Lorde Storms Toward The Throne Of Pop Music

The sharps and flats of the music business

It was an inspired pairing. The Smiths’ melodramatic lyrics (sample: “Now I know how Joan of Arc felt”) become even more hyperbolic and funny when delivered by Charlie Brown as he sits up in bed at night, or by Snoopy sitting on his doghouse. LoPrete’s Tumblr feed has essentially one joke, but for fans of The Smiths (myself included), it’s a good one. But the music publishing arm of Universal Music Group, one of the three major record companies, apparently doesn’t find that joke funny anymore. Or at least its lawyers don’t. Last week, LoPrete posted a note on her page saying that she was going to have to stop the simulated music in the face of a growing number of requests from Universal Music Group to remove the material from Tumblr. She’d received a total of six takedown notices for three separate posts, and said more were coming in every hour. She’s received an outpouring of support online, though, and is pushing back. On Monday, her lawyer filed a counter-notice with Tumblr asking that the three posts be restored. “These brief excerpts [from The Smiths’ lyrics] are used to transformative effect,” wrote attorney Dan Booth. “They also have no commercial purpose, and cannot have any negative effect on the market for the original works. As a result, the takedown notices are erroneous.” Booth’s note touches on all four of the criteria in federal copyright law for judging whether a use is fair or infringing. This Charming Charlie doesn’t copy entire songs, it puts the lyrics in a wholly new context (arguably as a parody of The Smiths, which provides yet more legal protection), it doesn’t sell its content, and if anything, the page stokes demand for The Smiths’ music. The band broke up more than 25 years ago, so Universal should actually be thanking LoPrete for drawing a new generation’s attention to its work.

3. She’s already gained the admiration of musicians industry-wide, ranging from Cyrus to Elton John. Her single Tennis Court “is one of the most touching, beautiful things on earth,” John recently told USA TODAY . “You just open your mouth in wonder.” Lena Dunham, Olivia Wilde and Carson Daly also count themselves as fans. The Auckland native has two theories about why listeners have connected with her music: “There’s not a lot of reality in pop music sometimes. It can feel quite detached from people’s lives, and so that was something people appreciate about my music maybe. But also, it’s super, super simple, which is kind of refreshing.” Royals was inspired by the lavish, over-the-top lifestyle of hip-hop and pop artists. “I realized that lots of the references (in their lyrics) didn’t really relate to anything in my life,” says Lorde, though she does count herself as a fan of Drake and Nicki Minaj. But when choosing her stage name, Yelich-O’Connor sought out a royal-sounding moniker, inspired by her childhood obsession with aristocracy, “something that has always fascinated me. Everything that happened to a royal family in, like, the 17th century is just absurd, but cool.” She added the silent “e” at the end of “Lord” for a feminine touch. She signed a development deal with Universal Records at age 12 after an artists and repertoire rep saw video of her performing in her school talent show. But things didn’t really get going until she partnered with co-writer Joel Little and released her EP, The Love Club, on music-streaming site SoundCloud for free last year. (It was officially released by Universal in March.) She’s arriving stateside for an eight-date U.S. tour that kicks off tonight in Los Angeles, and her full-length debut, Pure Heroine, is out Monday (now streaming at VH1).