James Ihaka

James Ihaka is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Kiwi songbird with Universal appeal

Ella Yelich-O'Connor, aka Lorde, has signed with Universal Music. Photo / Supplied
Ella Yelich-O'Connor, aka Lorde, has signed with Universal Music. Photo / Supplied

A 16-year-old North Shore student who pens her own songs has topped New Zealand's iTunes download chart and won a record contract with a major label.

Singer Ella Yelich-O'Connor, who goes by the stage name Lorde, has signed with Universal Music, which also represents artists including Kanye West, Taylor Swift, Elton John and the Eagles.

Her song Royals is at the top of New Zealand's iTunes download chart and was No1 on the George FM charts for several weeks.

Initially offered as a free download, her debut EP, The Love Club, was downloaded 60,000 times before going on sale on iTunes.

The Takapuna Grammar student is being closely managed by Universal - the biggest record company in the world - which is controlling when she does interviews and is planning a staged career launch this year.

A staff member at Universal Music in Auckland confirmed to the Herald the teenager had signed a deal with them but would not discuss details.

The label has cultivated an air of mystery about the teenager. Although having a large social media presence, she has uploaded very few photos of herself. Some of her songs, including The Love Club and Royals, have been removed from YouTube by Universal with a message saying the label "has blocked it in your country on copyright grounds".

However, her success is already attracting attention.

Fans on her Facebook site have asked her to put her songs on Finnish Spotify, and she has gained endorsements from critically acclaimed Canadian musician Grimes and blogger Perez Hilton.

Yesterday, Takapuna Grammar principal Simon Lamb said Yelich-O'Connor, now in Year 12, frequently performed at school.

"She has an amazing voice, a lovely voice. A wonderful performer. We are really proud of her achievements to date and really proud to support her in her pursuit of that career.

"She's a bright girl. She got an excellence endorsement out of NCEA last year, and she's going into the International Baccalaureate programme."

In a previous interview on katherineisawesome.com, Yelich-O'Connor said she was discovered after a videotape of her talent show performance at Belmont Intermediate found its way to Universal.

* Listen to Lorde here.

- NZ Herald

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