imageElla Marija Lani Yelich-O’Connor was signed to the Universal Music Group when she was 13 years old. Three years later, some of her recordings were posted on Soundcloud; after some 60,000 free copies were downloaded, UMG released “The Love Club EP,” which included “Royals,” a track she wrote with her producer Joel Little. Introducing Yelich-O’Connor – better known as Lorde – to the rock and pop music world at large, “Royals” went on to sell more than 10 million copies and be streamed on Spotify some 256 million times. It was included in her 2013 debut album, “Pure Heroine,” an international hit.

“Royals” foreshadowed the sound and theme of “Pure Heroine.” Under Lorde’s distinctive singing voice and delivery - direct with a touch of insouciance - the sound Little crafted was a blend of electronica-influenced rock and experimental modernism, served with an R&B backbeat. Though the music was alluring and persuasive, Lorde’s lyrics were the recording’s most intriguing feature. A dedicated reader of literary fiction, Lorde’s voice as a writer captured perfectly a teenager’s point of view in a way that resonated not only with her fellow teens, but with anyone who would remember the emotional roller-coaster of those years. “Pure Heroine” was the diary of a young woman in transition.

In “Royals,” Lorde acknowledged a working-class background and dismissed the bling-bling glamor life: “I've never seen a diamond in the flesh,” she sang. “But everybody’s like ‘Cristal, Maybach, diamonds on your timepiece. Jet planes, islands, tigers on a gold leash.’ We don’t care. We aren’t caught up in your love affair. And we’ll never be royals…That kind of lux just ain't for us, we crave a different kind of buzz.” She revisited the theme in “Buzzcut Season”: “We ride the bus with our knees pulled in/People should see how we live.”

Community was important to Lorde, as it is for all teens who achieve identity through their tribe. But in “Tennis Courts,” she acknowledged her life was about to change and it was likely that she would be outside the group: “Pretty soon I’ll be getting on my first plane/I’ll see the veins of my city like they do in space…/Everything’s cool when we’re all in line for the throne, but I know it’s not forever.” In “Glory and Gore,” she conveyed a sense of the internal conflict between moving on (and perhaps up) or staying home. “Wide awake in bed, words in my brain: ‘Secretly, you love this, do you even wanna go free?’” In “Ribs,” she disclosed: “I’ve never felt more alone/Feels so scary getting old.” And in “Teams,” she sang: “I’m kind of over getting told to throw my hands up in the air, so there. I’m kind of older than I was when I reveled without a care.”

Lorde had gift for deploying evocative imagery: “You drape your wrist over the steering wheel.” “You’re the only friend I need/Sharing beds like little kids.” “All the cups got broke, shards beneath our feet, but it wasn’t my fault.” “And nothing’s wrong but nothing’s true/I live in a hologram with you.” Her use of teen-year plain speak created a sense of a conversation, even if she vacillated between confession and pronouncements.

Producer Little never failed to provide a sympathetic environment for her stories, shaping melodies and often placing her voice in stark settings of booming polyrhythms and long, chilly lines on synthesizers. In several songs, he overdubbed her voice so that she sang key phrases in an echoey distance, thus drawing in the listener as the music swirled. Little was the unsung hero of the recording whose sound was as arresting as the songs it enriched.

A commercial and critical hit, “Pure Heroine” announced the arrival of a singer and writer of genuine gravitas, even if she had yet to celebrate her 17th birthday when it was released. Lorde toured widely behind the album and on the 2014 Grammys telecast performed an altered version of “Royals,” which was nominated for three awards. (It won “Song of the Year.”) That “Pure Heroine” won the Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Album was almost superfluous: for all who heard and savored it, especially the subtext of the lyrical perspective, knew it was a superior work.