Behind the Band Name: Lorde

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Lorde is as much a political statement as it is the stage name of one of the biggest acts in modern pop music.

Born Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O’Connor in 1996 in Takapuna, New Zealand, a suburb of Auckland, the singer went through a series of musical identities before becoming Lorde. In middle school, she was part of the band Extreme at Belmont Intermediate School which earned third place at the 2009 North Shore Battle of the Bands. She later was “Ella” in the duo Ella & Louis, which she formed with her friend and guitarist Louis McDonald. The pair performed covers live at local venues around the Auckland area in 2010.

By 2012, she self-released her debut EP, The Love Club, online for free for fans before it was commercially released by her label, Universal Music Group, in 2013 and catapulted her into stardom. Below, we explore the origins of the name Lorde.

Meaning Behind the Name

The name “Lorde” is inspired by the musician’s fascination with the aristocracy. She intentionally put the “e” at the end to make the masculine association with the word “lord” more feminine. “When I was trying to come up with a stage name, I thought ‘Lord’ was super rad, but really masculine—ever since I was a little kid, I have been really into royals and aristocracy,” she expressed in a 2013 story with Interview magazine. “So to make Lord more feminine, I just put an ‘e’ on the end! Some people think it’s religious, but it’s not.”

The then-16-year-old also explained to Interview how when she’s home in Auckland, she goes by her birth name Ella to separate her onstage persona from her real-life relationships. “My name is Ella, that’s who I am at school, hanging out with friends, while I’m doing homework,” she continued. “But when I’m up on stage, Lorde is a character. My friends actually find that really difficult to digest, separating me from the theatrical character they see on stage, but they’re getting used to it.”

She expanded on the origin of her stage name in a 2017 interview with 60 Minutes Australia, saying how the name is inspired by her “obsession” with “nobility” and “aristocracy.” She also liked the way the word “lord” sounded, but wanted to “feminize it.” Lorde’s definition of feminism sneaks into her music, with many of her lyrics reflecting her desire to make the world a more welcoming place for all women.

“It’s totally not about me – it’s about all women; women who might not have the opportunities that I have or the privileges that I have,” she told 60 Minutes. “Trying to write for better conditions and better treatment of all women, whether that be trans women or women of color, women in professions that don’t typically get a lot of respect…there are women in different situations than me who don’t have a voice, or who have a voice and don’t have anybody listening to it…That to me is what feminism is about.”

She added that the name Lorde was a “really quick decision” that she may have spent more time pondering had she known the massive success that lay ahead of her, forcing her to keep the name for the rest of her career. But she’s happy that she followed her instinct. “It was a good spontaneous choice I think,” she reflected. “I’m quite proud of my 16-year-old self for not messing that one up because if I’d given myself a cool, weird, hip name that I hated now, that would be super annoying.”

Full-blown success

Lorde rose from an under-the-radar indie star to a full-blown pop superstar with the arrival of “Royals” in 2013. The song hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, where it remained for nine weeks, and is one of few singles to be certified diamond. “Royals” also is one of the best-selling singles of all time. At 16, Lorde became the youngest female artist to have a No. 1 on the Hot 100 since Tiffany in 1987.

“Royals” also received two Grammy Awards in 2014 for Song of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance. It was the lead single from her breakthrough EP, The Love Club, which has been certified nine times platinum in Australia. Since then, Lorde has scored other notable hits, “Team,” “Yellow Flicker Beat” and “Green Light” in addition to three studio albums, all of which have reached the top five on the Billboard 200.

Photo: Republic Records

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