An Open Letter to Ella Yelich-O’Connor (Lorde)

04 Oct

Dear Ella,

Hi neighbour. Well, OK you’re not exactly a neighbour. You live on The Shore and I live out East. But we both live in Auckland and now you’re a big name in the country where I was born.

Let me say up front… I’m old enough to be your father, if I listen to “pop” music at all it is generally “pop” music from the 80’s, and more often you will find me listening to classical or jazz. That being said, I have listened to your album Pure Heroine. Actually, I’ve listened to it several times. I’ve also read a few “lyrics” sites trying to get an accurate picture of the content of your songs.

From what I can tell critics, fans, and just about everyone (except Miley Cyrus, I guess) are very excited about this album and particularly your first two singles, Royals & Tennis Court. People seem to be gushing over everything from your voice, your age, being from New Zealand, all that hair, the rhythms, the lyrics, and more!

I will admit the rhythms in your songs are captivating. Certainly a breath of fresh air compared to most of the other noise that is played over the airwaves today claiming to be music.

However, I was more interested in your lyrics. And your future.

I was drawn to listen as I wondered, “what does a kid from The North Shore sing about?” I see many are saying you “capture what it is like to be young.” I suppose that is true to some extent.

Here are some of my thoughts as I’ve listened to and read your lyrics.

Firstly, profanity. I remember when it was hugely controversial when rap artists would use profanity in their songs and even then the “F” word was rare. As I listened to Tennis Court, which is being played over the sound systems of shops everywhere and heard that word, I thought “I guess it is just commonplace today for a 16 year old girl to use profanity publicly, no one even thinks twice about it.”

Secondly, rebellion. Of course, rebellion almost defines being young. Yet, it is difficult at times to tell what you are rebelling against. Are you rebelling against the sensational lifestyles of pop stars? Are you rebelling against the restrictive expectations of older adults? Are you rebelling against all that is going wrong in the world?

Thirdly, drinking. In at least two of your tracks you make direct reference to drinking and it seems to be clear that you’re not referring to ginger beer. In A World Alone and 400 Lux your lyrics clearly glamorize drinking. In 400 Lux is seems like the drinking is occurring in a car to make matters even worse. In a country that already has a serious teen drinking problem this is very disappointing.

Fourthly, despair. This is the most significant to me. In Buzzcut Season you sound like a girl who is unable to find meaning in life, so you just live by the pool and try to ignore reality. In Still Sane you sound like a young lady who is trying to convince yourself that you won’t become the next teen pop star whose life will end in a complete mess, yet you don’t seem to believe your own rhetoric. In White Teeth Teens you sound like a teen who hasn’t fit in with a particular crowd at school and you are desperately trying to convince yourself that it’s OK not to.

Here’s something to think about, Ella. You’ve shared your thoughts with the world in the form of music and you are going to make a lot of money as a result. Yet, you will still have your thoughts. When the applause stops and the cheers fade away for that day and you put your head on your pillow at night you will still have your thoughts.

Is there meaning in life? Is there a way to make sense of all that is happening in the world? Why doesn’t sex, drinking, partying, fame, money, etc. provide lasting relief from all that seems so messed up in your world?

Let me suggest something to you. There is meaning in life and there is a way to make since of everything and there is a reason why nothing in this world really satisfies.

You see, Ella, you were created by God (the God of the Bible), in His image, and for His glory.

He has made you so that you will never be satisfied until you are satisfied in Him. Yet, you have been determined to live your life without Him, to find satisfaction in all the things He has given but without acknowledging Him. You have sinned against your Creator, the One who is truly Royal, Who rules the Universe from His throne, and promises no crown to those who will not bow their knee to Him.

Yet, at the same time, this same God sent His Son, Jesus Christ into this world. He left His throne, set aside His crown so to speak, put of His royalty, to die on the cross in the place of sinners. More than that, He didn’t stay dead, He rose again in three days conquering sin and death so that all those who confess their sins and trust in Him can have eternal life and find true, lasting satisfaction.

Ella, I doubt you will ever see this letter, yet maybe you will. I am sure some teen and pre-teen girls who love your music will.

For whoever is reading this. Please consider the wonderful news that Jesus died so that your sins can be forgiven and you can find real joy, not only for this life, but for all eternity.

Ella – if you’re ever in the neighbourhood feel free to drop in for a cup of tea (my address is in the book, I don’t have “postcode envy” either) or pop into a service at the church where I serve as a pastor – Howick Baptist Church (now [since 2014] Rolleston Baptist Church).

More importantly, get a Bible (there might be one in a drawer in one of the hotel rooms where you are staying), find the Gospel of Mark and start reading about Jesus, then find a Christian who you can talk to about your thoughts.

Kind Regards,

Joe Fleener


25 responses to “An Open Letter to Ella Yelich-O’Connor (Lorde)

  1. Paul Hannon

    14/10/2013 at 8:59 pm

    Stop forcing religion on people!
    You were doing ok up until then.

    • kim

      19/10/2013 at 3:02 am

      One day you will wish someone pushed their “religion” on you. He isn’t even pushing “religion” he is pushing the TRUTH! One thing we ALL owe God is a death. Death is the one thing that nobody on this earth has ever figured out how to “get around.” Are you sure you know what’s going to happen on the day that YOU are faced with death? Nobody ever wants to think about it until its too late! The oldest book in the world is the Kings James version of the Bible (Google it). I challenge you to pick it up and read it instead of criticizing this man. It will save your life!

      • Joe Fleener

        19/10/2013 at 4:46 pm

        Kim – thank you for your comment. Clearly, I’m a Christian & I care about what the Bible says. I also care about accuracy. Therefore I think it’s important to point out that not only is the KJV not the oldest book in the world the Bible itself is not the oldest written document available.


  2. Cheryl Wood

    16/10/2013 at 10:24 am

    Great Joe. Not enough true Christians challenge others to find real satisfaction and joy. You indicate that it can be done, and I can add, that there are others, many young people, out there living the abundant life! Because you love, you care for Ella and her life!

  3. Rachel

    19/10/2013 at 1:41 am

    I agree with Paul Hannon…. I was interested in the letter, which is very well written until the content changed to religion! It is a personal choice whether you have religion as part of your life and this should not be forced upon others. I have no religious beliefs, indeed I think of it as a very good story and will only ever believe in factual evidence and science BUT I totally respect those who choose to follow a religion and if it helps them, then it is certainly a good think. A real shame that Joe had to spoil what was quite a master piece into a religious babble :-/

    • Joe Fleener

      19/10/2013 at 4:53 pm

      If I hadn’t written the second part of the letter the first part would be nothing more that unfounded (lacking foundation) moralistic opinion. My opinion is as valueless as anyone else’s. What is significant is the foundation under one’s moral standards. You may not agree with my foundation, but my moral standard is, at least consistent with my foundation. In the end if I believe the truth claims of Christianity are true & that one’s eternal destiny hangs on their truth then it would be ludicrous & unloving for me to keep them to myself.

  4. StormKorg

    12/11/2013 at 11:42 am

    You’re thinking about it too much. It isn’t your business anyway. Leave her alone. She’s awesome.

  5. Michaela

    12/11/2013 at 3:49 pm

    Joe, you are right on.

    I was actually thinking the same things when I listened to Lorde’s music. I love her song ” Royals”. I love that she is gutsy, different, confident, self-assured, and is ok with calling out the vast consumerism and showy attitudes of her fellow music artists. I love that someone in the world is singing about this- and it took a 16 year old girl!

    I also wondered about her faith. How cool it would be for a girl with her confident personality, with a growing fan base, to change the world view of today’s youth and young people by stating publicly whether via interviews or her lyrics, how her faith shapes her life and decisions. To stand up against trendy pop culture and the “do whatever feels good” and the “its all good as long as it doesn’t hurt anybody else” attitude that permeates our society. She has huge potential to use the gifts that God blessed her with to impress upon today’s youth for Gods glory. It’s not about forcing religion on her or anybody else- as posters have commented on, but rather it is about using her platform to counter all the evil messages current pop stars convey- the excessive sexualization of everything in particular.

    I truly hope and pray that her newfound fame does not go to her head, that she stays grounded, has a great supportive family base, and she does not end up like a lot of other celebrities….

    Stay true to yourself.

  6. NZFiend

    06/12/2013 at 8:19 am

    God help me. I mean “my higher power”, of course. And no, my higher power, unlike some, is not SATAN.

    You did not mention the song LOVE CLUB. Youtube it… Here’s the lyrics anyway……………

    “The Love Club”

    I’m in a clique but I want out
    It’s not the same as when I was punched
    In the old days there was enough
    The card games and ease with the bitter salt of blood
    I was in but I want out
    My mother’s love is choking me
    I’m sick of words that hang above my head
    What about the kid? It’s time the kid got free

    Be a part of the love club
    Everything will glow for you
    Go get punched for the love club
    For the love club.

    I joined the club and it’s all on
    There are fights for being my best friend
    And the girls get their claws out
    There’s something about hanging out with the wicked kids
    Take the pill make it too real.
    The other day I forgot my old address
    I’m sitting pretty on the throne,
    There’s nothing more I want
    Except to be alone.

    Be a part of the love club
    Everything will glow for you
    Go get punched for the love club
    For the love club.

    Your clothes are soaked and you don’t know where to go
    So drop your chin and take yourself back home
    And roll out your maps and papers
    Find out your hiding places again
    The only problem that I got with the club
    Is how you’re severed from the people who watched you grow up
    When you’re a member go on your great adventure again
    And we’ll be waiting at the end.

    Be a part of the love club
    Everything will glow for you
    Go get punched for the love club
    For the love club……………

    Not bad for a 14 or 15 year old girl from the North Shore. LUCKY HER MUM IS A NEW ZEALAND AWARD WINNING POET. I am damn sure that her ability with writing and creating a unique young persons perspective on the world as it is today will be remembered will beyond the fact “her eyes are too far apart” (big reason to hate on your 16 year old peer if ever I heard one) and that half the world thinks she is on drugs just as the title of the album is HEROINE. Note the bloody “E” on the end people (rolls eyes and mentally head slaps)

    And, to top it off, the young student who did the video for this song. Well… Awesome. Love this and more of her work. Is this sounding like a product placement advertisement yet?

    She *is* staying grounded. She always was. She turned down supporting gigs to some major pop stars. These pop stars now do COVERS of Lorde’s songs during their live performances all over the world.

    She *does* has a good family foundation.

    I *hope* and have *faith* that she will not end up like a lot of other celebrities. She has already shown signs of being more in tune with Lydia Ko (young NZ golfer whom stayed amateur for a long time – she could have taken a few million U.S in prize money during this time, but turned it down until such time as other life things – school and family) would allow.

    Now, trying to get everything back to GOD all the time just isn’t going to work in the modern day. Swearing occasionally is a normal part of life nowadays. Just like TV and electricity.

    The AMISH may be happy. But I like my colour TV and my large smack habit. With these two things I would create an uprising against the state and demand equal rights for all.

    And the free market would hate that.

    It may leave a void for the church to fill.

    • melanie

      10/12/2014 at 5:15 am

      umm heroine not heroin drug. you can look up the words. but yeah. l’ve been aware of it. it would be a bummer if you knew the girl was sitting on a brown sofa while her little one was napping creating all of it. to top it off she could be from the north pole. I don’t know why this had to manifest this way. maybe they took it from her nexus point cause secretly she is of the blue star region. an incarnate and this was more of a humiliation then celebration.

  7. NZFiend

    06/12/2013 at 8:26 am

    PS – Her music, personality, image and lyrics are FANTASTIC compared to what my ten year old girl listened to previously. And my ten year old hears words like “fuck” and “shit” quite often in her normal life at a good school in Karori, Wellington. Unfortunately she is growing up. Just hope I can maintain some influence and guidance in her life and she doesn’t run off with her mates and join the army of peer attachment circles. A bit like the blind leading the blind, teenagers will learn from their mistakes eventually.

    I have already made them all.

    Just listen to me and don’t do what I did….

    Yeah, right.

  8. Cassie

    21/12/2013 at 8:19 am

    I really enjoyed your open letter sir. It takes so much bravery to do something like this. May God bless you. -Cassie.

  9. tls83

    29/01/2014 at 3:29 pm

    Love it, my daughters are 14 & 10 and found this very interesting, I find that a lot of kids don’t really even stop to think about the words their singing, I know mine don’t ( but we’re working on that ) I didn’t when I was younger… Anyways, I do hope Ella does see this but more than that I pray she is touched by the fact that someone cared enough to write it. If she does not choose to become close to God then maybe she will at the very least think about what she’s putting into her music. I know music is such a wonderful way to express yourselves!!

  10. Andy

    08/02/2014 at 3:02 pm

    Ok so a question for Kim,
    Are you sure that you know what will happen on the day you are faced with death? No one does. “No one ever wants to think about it until it’s too late!”
    It’s almost all I think about.
    I have read the bible multiple times. While there is much good to be found in it, I would not suggest anyone base their life on one collection of ancient text. Human existence is full of mysteries. There is much more we are incapable of understanding than there are things we know. Everyone deserves to have their own spiritual beliefs. Religion may be a good gateway to spirituality or a spiritual foundation for many people, but when religion becomes “BELEIVE WHAT I WAS TAUGHT TO BELEIVE OR YOU WILL SUFFER ETERNALY”, it’s not helping anyone. And how do you know Lorde herself isn’t a Christian?

  11. Jordan

    24/02/2014 at 11:02 am

    Life was hell before I began living for Christ.

  12. tony

    22/03/2014 at 3:34 pm

    Jesus offered eternal joy and peace with our creator through His sacrifice and He was beaten and crucified to death….no surprise those who spread the word face so much hate….
    although tragical how brainwashed folks are to turn down this ultimate gift with so much savagery

    • melanie

      10/12/2014 at 6:05 am

      mumm heroine not heroin drug. you can look up the words. but yeah. l’ve been aware of it. it would be a bummer if you knew the girl was sitting on a brown sofa while her little one was napping creating all of it. to top it off she could be from the north pole. I don’t know why this had to manifest this way. maybe they took it from her nexus point cause secretly she is of the blue star region. an incarnate and this i was more of a humiliation then celebration. to add here too. it’s not really a sacrifice when your granted a new life after death in heaven. I think he might have been an incarnate and I do think Jesus had nice things say. we have paid the price many times like Jesus give humanity more credit. know ur history? it’s a big dream and Im certain there was more to the story then humans fighting for a place in heaven. earth was hijacked by a much stronger race. they made us who we are now and one of these days we are all going to wake up and say “we have really learned our lessons” and when that Time arrives it will be celebration honor and a secure net without revenge. trust me I heard we are capable to this knew understanding. we are all aware of hidden nets that create. our hardships it won’t last forever. new love nets. you are all worthy trust me. trust that worthiness.

  13. Jesse D

    11/06/2014 at 6:31 pm

    I love this.

  14. emily slone

    25/07/2014 at 10:13 am

    Joe, it seems you have completely misread Ella. She IS against partying and flaunting “sex”. She is one of the most modest young popstars to ever live. Me, as a christian myself, is appalled by this. You hardly know Ella yet you assume she is just some typical out of control teenager. if you watch many of her interviews and everything she talks about on YouTube and such, you will see that she is far different from the normal pop sensation. she talks against half of the things that you are assuming that she’s all about. You need to leave it to Jesus himself to do the judging, like he orders, and focus on your own sins. Nobody is perfect Joe, no one.

  15. Nathan A. Wright

    24/11/2014 at 1:39 pm

    Thanks for this article. The musical quality of her songs is amazing, and I like a lot of her lyrics… but these do raise some good points–particularly about the profanity (which I didn’t notice when I listened to “Tennis Court”) and the despair. I’ve always gotten the impression that the rebellion is against materialism, blending in with everyone else, violence, etc., but her songs are often ambiguous.

  16. monochromejunkie

    25/11/2014 at 5:36 pm

    I would like to add my own 2 cents here. Echoing Emily (Slone) here a bit. I too am a Christian and I too disagree with your approach to Lorde, Pastor Fleener. Imagine how ineffective it would have been if Jesus tried this approach with the multitude. He didn’t go up to them and say, “My Father can save you. Do you know Him?” Rather, He penetrated their eyes with His own eyes of love. When love that strong is in the midst, there is no need (or room) for judgment. That’s what love is: choosing to nail your own self to the Cross in that moment than someone else. And when you see your own sins rather than someone else’s, it makes it easier to willingly crucify yourself to that Cross- for yourself AND others.

    Jesus did things differently than this approach. He walked up to the person, and He TOUCHED them. Some of them had leprosy, some were possessed and many were dirty and smelled bad from travelling for days in the desserts. But Jesus reached out His hands and touched them. He chose to take on the other person’s humanity and sin- He swallowed it up in LOVE.

    When you see somebody like Lorde out in the world, Pastor Fleener, pray for her. And you know, your idea of “what she needs” is pure salvation. We’re taught to believe that as Christians, but Jesus taught so many other things too. His recurring theme was (you guessed it!) LOVE. So when you see somebody out there in the world that you know needs saving, pray earnestly and ask God to help YOU know what to do and say. Every person is different. We’re all individuals and we’re not all cookie-cutter Christians with the same “salvation plan”. We need individual treatment. After all, God does that with us. “To the froward, He’ll show Himself froward. To the merciful, He’ll show Himself merciful.”

    Consider that the lesson here is not for Lorde, but perhaps for YOU. God used Balaam’s ass to teach him where he went wrong and allowed his own donkey to talk to him! Knowing this, understand that we can learn wonderful, HOLY things from unholy places and people. We can learn beautiful principles from each other too. What can you learn from Lorde? Remember, she too is made in God’s likeness and similitude. And remember this too, “The gifts and the calling of God are without repentance.”
    I do hope you take these things into consideration. Thanks for taking the time to read this. x

  17. melanie

    10/12/2014 at 4:14 am

    Joe if you really knew me. you know I know god exists. I’ve learned a lot more and its hard to handle. I learned we are not alone and god is truly the one. it’s a nightmare and long for the father. it’s not as easy as Christ said. but I’m aware but I’m not enlightened. I just fear and cry and the doesn’t help humanity or save me or anyone. I respect what you think and said. as a sister in spirit I hope the one is with you and your next life is safe and happier. breaking the grid….with llove melanie. I suppose you could be somebody and I got your message if that’s who you really wanted to reach out to. I hope you you did not want to write to be condescending. you either are the spirit of the one talking to me or your just being above it all. we are more than just flesh doing mundane things. there are nightmares worse than I can explain it and no one stops
    it. its hurts me and I cry. like I said that doesn’t help. we need nice knowledge about who we are. you can’t change if we are always lied too. you can’t help if you doubt see what’s out there.

  18. melanie

    10/12/2014 at 4:19 am

    Christ did not tell the humans they are food. he forgot…so you have some learning to do.

  19. melanie

    10/12/2014 at 4:29 am

    I just hoped we could take better care of each other. though I know of god but the worst part is he isn’t fully awake. I heard he can help us. do you know of the great mystery consciously? I know you do subconsciously


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