Should Have Been Bigger: Lorde’s “Tennis Court”
In this franchise, we look back on songs that deserved a little more love and attention.
In 2013 Lorde emerged on the scene riding a wave of chilly synths. She arrived in the midst of a parade of pop’s most exuberant club cuts, but the 17-year-old New Zealander delivered a chilling critique of the excesses of fame on “Royals.” The release defied the odds by flying to the top of the charts, and it helped usher in a more introspective age of music.
As she followed up the release with her album, Pure Heroine, the budding hitmaker unleashed her second single, “Tennis Court.” With production from Joel Little, the song acted as the fitting sequel to “Royals.” After expressing her discomfort with a media-obsessed world, her new offering reflected on her own meteoric ascent on the charts.
“Don’t you think that it’s boring how people talk? Making smart with their words again, well I’m bored. Because I’m doing this for the thrill of it, killin’ it, never not chasing a million things I want,” she sings on the opening lines. The production looms underneath her delivery. There’s an ominous note to its whirling and cranking that perfectly mirrors Lorde’s struggle with fame. “Everything’s cool when we’re all in line for the throne, but I know it’s not forever (yeah),” she sings of the often-fleeting experience.
The youthful siren reunited with Joel Kefali for the accompanying music video. Although the pair’s work on her debut was sprawling in scope, they opted to keep things markedly simpler for their second collaboration. Shot in one take, the unnerving visual featured Lorde sitting and staring at the camera. Wearing a gothic black lipstick, she appears unaffected as the lights flare behind her.
Starkly beautiful, the release was more evidence that the up and comer was playing by her own rules. Lorde promoted the single with a handful of performances, and it should have soared to the top of the charts. Unfortunately that was not the case.
Although the song topped the charts in New Zealand, it failed to replicate “Royals'” breakout success across the globe. It made a respectable showing in Australia and several other markets, but it peaked on the lower rungs of the Billboard Hot 100. In America, it had more success on auxiliary charts like the Hot Rock Songs chart, but the track was never able to reach the same audience as its predecessor.
Perhaps pop music was not quite ready yet for more of Lorde’s frank honesty. As the year came to a close she was able to recreate the ascent with her third single, “Team.” As the rest of the scene took stock of her criticisms and adapted to the sonic switch up, she was welcomed as the face of a new age.
“Tennis Court” takes on new meaning as the hitmaker becomes even more essential to the scene with every release. As she becomes one of pop’s reigning icons it explains why she has always done things her own way. Revisit the moody anthem below!