like, I was like: no one could ever love me for all that I am because I'm a lot."

That feeling inspired her hit "Liability," which she feels gave her "such a suit of armor" and helped her embrace her complicated emotions. Really though, can you imagine being the dude with Lorde crying in your back seat?

She's found inspiration on Uber rides

Lorde doesn't just navigate NYC with the MTA. Sometimes, she doesn't feel like sweating to near-death on a subway platform during the summer (see, she's not the only one who can be melodramatic). The "Green Light" singer has an affinity for Uber, and it has a tendency to inspire her music — or, at the very least, some humorous tweets.

It's not just "Liability" that was inspired by an unfortunate experience with the ride-sharing app. In a now-deleted Twitter thread (via Consequence of Sound), the singer admitted that her song "Sober" also came to her "in the back of an Uber." She then fleshed it out at Antonoff's kitchen table and "bolted" to the studio.

Much like her experience on the subway, Lorde isn't always recognized by her drivers. In a now-deleted Twitter thread (via Billboard), the singer admitted she once hopped in an Uber with a driver who was absolutely beaming about driving a celebrity — that celebrity just didn't happen to be her.

"Uber driver currently busting a nut about the fact that there was a 'celebrity passenger' just before me," she wrote. "I can tell our ride, by comparison, sparkles significantly less for him."

Maybe it's time for the "Royals" star to switch to Lyft.

Her hiatus taught her how to be alone

According to Rolling Stone, Lorde was 13 when she first signed to a label. Three years later, she dropped her debut LP Pure Heroine. By the time she released her first single from Melodrama, she was no longer a wide-eyed teen. She was 20. So what happened during that four-year stretch? The singer experienced her first major heartbreak (a split from long-term boyfriend James Lowe) and had to grapple with the reality of being alone. But this is exactly what brought her inspiration.

"I moved out of home and all of a sudden I was kind of figuring out who am I when I'm alone? Who am I when I'm doing things just for myself? And I feel like you can really hear that on this record," she told Zane Lowe on Beats 1 (via Rolling Stone). "There's definitely moments where it's like 'Oh, she really went there.'"

In order to get there, Lorde had to totally pull back from the public eye. The New York Times reported that the singer took a helicopter to a remote rental home on the island Waiheke "where her only visitor was a wild dog she found sitting on her bed" (which is pretty much one of a thousand reasons to never leave your doors open in the New Zealand wilderness). She told Vanity Fair that her "first show in three years" was at Coachella — not a bad way to be reintroduced to the world.

Not even the flu could stop her

Lorde's bizarre performance at the 2017 MTV VMAs was met with as much criticism as it was praise. Rather than singing, the artist chose to do an interpretive dance to her song "Homemade Dynamite." So, why'd she make the odd choice? According to The Mirror, the starlet lost her voice to the flu, and, rather than pull out of the awards show at the last minute, she switched up her performance to include a dance routine. Lorde's illness was so severe that she even received an IV drip before hitting the stage, but she managed to soldier on.

"It's sort of embarrassing to watch someone experience intense joy. Way more than pain ... and I think that's why people find what I do quite disconcerting," she said in an episode of WTF with Marc Maron (via Billboard). "People got, like, so angry about me performing at the VMAs. I just danced. I just danced! And I danced with full f***ing joy. Some people were like, 'We get it, we love it.' And some people were like, 'This is offensive that I have to watch this.'"

Did she shade the Grammys?

In 2018, Lorde's Melodrama won a Grammy nomination for album of the year alongside Childish Gambino, Jay-Z, Kendrick Lamar, and Bruno Mars. She was the only woman nominated in that category, and, according to Variety, the only person in that category not offered a solo performance. Elle reported that the singer ended up avoiding the red carpet and wearing a piece of feminist art stitched delicately into her Valentino gown. The quote was an excerpt from artist Jenny Holzer's Untitled (Rejoice!), from Inflammatory Essays, 1979/82 (via Vice):

"Rejoice! Our times are intolerable. Take courage, for the worst is a harbinger of the best. Only dire circumstances can precipitate the overthrow of oppressors. The old and corrupt must be laid to waste before the just can triumph. Contradiction will be heightened. The reckoning will be hastened by the staging of seed disturbances. The apocalypse will blossom. "

In an Instagram post (via Elle), Lorde claimed the quote was her "white rose," the symbol women wore to the Grammys red carpet to show support for #TimesUp. Sonja Yelich, Lorde's mother, also joined in to shade the Grammys. She tweeted a New York Times clip with a circled excerpt that read, "Of the 899 people nominated in the last six Grammy Awards ... 9 percent were women." She captioned it, "This says it all." Lorde actually was one of the nine percent. She won two Grammys in 2014 for "Royals."