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Thursday, May 23, 2024
The Observer

Antarctica, onion rings, endless anticipation: An autopsy of Lorde stan Twitter


Singer-songwriter Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O’Connor — known by casual fans as “Lorde” — staked her claim to my brain space in 2019, and she has not left since. I have three Spotify playlists dedicated to this woman. When I’m not listening to her music, I’m asking myself when more might come. “Lorde, where is the album?” is an integral part of my dialect — sometimes shouted at friends and family, sometimes shouted into the void as I dance-cry to “Green Light” in my car.

It hasn’t always been this way. I used to know peace. Let’s take it back to the beginning in hopes of pinpointing the beginning of Lorde’s rent-free lease inside my mind.

It didn’t start in 2013 — when Lorde first exploded onto the scene — as the slick soundscape of “Royals” permeated the air of my mom’s minivan every morning and afternoon of my eighth grade year. 

It didn’t start in 2016 — when the edgy lyricism of “Pure Heroine” became a lengthy personal mantra — as my friends and I weaved through small-town backroads to “400 Lux” and “Buzzcut Season.”

It didn’t even start in June 2017, with the long-anticipated release of the critically-acclaimed “Melodrama.”Don’t get me wrong, I was obsessed — shout-it-from-the-rooftops, choreographed-car-concert levels of obsessed — but I was functioning, thriving, thinking about other things besides a random woman from New Zealand.

Then I found stan Twitter.

First, for the lucky ones whose digital footprints have never reached these bleak corners of the internet, let me clarify: Stan Twitter is a relatively niche but unbelievably powerful community of celebrity-obsessed Twitter users whose entire accounts are dedicated specifically to certain famous figures. Unlike that of many online spaces, stan Twitter’s principal goal isn’t virality, but community. A single stan account might not boast many followers, but stan Twitter as a whole finds strength in numbers, as well as a considerable level of connectivity among affiliated users. Internet historians and academics alike have used stan Twitter as a case study for online political mobilization and the ever-growing influence of Internet culture

But stan Twitter isn’t a monolith. There are many stan Twitters, each sub-community dedicated to an idol of its own — hence the concept of “Lorde stan Twitter.” 

One fateful day in summer 2019, I found myself thrust into the alternate reality that is Lorde stan Twitter when the forces of fate carried an illustrious Lorde stan account called @DidLorde onto my timeline. The account sports the screen name “did lorde release a new album today;” this is a question whose answer has been a predictable “no” since 2017, but a question the user nonetheless answers daily, with varying degrees of manic energy. Highlights include the somber “she didn’t, there’s no hope,” the unnecessarily sassy “she didn’t lmao what made you think that was an option” and the timeless “nop.” 

I like to think of DidLorde as the definitive epicenter of Lorde stan Twitter, uniting the community through a powerful shared sentiment: disappointment. While the account occasionally echoes the insider information and clandestine content from the esoteric outer reaches of the Lorde Twittersphere (more on that later), the bulk of their content is simple, accessible yearning — what you might expect from a community whose object of standom has been physically and digitally AWOL for nearly three years.

Maybe AWOL is a strong word. The woman does give us crumbs of content — and by crumbs, I mean incredibly infrequent emails. Yes, Lorde sends sparse smoke signals to her despondent fan base in the form of a newsletter, wherein the young recluse pens biannual and progressively unpredictable life updates. One day it’s a peaceful walk through New Zealand farmland, eight months later it’s a cute quarantine bread-baking moment and eight months later it’s an immersive trip to Antarctica in the name of the climate crisis. 

But by crumbs, I also mean literal crumbs. Lorde’s once-secret Instagram account, @onionringsworldwide — where every onion ring she encounters is rated from one to five — made a valiant comeback last December, after the mainstream media exposed the food critic’s true identity and forced her into an early retirement in 2017. 

As you might expect, every email and onion ring update sparks celebration within Lorde stan Twitter — all of it much to my jealousy. Maybe one day I, too, will be applauded by strangers for sending emails and oversharing on my finsta. A man can dream.

Also integral to Lorde stan Twitter is, oddly enough, Lorde’s mother, teacher and poet Sonja Yelich. Sonja certainly doesn’t cater her tweets to her thousands of Lorde-fanatic followers (the bulk of her account consists of sunset photos and retweets of The Guardian), but in her mentions, all roads lead to Lorde. 

“my ella made me my fav lemon tart,” Sonja tweeted on March 7, attaching a photo of her daughter adorning said lemon tart with raspberries. 

“Making everything but albums,” a fan replied, which was honestly kind of rude but also absolutely correct. 

“u sure about that?” Sonja shot back in a now-deleted response.

Other highlights of Sonja’s Twitter include the fans who beg the mother of three to adopt them, and those who refer to the woman exclusively as “bestie” or “queen.” Never change.

But Lorde stan Twitter is much more than collective commiseration and mild bullying: Some stans go much further. They’re mischievous. They’re cunning. They’re all-knowing. They’re like investigative journalists, but without the journalistic ethics, and they occupy a shadowy subregion of Lorde stan Twitter I like to call “the outer reaches.” Bestie, I’m scared. 

The strange horror of the outer reaches comes not from what you see, but from what you don’t see. Informants rarely cite their sources. Many infamous investigators keep their pages private. The accounts’ “insider information” is disseminated cryptically or not at all, pompously dangled in front of fans in a sort of stan Twitter theatrics.

“speaking of lorde….” distinguished prediction account @thealIknower tweeted in March, leaving the fateful sentence unfinished — much to the dismay of the clairvoyant’s loyal followers.

Self-proclaimed Lorde oracles abound in the outer reaches, and most are deemed unreliable after their prophecies prove false. However, a select few have managed to earn the community’s trust.

One such standout is the aforementioned “all knower,” whose account is packed to the brim with a wide variety of pop star predictions, including an eerily accurate prediction of the cover art of “Fearless (Taylor’s Version).” But after a recent faulty prediction — which I fell for myself — and the account’s subsequent backpedaling, the all knower lost much of their credibility within Lorde stan Twitter.

And while the prominent predictor @ultrasubversive — commonly known as “Venice” — might lack the all knower’s sheer quantity of predictions, he wins over forlorn fans with a contagious confidence and a wide catalog of supposed “leaks.” Venice claims to have already listened to Lorde’s new album — which he gave a rating of 4/5 — and most people believe him. “Venice never lies,” his disciples shout at anyone who dares to doubt him.

But alas, neither of the outer reaches’ oracles has given Lorde stan Twitter a confident, enduring answer on the status of a third Lorde album. This lack of information inevitably leads to some questions. Are these clairvoyants just as clueless as the rest of us? Are their prediction accounts nothing more than platforms for pretentious grandstanding? Is their “insider information” simply a different manifestation of DidLorde's despondent desperation, the former just shrouded in artificial secrecy and faux-confidence?

I dunno. But who cares? I’ll hold onto whatever hope there is at this point. If you’ve made it this far in this cursed piece of writing, tweet me your own Lorde predictions — I’ll believe every word.

And Lorde, honey, if you’re reading this: Where is the album?