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How Lorde Broke All the Rules: Inside Rolling Stone's New Issue

The story behind the rise of pop's most unlikely new superstar

January 15, 2014 11:30 AM ET
Lorde cover rolling stone
Lorde on the cover of Rolling Stone.
Matthias Vriens-McGrath

Lorde is 17, lives with her parents and loves Sylvia Plath. She also has a worldwide smash with "Royals," four Grammy nominations and acclaim for her smart, unique debut album, Pure Heroine. How'd she become the unlikeliest superstar in pop? Contributing editor Rob Tannenbaum travels to Ella Yelich-O'Connor's New Zealand home to answer that question in our new issue (on stands Friday). 

See 20 snapshots from Lorde's Rolling Stone photo shoot

 "I get paralyzingly nervous a lot of times, so I tried bravado," Lorde explains, quoting Kanye West's "Dark Fantasy" ("Me found bravery in my bravado"). "The way I dress and carry myself, a lot of people find it intimidating. I think my whole career can be boiled down to the one word I always say in meetings: strength."

Curious about the Cramps shirt Lorde's wearing on our cover? Find out more about the punkabilly heroes

RS explores Lorde's childhood (when she ignored an adult trying to influence her artwork at the ripe age of two), tracks the crooked path "Royals" took to Number One and examines how Yelich-O'Connor has become an icon for teen girls of all stripes. "Everyone talks about Ella as the anti-Miley because she dresses like a witch and she doesn't twerk," explains Tavi Gevinson, the editor of Rookie, the definitive website for self-aware teen girls. "But it's more nuanced than that. She sings about partying, she curses like a sailor and her songs aren't completely asexual. She reflects an intelligence in girls our age, and normalizes it."

Tannenbaum tags along as Ella texts with Taylor Swift, jokingly messes with one of many fans asking for photos on the street (and then apologizes — twice), opens up about the racially-charged controversy that erupted when a photo of her embracing her boyfriend on the beach hit the blogs and chats about how she's taken control of her career and spun seemingly unpopular decisions into genius.

 "Royals" and 99 more of our favorite songs of 2013

Also in this issue: Alex Morris profiles accidental Girls star Adam Driver, Janet Reitman investigates the Tea Party's war on abortion, Mikael Gilmore remembers Phil Everly and Jeff Tietz tells the story of a cultlike prayer group with deadly secrets.

Look for the issue on stands and in the iTunes App Store this Friday, January 17th.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

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Song Stories

“Madame George”

Van Morrison | 1968

One of the first stream-of-consciousness epics to make it onto a Van Morrison record, his drawn-out farewell to the eccentric "Madame George" lasted nearly 10 minutes, combining ingredients from folk, jazz and classical music. The character that gave the song its title provoked speculation that it was about a drag queen, though Morrison denied this in Rolling Stone. "If you see it as a male or a female or whatever, it's your trip," he remarked. "I see it as a ... a Swiss cheese sandwich. Something like that."

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