Peter Combe and the climate dystopia agenda.

petercombe via wheeler centrePeter Combe has prepared a generation of Australians for Our Climate Dystopia.

Climate change is happening, and we are ready.

Is it any wonder Gen Y is so tuned into climate change? We know what’s going on; we’ve always known. The sun is hot and over long; overgrazing is damaging the local ecology, which is leading to erosion and further ecological damage.

Join Official Potato Moya and Steph on an indepth analysis of Peter Combe’s influence on Australians of the 80s and 90s.

Continue reading “Peter Combe and the climate dystopia agenda.”

mariah improving the lodge and some auspol shenanigans

Ms Mariah Carey has been dating a man who is beneath her for some time now. (Not for the first time!  Probs not for the last!  Spoilers: most men are unworthy of Mariah.)

Last week No Award encountered the rumour that she had left her own place to move into his subpar mansion. Although Mariah has since denied these claims, it took us to a great place: the idea of Mariah moving into the Lodge.

Continue reading “mariah improving the lodge and some auspol shenanigans”

An excellent and 1000% appropriate Mad Max: Fury Road fan mix

By two Australians. Because what is Mad Max if not a great Aussie road trip?
This fan mix is 110% irony-free.
This fan mix is 110% irony-free.
  1. Freak – silverchair
  2. Mace Spray – The Jezabels
    you can’t rely on the common man
  3. Beds Are Burning – Midnight Oil
  4. Fang It (To Tony’s House) – Geraldine Quinn
  5. Never Had So Much Fun – Frenzal Rhomb
  6. Calypso – Spiderbait
  7. Highway to Hell – AC/DC
  8. Pace It – Magic Dirt
    Someone’s taken over from where you started
  9. Pacifier – Shihad
    Smashed up on your own motorway
  10. Cold Hard Bitch – Jet
    Don’t wanna hold hands and talk about our little plans
  11. Greg The Stop Sign – TISM
    We get to do the driving, don’t choose the direction we travel
  12. Down Again – The Superjesus
    Now I’m under the sun, won’t anyone see that I’m alive
  13. Uh Huh – Tkay Maidza
  14. Some Kind of Bliss – Kylie Minogue
  15. Where the Boys At – Chelsea Jane
    Pretty good for a girl, huh?
  16. Khe Sahn – Cold Chisel
    So I worked across the country end to end

You can check out this entire excellent mix (completely out of order!) at YouTube:

Or you can hear it in order, but missing a couple of tracks, via Spotify. And why isn’t AC/DC on Spotify, anyway? What is this un-Australian nonsense?

descent into hell with greensleeves

I had a friend in Hobart 
A special friend in Hobart
Decided that he’d send me 
Otamatone in the post

(Otamatone otamatone otamatone
Otamatone in the post)


On the weekend, Steph was trying to talk about the Otamotone, but couldn’t remember its name. So she googled “Greensleeves descent into hell” and found exactly the video she was looking for.

The hero of the Otamatone is Nobumichi Tosa, who truly loves the Otamatone, and wants you to, as well.

the deluxe otamatone!
the deluxe otamatone!

Here he is playing the OTAMATONE DELUXE (オタマトーンDX):

The otamatone is a “singing toy”, but to call it that undermines the pure devilry of the instrument. It’s like koalas mating. It’s like the descent into the underworld. Wiki says it’s like a theremin, jīnghú or synthesiser, and that description is doing those actual legitimate instruments a disservice.

The otamatone is the official instrument of the No Award Staff Writers; but not, we hasten to point out, the official instrument of No Award.





No Award’s Print, Cut ‘n’ Keep Folk Festival Bingo Card

This weekend sees Stephanie heading off to the Port Fairy Folk Festival.  Liz, who would sooner eat her own eyeballs than listen to folk music, is going to stay home and spend some quality time with her cat.

(The cat also hates folk music.  And, for some reason, Radiohead.)

Now, regardless about your feelings towards the music, it can’t be denied that folk festivals attract a certain … demographic.


Bless their peace-loving hearts, but the only thing worse than a hippie is an upper-middle-class suburban hippie wannabe.  Think the Morgendorffers.  Think Homer Simpson’s mother, although she was actually pretty great and who wouldn’t leave Grandpa Simpson?  Yes, all of our examples are cartoons, but that doesn’t change the fact that any folk festival is going to contain at least some of the following:

No Award apologises that this bingo card is presented as an image, and promises to learn to code tables.
No Award apologises that this bingo card is presented as an image, and promises to learn to code tables.

play school? more like YES GIMME

Hi No Award. Steph, in conjunction with No Award contributor Ash, want you to listen to some things this morning. We’re not saying it’s important that Play School have some influence on your life as an Australian, but as children we loved it, and as an adult Steph adores Jay Laga’aia.

Prepare to clutch your shirt in joy at the Play School theme

The saddest song ever: Benita sings 5 Little Ducks, which worries Ash:

Five Little Ducks (no video, sorry)

Barbara sings about the creepiest cat:

Noni sings Five Grey Elephants; Stephanie wants to be a puppeteer (age 4)

The Ning Nang Nong is a lot creepier than Steph remembers (stand by for another post on this important ecological feature)

Galumphing Frogs (children all over Australia sing about the noise frogs make when you step on them)

Noni reads Go the Fuck to Sleep

Not a song, but very important. Noni, beloved of many members of Gen Y (and Team No Award) due to her years on Play School, a and well-known potty-mouth, was commissioned by Text Publishing to do a reading of this classic, and it’s so perfect. Her face still brings comfort and the knowledge that something amazing is about to happen.

And to round us out, the GREATEST THING EVER: Simon and Noni and Humpty and Max and Morris in Humpty Dumpty the Opera. Steph doesn’t remember this at all, unlike the other pieces, but prepare to want to watch it twice.

An audio history of Gough Whitlam

It’s Time

At least he asked permission, unlike some prime ministers.

Gough – The Whitlams

I’ve got a song about a man called Gough.

From Little Things Big Things Grow – Kev Carmody and Paul Kelly

The Native Title decision was due to the amazingness of Vincent Lingiari and the Wave Hill mob. But after decades of racism and genocide by the Australian Government, as evidenced by its disgusting behaviour, it was significant that Gough Whitlam, then Prime Minister, exchanged a handful of sand with Vincent Lingiari.

It’s Time from Keating

Not sung by Gough, but a demonstration of how Gough influenced those Labor prime ministers who followed him, and symbolic of his legacy. Under his government Australia gained Legal Aid, free university education, no-fault divorce and universal health care. His government abolished the death penalty for federal crimes, and conscription. He established the National Employment and Training Scheme, the Family Law Act, the Aboriginal Land Fund Commission, and Environment.


The beginning is the end, also from Keating, feat. the ghost of Gough 

(thanks to DanniP for the reminder)

Please add your other reminders in the comments.

the fatberg of melbourne

In early September, Fatberg Fever gripped Melbourne, after the announcement of a Fatberg discovered by Yarra Valley Water in February.

Fatbergs are a serious problem, and one about which Stephanie, as an environmental professional, is qualified to speak.

SOME FACTS ABOUT FATBERGS and your drain system:

  • A fatberg is caused when fat, grease and oils smush together and block pipes. It’s kind of like fat in your arteries, but it’s the arteries of your city!
  • The problem is compounded by increased waste generation in urban centre.
  • Improper waste disposal is a sin! (And also a crime)
  • Things that you can’t put down the toilet or the sink: wet wipes; tissues; pads and tampons; condoms; oil; nappies WHY WOULD YOU EVEN WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU, plastics, paint.
  • Things that you shouldn’t put down the sink: food scraps.
  • Fatbergs could possibly be a source of biofuels, but do not try to create one in order to find out.
  • The biggest fatberg ever found was under London, the size of a 747.

Stormwater drains go straight into the sea/river/ocean/bay. There are not consistently filter systems. Drains are different, but not that much different, as demonstrated by Fatberg.

My favourite quote ever is this one, from David Snadden of Yarra Valley Water:

“We all know where number ones and number twos should go, but there is no such thing as a number three, so please do not put anything else down the drain.”


If you want to see some pictures, check them out here – I won’t gross out NA readers by subjecting you without warning.

Our love of Fatbergs is so strong, music happened:



“Fatberging across the universe, on the starship Fatberg, under captain weaves!”

In conjunction with some friends and a need to avoid work, here is an ode to the Fatberg, written by noted Fatberg Zoe:

In sleep it blurbs to me
In dreams it came
That berg which calls to me and blurbed my name
And do I dream again for now I find
The fatberg of the city is there
Inside the drain

Blurble once again with me
Our strange duet
My power over you grows stronger yet
And though you turn from me to glance behind
The fatberg of the city is there
Inside the drain.

Those who have seen your fat
Draw back in fear
I am the fat you wear
It’s me they hear…

Your/My foodscraps and my/your fat in one combined
The fatberg of the city is there/here
Inside my/your drain

It’s there, the fatberg of the city!
Beware, the fatberg of the city!
It’s there, the fatberg of the city!
Beware the fatberg of the city!

In all your fantasies, you always knew
that blob and blurbleness
Were both in you
And in this drainage pipe
where fat is blind
the fatberg of the city is there
inside the drain

it’s there, the fatberg of the city

squiiiiiiidge, my fatberg of sewerage
squiiiiiidge, my fatberg
squiiiiiiidge for me

squiiiiiidge, my fatberg!
squiiiiiiidge for me!

Good day, No Award. Please watch what you throw down the sink, toilet, and stormwater drains. Your city thanks you. 

53 important life lessons from Australian music of the ’90s

Ah, the ’90s.  Liz and Stephanie both came of age in that magical decade.  We have fond memories.  We both learned a lot from ’90s Australian music, and we thought it was time to share those lessons.

If this post has a theme song, it’s Kimbra’s “90’s Music”.  Obviously.

Gif from Kimbra's video for "90s Music": a child puts a video into a stickered machine and hits play.

For the purposes of this post, 2000 is absolutely part of the ’90s.  YES, WE ARE INTO THAT LEVEL OF PEDANTRY AROUND HERE.  Well, Liz is.

  1. At some point in its existence, every single share house in Australia will have “Accidentally Kelly Street” as its theme song. (“Accidentally Kelly Street”, Frente!)
  2. No matter how great your post-punk ’80s synthpop homage is, a deliberately incorrect apostrophe in your band name will ensure you’re a one hit wonder. (“Cry”, The Mavis’s)
  3. Thanks to that one montage in Heartbreak High, “Only When I’m Sleeping” will always seem melancholy and ultimately heartbreaking. (Stephanie note: THAT’S BECAUSE IT IS COME ON)  (“Only When I’m Sleeping”, Leonardo’s Bride)
  4. Australians invented girl power; the Spice Girls just had better marketing. (“Girl’s Life”, Girlfriend)
  5. Actually, you don’t need to wash your jeans that much. (“Dirty Jeans”, Magic Dirt)
  6. In every pop queen there is an alt-pop singer-songwriter yearning to be free. (Kylie Minogue, Impossible Princess)

    Album art for Impossible Princess: Kylie Minogue crouches, knees apart, in a prism of light.
    Kylie has yet to top “Did It Again” for quality and self-awareness.
  7. It’s possible to have an earworm in 2014 from a song you heard once in 1998 and never managed to track down a copy of, even though the internet assures you the lead singer in that obscure Melbourne group is still totes hot.  (“Delicious”, Moler)
  8. It’s wrong, but Liz liked that song about American hegemony and teen angst a bit more after it’s used in Buffy.  (“American Shoes”, Motor Ace)
  9. The nicest boys can write the stalkiest songs.  (“Everywhere You Go”, Taxiride)
  10. Don’t ask Dannii Minogue to look after your goldfish while you’re away.  (Cover art, “All I Wanna Do” single)

    Danni(i) Minogue, in her blond incarnation, is ... sexily licking goldfish water?
    Seriously, Dannii, what are you doing to that fish? And why do you change the spelling of your name every few years?
  11. Girls like that don’t go for guys like us (but your 32 year old self will realise that’s just a classic case of nice guy itis from the 90s) (“Girls Like That (Don’t Go For Guys Like Us)”, Custard).
  12. A mixed-race girl from the outer suburbs of Perth can be just as much of a pub bogan as anyone else, a realisation you’ll make the first time you ever hear “Holy Grail” and every time after. (“Holy Grail”, Hunters and Collectors)
  13. Every friend has their flaws, but they’re awesome regardless and you still love them. (“You Sound Like Louis Burdett”, The Whitlams)
  14. Flower hats will go out of style (non Australians may know them as Blossom hats), but you will always, in your heart, wish they come back (“Take It From Me,” Girlfriend)
  15. Brown Australian boys can be just as cool as white boys from anywhere (and this was important in Stephanie’s identity formation) (“Let’s Groove”, CDB)
  16. The rest of the world has other flavours of Coke! (“I Want You,” Savage Garden)
  17. Every breakup mixtape for the rest of your life will include the lines “I’m like a waterlogged ball / That noone wants to kick around anymore”. (“Heavy Heart,” You Am I)
  18. There are hipsters, and they come from Freo (“Sweater,” Eskimo Joe)
  19. Every Australian loves David and Margaret (the video clip for “Greg! The Stop Sign!” TISM)
  20. Liz’s home town was famous in the ’90s as the home to a whole lot of meth cooks.  (“Caboolture Speed Lab”, Custard)
  21. Stella One Eleven’s In Your Hands is a perfect work of feminist folk-rock, and absolutely worth spending a decade hunting down on CD after Liz’s Walkman ate the cassette.  (Stella One Eleven, In Your Hands)
  22. Even at the age of 13, you know that “When I kiss your mouth, I want to taste it” is a fairly sexual lyric, and no amount of disingenuous denials in radio interviews will change that.  (“Mouth”, Merril Bainbridge)
  23. No matter how floppy the hair or sincere the puppydog eyes, one great boyband cover of a disco track doesn’t equal a great album.  (CDB, Glide With Me)

    Album art from CDB's first album -- four gorgeous young men of Middle Eastern or Mediterranean descent stare broodingly at the camera. They are so sincere.
    Liz had the cassette.
  24. (For a boyband who had one hit and then vanished into obscurity, CDB were surprisingly important to No Award.  They are now the official boyband of No Award.)

    The same men, nearly two decades later. The facial hair is a bit more assured. The floppy haired one had it cut.  They've still got it.
  25. Paul McDermott and that blonde-haired Wiccan with the culturally appropriative Bindis should have collaborated more.  (Paul McDermott and Fiona Horne, “Shut Up/Kiss Me”)
  26. Can’t drink the water in Sydney. Can’t eat the food in Japan. Can’t breathe the air in Los Angeles but a million people think they can. (Frenzal Rhomb, “Never Had So Much Fun”)
  27. Bad boys are overrated.  (Girlfriend, “Bad Attitude”)
  28. Simplicity is timeless.  (“The Day You Went Away”, Wendy Matthews)
  29. Can’t dance?  At least try to vogue. (Video for “Human Race”, Margaret Urlich)
  30. No Award does not endorse age-related prescriptivism, but nevertheless, there may come a time when it seems a bit silly for a grown woman to sing about pashing.  (“Pash”, Kate Cebrano)
  31. Objectifying women isn’t cool, but CGI is pretty great.  (“Polyester Girl”, Regurgitator, and associated video)
  32. In some cases autotune and associated voice processors are good and necessary things.  (Diana Ahnaid/Ah Naid/Anaid, any of her live songs compared with a studio track)
  33. Why can’t everything be like before?  Time moves ever onwards, but fuzzy guitars are forever.  (“Pace It”, Magic Dirt)
  34. A song can be really beautiful and insightful and brilliant, and then descend into self-congratulatory grossness because white men think they’re hilarious.  (Last 30 seconds of “No Aphrodisiac”, The Whitlams.)
  35. Sisterhood is great…  (“Sister”, Sister2Sister)
  36. …especially if you’re fighting ninjas together.  (“Venus or Mars”, Jackson Mendoza)
  37. The 20th century sucked, but the year 2000 will bring a dramatic positive change.  (And just because it’s the ’90s doesn’t mean we should stop hating Thatcher.)  (“Anthem for the Year 2000”, silverchair)
  38. Don’t put up with people who don’t take you seriously.  Especially dudes.  (“Don’t Call Me Baby”, Madison Avenue)
  39. Falling in love is a lot like experiencing a traumatic injury.  (“Buses and Trains”, Bachelor Girl)
  40. Bass addiction is a serious problem in modern society.  (“Addicted to Bass”, Josh Abrahams & Amiel Daemion)
  41. From girlpop queen to goth-infused pop singer-songwriter via world music is a really great progression.  (“Sick With Love”, Robyn Loau, “Manu”, Siva Pacifica)
  42. In the wake of the Columbine massacre, nothing is more appropriate than a cheery alt-pop song about a public shooting.  (“Run Baby Run”, deadstar)
  43. Is there anything better than grunge?  Yes, grunge with a woman on guitars and vocals.  (“Down Again”, The Superjesus)
  44. Grunge pop with a woman on vocals and white-person dreads on everyone is less great, but still important in demonstrating that kids from tiny country towns can make a big noise.  (“Weir”, Killing Heidi)
  45. If you were an Australian Voyager fan in your teens, Powderfinger’s “My Happiness” may have been a really important song for you.  Also, Roma Street Station is no place for a tiny CGI slinky.  (“My Happiness”, Powderfinger)
  46. Being a teenager is really hard, but somewhere out there is an indie band who gets it.  (“Teenager of the Year”, Lo-Tel)
  47. If you’re 11 years old, the “when you make love to me” line in Danni(i?) Minogue’s “This Is It” is pretty racy.  I mean, if you’re quite a sheltered 11 year old.  (Julian McMahon’s chest hair is also troubling.)  (Dannii Minogue, “This Is It”)
  48. Ex-child star striving for credibility after an awkward “sexy” album?  Think sepia. Everyone takes beige seriously. (“Chains”, Tina Arena)

    Tina Arena (pouty white woman with shoulder-length brown hair) looks pensive in sepia tones.
    This is a serious business album cover.
  49. Bad break-ups come with surprisingly violent imagery, and maybe it’s safest to be single forever. (“Torn”, Natalie Imbruglia)
  50. If a New Zealander writes a really good theme song for all the wistful, dreamy girls who will in a decade worry if they’re secretly manic pixie dream girls, well, New Zealand is practically Australia, right? (“Sway”, Bic Runga)
  51. Australian musicians can do weird and emotional alt-rock just as well as Tori Amos or Fiona Apple, even if tedious Triple J dudes will laugh at her a few years later.  Because they’re JERKS.  (No Award does not endorse stalking even if the riffs make it sound totally empowered.)  (“Coma”, Max Sharam)
  52. The very first time you hear a pop song with an Australian accent, it will sound weird and affected.  (“Ordinary Angels”, Frente!)
  53. If a brown person writes sings a song about their home in the Torres Strait or just north of Arnhem Land, it will be co-opted by the mainland for generic Australian pride.  (Christine Anu, “My Island Home”)

How serious are we about this post?  It has its own playlist on Spotify.  Think of it as No Award Radio.  Or don’t.  We’re not the boss of you.  Sadly, because of the limitations of American music streaming services, it doesn’t have all the songs discussed here.  Yeah, we’re mad, too.

Good Lorde!

(Sorry.  Sometimes the opportunity presents itself and I can’t resist.)

I’m a big fan of Lorde.  That’s not really news, because she’s the first New Zealand solo artist to top the US charts.  She’s not exactly underground.

But she feels underground.  She’s a New Zealander, singing in her own accent about the experience of being on the receiving end of the USA’s cultural imperialism.

Some Americans find that uncomfortable.  Consider this post and its follow-up, which essentially boil down to “please perceive American culture from an American perspective, not your own.”

On the other hand, let’s reiterate, number one song on the US charts.  I’d imagine lots of Americans have taken her to heart.

And why shouldn’t they?  We live in a time of shocking disparity between the wealthy and the poor, so a song critiquing consumer culture in music is going to strike a chord.  (So to speak.)  And I’d argue that the Feministing posts are incorrect when they argue that Lorde singles out African American pop culture for critique.  “Royals” also refers to rock culture (“trashin’ the hotel rooms”), pop (ball gowns), and more.  It’s not just about consumption, but destructive consumption.

Maybe Feministing’s blogger would have preferred if Lorde had taken an apologetic approach to discussing the different experience of the Antipodean pop singer.  Take, for example, Australian Iggy Azalea, who raps:

Walk a mile in these Louboutins
But they don’t wear these shoes where I’m from
I’m not hating, I’m just telling you
I’m tryna let you know what the fuck that I’ve been through
Two feet in the red dirt, school skirt
Sugar care, back lanes
Three jobs, took years to save…
But I got a ticket on that plane…
People got a lot to say
But don’t know shit ’bout where I was made

Azalea is kind of the anti-Lorde.  And not just because of the traditional (loving) rivalry between Australia and New Zealand.  Azalea is older and tougher, and in contrast to Lorde’s apparent overnight success, Azalea is still bubbling under.  She has a mix tape, she’s supporting Beyonce, but her actual debut album isn’t out until next year.  Lorde sings with her own accent; Azalea raps with what the local media call a southern drawl that she picked up in Miami, although many Americans have told me the Florida accent is not actually considered southern.

(Azalea also raps about being a “runaway slave master”, and put out this video for “Bounce”.  So, yeah.  This is why I have a playlist called “catchy/problematic”.  Well, that and Amanda Palmer.)

She’s also overtly sexual, where Lorde appears ambivalent about romantic and sexual themes in music, and is critical of pop songs she considers unfeminist.  Lorde sometimes comes off as a bit judgemental in this respect, but it’s a natural phase that teenagers go through, I think — well, I did — and I’m really just as happy for a teenage girl not to explore her sexuality in public, especially in light of Charlotte Church’s comments about young women in the pop industry being coerced into doing so.

(I have a lot of feelings about how the current discourse around sexuality in pop music features a lot of ugly remarks about sex workers, and how these remarks are generally applied to women of colour, or in Miley Cyrus’ case, women appropriating the culture of women of colour.  Lady Gaga was an actual burlesque dancer, but you’ll note she’s never the subject of such “concern”.

On the other hand, I also have feelings about the exploitation of women in the guise of empowerment.  It’s complicated!)

Billie Piper (SHUT UP, SHE IS AMAZING) tells a story in her autobiography (SHUT UP, IT WAS AMAZING) about how, at eighteen, releasing her “sexier” second album, she agreed to do a photoshoot for a particular magazine, but she flat refused to pose in underwear.  She arrived at the shoot and found an entire rack of bikinis instead.

In short, it’s difficult to be a young pop star, or even an adult performer, and still own your sexuality.  Lorde walks an interesting line — she is young, beautiful, white, slim and has amazing hair, and photographers take advantage of that, but she’s always fully dressed, looking straight at the camera with a solemn, uncompromising expression.  I’m really curious to see how she grows up, and what her next moves will be.

Because they are moves.  As this fantastic blog post discusses, Lorde’s image is as carefully crafted as any other pop star’s.  The level of control she herself exercises might be unusual, but the image that we see is not necessarily the genuine Lorde.  (And why should it be?)

But people are oddly uncomfortable with the idea of a woman’s image being artificial.  We see that in the way women are criticised for wearing make-up, slimming underwear and heels, even as we’re also criticised for not doing these things.

And it’s particularly true in the music industry.  We want to believe that Stevie Nicks and Tori Amos are really manic pixie dream girls, that the Spice Girls really were/are BFFs (despite all evidence to the contrary).

There was a lot of backlash when PJ Harvey abandoned her raw, indie persona to wear heavy make-up and hot pink catsuits, and some fans I know can’t forgive her for plucking her eyebrows, wearing make-up and performing in a Victorian dress with a bird on her head.  (I was there.  It was great.)

Harvey herself has said, “Some critics have taken my writing so literally to the point that they’ll listen to ‘Down by the Water’ and believe I have actually given birth to a child and drowned her.” (Source)

Men aren’t immune from the expectation of honesty, but they seem to have more flexibility.  Well, whichever way they go, they have flexibility — Lindsay Buckingham has been writing songs about his ex for decades, and he doesn’t get half the shit that Taylor Swift does.  (He’s still the better songwriter, though.  Sorry, Taylor.)

With all this in mind, it’s quite interesting that Lorde is often compared to Lana Del Rey.

Del Rey, again, stands in opposition to Lorde.  (Although Lorde was listening to Del Rey when she had the inspiration for “Royals”, and in my opinion, the musical influence is visible — audible? — when you look for it.  Listen for it.)  Her image was carefully crafted, and is frequently derided as “fake”.  Her first two albums (one released under her real name of Elizabeth Wooldridge Grant) bombed, and her stage name was created by her managers.

But all this works, because it’s part of the mythos she has created:  whoever Elizabeth Wooldridge Grant is, Lana Del Rey is “a gangsta Nancy Sinatra”.  She’s Doris Day after a bender.  Lorde may paraphrase Joan Holloway, but Born to Die is an entire album about Betty Draper.

Both artists are critiquing the American entertainment industry, and both do it through highly produced pop music.  Del Rey’s take is glossier, and appropriately so — she adopts the persona of the girl who has swallowed the American dream myth and is choking to death, “a freshman generation of degenerate beauty queens”.  On her Paradise EP, she responds to critics, describing herself as “a groupie incognito posing as a real singer”.

Lorde, by contrast, sings as an outsider who has an ambivalent relationship with the trappings of the American dream.  She knows it’s an illusion, but still, “We’re driving Cadillacs in our dreams.”  In “Tennis Court” she sings:

Baby be the class clown
I’ll be the beauty queen, in tears
It’s a new art form, showing people how little we care (yeah),
We’re so happy, even when we’re smilin’ out of fear,
Let’s go down to the tennis court, and talk it up like yeah (yeah)

It’s introspection and adolescent melancholy wrapped up in the language and cliche of the American high school drama.  Whether or not it’s a true reflection of Lorde’s experience almost doesn’t matter, because the feeling is surely universal: “These feelings don’t look like they did on TV.”

Lorde sings, “And I’m not proud of my address, In a torn-up town, no post code envy”.  But Ella Yelich-O’Connor comes from a well-off middle class suburb in Auckland.  Does it matter?  Is she lying to us through song?  (“I hate when people do that!”)  If her next album is a synthpop confection with videos full of pole dancers and bikini shots, has she betrayed us?

“Pretty soon I’ll be getting on my first plane,” Lorde sang.  That first plane trip was long ago, now.  She’s an international pop star, not a kid from the suburbs.  How far can you critique the system in which you work?  Will she be allowed to grow up, or will she end up like Avril Lavigne, still looking and acting like it’s 2002?  Am I just asking rhetorical questions because I’m not sure how to end this post?