The West

Lorde is the Queen Bee
Lorde. Picture: Cybele Malinowski

You're 17 and you're one of the highest- paid singers in the world. So what do you buy with all that cash?

"I bought myself a bed," says Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O'Connor, otherwise known as globe-dominating Kiwi pop sensation Lorde.

"Like I don't really splurge or anything . . . I bought some nice art for my room and I got it framed and stuff so they were kind of splurges I guess.

"The thing with being famous is as soon as you have enough money to buy whatever you want you get given everything for free, which kind of doesn't make sense to me. It's like 'Why? You can finally get my money and now you don't want it'."

The answer to "why" is fairly obvious - Lorde is hot property. To have the cool, wild-haired, black-clad teen seen with any products is the kind of advertising money can't buy.

But speaking on the phone a couple of days after her debut album Pure Heroine went platinum in the US - making her the first female debutant to achieve this since Adele - the Auckland-raised teen appears to wear a veil of nonchalance in the face of her success. When she found out she didn't bother putting on any big celebrations.

"That stuff's weird, like, I don't really need anything fancy to happen. It's cool enough that the album went platinum," she says.

In Dallas on the second night of her US tour, the singer-songwriter admits that although her image is all about confidence and she's capable of delivering show-stopping performances at big events such as the Grammys, she still has to overcome crushing nerves. "I, like, totally threw up before my show last night. I am reduced by nerves. I can be completely crushed by feelings of all kinds," she says with an anxious chuckle in her voice.

"Usually I just tell myself, like 'The second you get up there it's going to be fine', and I always know it's going to be fine and I always have a great time so, you know, I just try and tell myself that 'You'll be in your zone. The lights will be on and blank people will be cheering and, you know, it'll be OK'. It's kind of an adrenaline thing I guess. I get off stage and I'm kind of jittery . . . You definitely have to come down from it but it's nice. It's definitely feeling like a really comfortable place for me now. But I get nervous, I get freaked out, I get, you know, the usual stuff."

It's a humbling confession coming from someone whose talent and success has seen them elevated to demigoddess status.

Defying the tried and tested model of how music is made and marketed, the avalanche began in 2012 when the then 16-year-old, who had signed to Universal at 13, uploaded five songs on SoundCloud. One of those five songs was Royals, a prophetic art-pop anthem that mocked extravagant pop stars, offering to replace them at the top of the charts. The infectious track would go viral and catapult to the top of chart after chart to become a worldwide smash hit.

Lorde became the first New Zealand solo artist to have a No. 1 song in the US, cracking the notoriously difficult market. After that came the release of Pure Heroine, two Grammys, a BRIT Award and lunches with Taylor Swift. "Yeah, it has been crazy," Yelich-O'Connor says of the past year. "I mean I feel like I get asked this all the time and it's always like a quiz show answer, like 'Whirlwind! The rollercoaster!' Yeah, I mean you know it's been fast and it's been busy and it's been really fun."

And it doesn't look like Yelich-O'Connor will get to see much of her brand new bed at her family home in Auckland. She'll be on the road for most of the year but is determined to get some writing done whenever she can.

With such a demanding, globetrotting schedule, it's easy to forget she should still be in high school. But there's plenty of time to catch up on all of that. After all, she's only 17.

"I feel like I'm still learning a lot, learning all the time and finding a lot of things that you can't really learn in school," she says, "so it's been good."

The West Australian

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