Monday, November 11, 2013

Lorde: A Weather Vane for Social Media Culture

A 16 year old New Zealander, Lorde has shot to unprecedented popularity in the global music race recently, topping the US & UK charts. She's a phenomenon that may be a much broader weather vane, signalling a wind of change in the online world. Challenging one of the founding tenements of the current pack of social media platforms; love of self. If so, teenagers like Lorde will again lead change as in the 50s & 60s.

There is evidence in Lorde's poetic song texts that indeed she may be heralding a major shift in our explosive interest in self focussed social media. If the popularity of of her online downloads and messaging is anything to go by this young woman may have pointed out one of those great shifts in online behaviour. One towards a desire for a more constructive, collaborative online reality.

Image of Lorde
Lorde. A weather vane? Pic by Thatboyrion

Lorde, AKA Ella Yelich-O'Connor is a particularly astute representative of her generation, in her own words she's no white teeth teen. A lover of poetry thanks to her mother and of music thanks to her father seems to have provided the ideal environment for a positive artistic questioning of the popular paradigm.

Her first & incredibly popular album named the double entendre 'Pure Heroine' is laced with strong subtexts that the(her) digitally native generation is tiring of looking at glam bang social media posts & ads.
Forbes magazine journalist Liv Buli (@lbuli), a specialist in online data analysis of the music industry published a revealing insight into Lorde's popularity last month in @Forbes. In it she cites an explosive weekly download from Sound Cloud of 825,000 for one song on the album Royals. A song with a strong generational critique of contemporary glamour culture with words like ".. That love just ain't for us, we crave a different kind of buzz" and "My friends and I have cracked the code". There seems to be an emerging commitment to working together for something more real, more satisfying in her texts.

Maybe her prophetic words "We're on each other's team" is a deeper cry for people to work together collaboratively rather than endlessly shout and brag to each other through contemporary social media sites.

Whether her honest observational song lines are game changing influences like Bill Haley's '54 recording of Rock Around the Clock is a matter for the future, Lorde's early popularity suggests she may very well be. It is possible that in being supercharged by today's internet world, her change could be more influential and spread more quickly than in the 50s & 60s.

The internet with it's ability to connect people together certainly can spread cultural change quicker than at other times in history. The internet constantly seems to surprise us. Who would have imagined a FaceBook or a YouTube being a billion people strong in such a short time. Or that Social Media would be a part of national revolutions. Though pretending that the online world will always look the way it does at the moment is foolhardy at best.
Lorde's "I'm kinda over being told to throw my hands up in the air" and "all my fake friends and all of their noise" or "Maybe the internet raised us" taps into a feeling for change in the way teenagers perceive things. Perhaps in much the way teenagers of the 60s used the music of their age to change the prevailing culture.

If the seeds of change are germinating online we should not expect to predict it with specifics. Instead we should be ready for the change by reading the shifting winds, expecting to find the signs in unusual places. Perhaps in the musical poetry from teenagers is a place to keep an eye on.

I'm not sure of the exactness of the sort of changes that will happen, yet there's a sense of a new examination of reality and how the internet can help better reflect that. It's early days, though research & development that OI's been conducting point to a desire emerging of a more collaborative context. A context that creates a more satisfying online reality. Granted a new reality may seem impossibly small as I write. The all consuming strength of FaceBook, YouTube & Twitter are pervasive.

To paraphrase Lorde's song Still Sane "I maybe little but I'm coming for the crowd". That crowd may very well be turning toward a renewed online reality as her songs suggest. If that is the case we've all got a lot to look forward to from her generation and the online tools that they will use.

In the mean time download and/or listen to Pure Heroine

Dave Abrahams
@digitdave - @OrganiseInt

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