At the ARIA Awards in 2017, Lorde appears to be roleplaying her future in prison. (Photo by Zak Kaczmarek/Getty Images for ARIA)

#FreeLorde: How Lorde’s songs warned us she was going to jail

New Zealand’s beloved singer-songwriter has been imprisoned for failing to finish school, prompting uproar across the internet. But we should have known it would come to this, writes senior crime correspondent Ernest Penman.

The internet has gone into overdrive this week following revelations, first reported by The Spinoff, that New Zealand prime minister Simon Bridges has imprisoned popular singer-songwriter Lorde. Her crime? Leaving school and not being in education. According to high level sources, Bridges, who is also chief prosecutor of the South Pacific idyll, is further considering charges of breaching New Zealand’s notorious and draconian ban on having a garden.

Lorde, whose real name is Ella Yelich-O’Connor and who is believed to have met Jacinda Ardern several times, is said to remain on remand and in isolation, in a glass box suspended above the stage at Mt Smart.

New Zealand premier Simon Bridges, pictured on the cover of his debut album, “I’m Going to Put Lorde in Jail if it’s the last thing I do”

But if Bridges thought Lorde fans would take this lying down, he was wrong. Or at least if they were lying down they were online and lying down, peppering the world wide web with demands to #FreeLorde.

But should we have known that Lorde would end up in prison one way or another? Did she prophesy her own incarceration? The answer can only be: yes she did.

In her breakout hit ‘Royals’, Lorde confesses, “I’m not proud of my address.” It’s the sort of thing you’d expect a high-security prisoner to say. Why? Because their address is a prison.

In the autobiographical song, she acknowledges “trashin’ the hotel room”, which is illegal. She says she’s been walking around in public with a “tiger on a gold leash”. Also illegal. Then comes a gobsmackingly audacious challenge to Bridges’ presidency. “Baby, I’ll rule,” she says, as if challenging him to chuck her in the gaol. “I’ll rule,” she repeats. Again: “I’ll rule.” And again: “I’ll rule.”

Incriminatingly, Lorde was involved the soundtrack for The Hunger Games, a documentary about murdering. Her central contribution was the song ‘Yellow Flicker Beat’. “YFB” is the airport code for the Canadian city town of Iqaluit – which translates from the local Inuit language to “place of many fish”. Fish, or “fresh fish”, is prison slang for new, first-time inmates. One of the scenes in the screenplay for the popular criminology film The Shawshank Redemption is even called “Fresh Fish”. Everyone in the world has seen The Shawshank Redemption at least twice on television, so it’s impossible that Lorde didn’t know what she was doing here.

Also, ‘Yellow Flicker Beat’ includes the words, “I got my fingers laced together and I made a little prison.”

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On her debut album, which immediately precedes her sophomore album, Lorde covers the Replacements song ‘Swingin Party’. Of all the songs she could have chosen to cover (there are thousands of songs that have been written, perhaps tens of thousands), she opted for one that includes the lines, “Pass around the lampshade / There’ll be plenty enough room in jail”. And: “If being wrong’s a crime / I’m serving forever”.

You will be serving forever, CrimeLorde. Especially when they find out you did a song called ‘Homemade Dynamite’.

Once you’re awake to this theme in Lorde’s oeuvre you can see it’s everywhere. Such as:

  • Discussing “Writer in the Dark’ for a Spinoff podcast series, Lorde says of the song : “It’s not a police record.” Police are the organisation that arrest people in the leadup to getting put in jail.
  • ‘Million Dollar Bills’: great but were these declared for tax purposes?
  • It’s illegal just to hang your own stuff up in the Louvre.
  • The cover of Melodrama is a drawing of Lorde. ‘A Lorde drawn’ is an anagram of LAW AND ORDER.
  • There are a lot of references to killing in the song “400 Lux”. In New Zealand, it is against the law to kill other people.
  • ‘Pure Heroine’!!??
  • Her new recordings are routinely described as “releases”.

When you put it all together it does make quite a lot of sense for her to be in prison. But still #FreeLorde please.


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