Three years on from the release of Royals, where is Lorde's new album? Is it second album syndrome or is there something more strategic at play?

It was the song heard the world over, a jingle so incessantly catchy it spent nine weeks on top of the Billboard singles charts and won Lorde legions of fans.

Today, exactly three years on from its release, the Devonport singer's hit Royals remains as brilliantly focused and addictive as it ever was, a blueprint that's been followed by hundreds of shimmering electro-pop wannabes in the intervening years since.

Released on June 3, 2013, Royals came from Lorde's debut album Pure Heroine released just three months later, going on to sell nearly three million copies in an age where nearly no one sells albums.

Since then, there have been hints of progress and growth. Her curation of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 soundtrack in 2014 resulted in the gloomy and downbeat single, Yellow Flicker Beat, the video showcasing an Annie Lennox-style quiff.


There was also her touching tribute to David Bowie at the Brit Awards after the icon's death in January, a response perhaps to Bowie once calling her "the future of music".

Kiwi star Lorde took to the stage at the Brit Awards to perform a tribute to late singer David Bowie. Her performance was met with a standing ovation as she sang Life On Mars. Fans on Twitter were left "speechless" by her stunning performance.

And her most recent single came courtesy of dance duo Disclosure's second album, a song called Magnets, featuring clipped drums and hands-in-the-air festival-friendly hooks.

We've also heard snippets of gossip - rumours of secret songwriting sessions - and sources claiming everyone from Drake to Kanye West, Jack Antonoff and her bestie Taylor Swift are involved. Sometimes, Lorde has sparked those rumours herself.

the 6 fairies wrote on my thumbnail last night ๐Ÿ•ธ๐Ÿ•ธ

A post shared by Lorde (@lordemusic) on

But where exactly is the follow-up to Pure Heroine - the album she once whispered to her mum about and referred to in this tweet from six months ago?

Is this classic second album syndrome, an artist struggling to follow-up an unexpectedly popular album thanks to the weight of expectations and constant pressure from fans?

Or is there something else at play?

Possibly. Lorde split with her manager Scott Maclachlan last year, and in a recent interview Maclachlan told the Herald there were "ongoing legal issues" surrounding their split, but couldn't divulge any more details.

Read more: 'I felt quite sick' - Manager Scott Maclachlan on his break-up with Lorde

"It was pretty clear she was unhappy with the way things were going for a bunch of reasons, which I can't talk about because there are ongoing legal issues that I don't want to compromise and she's not here to state her case," Maclachlan said.

"It's a business relationship but the problem is you're so in each other's pockets it becomes a lot more personal. But I have no animosity."

The Herald spoke to several music industry insiders to see if the "issues" mentioned by Maclachlan could be holding up Lorde's second album, and the answer was definitely maybe.

One said Maclachlan may be entitled to ongoing revenue, depending on the terms of the contract.

Another source said most management contracts feature a sunset clause, which comes into effect when the relationship ends. Generally, this clause only covers content created while the contract is in place. However, they stressed that every management contract is different.

One source mooted that Lorde could be biding her time waiting for such a clause to expire or possibly to reduce the amount that Maclachlan could claim, while another said some contracts can allow for ongoing payments up to three, five or even 10 years after the contract is dissolved.

Lorde has spoken sporadically about the album, telling the BBC in October the follow-up would be influenced by the success of Pure Heroine.

"I wrote the last album about that world which was the suburb where I grew up and populated by my friends and people who were really familiar to me. Now I'm in a different place every day and I'm with new people every day and it's a different vibe," she said.

"We haven't got some planned out 'this is what it's going to sound like.' I think we're just going to start writing and when it starts to feel right, we'll know that it's right. It's pretty simple really."

And way back in May last year, the producer of Royals and Pure Heroine, Joel Little, had this to say: "We haven't done a whole lot of production on it yet, we just want to make sure the songs are really good and try and experiment with some new things - just different beats and whatever occurs in the studio."

He also said: "We can take the time to make sure we've explored every option."

There could, of course, be another reason for the delay. Lorde recently showed off a broken arm at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute in New York City.

MET GALA 2016 in @maisonvalentino ๐Ÿฆ„

A post shared by Lorde (@lordemusic) on

So is she just resting up and adapting her beguiling twitchy dance moves to include that weighty plaster cast?

Whatever the answer, her fans are living that fantasy that they'll hear news of a new Lorde album one day soon.