Writing and Composition
Lorde detailed the writing process for "Tennis Court" was different from that of her other tracks. By and large, Lorde would have a lyric forming before going into the studio to record. Nonetheless, Little and Lorde first wrote the music and the beat, and the lyrics were built on the instant music. According to Little, Lorde developed her songwriting skills on "Tennis Court", for which she wrote the melody and the whole chorus:
"That song was one where we had everything except the chorus. She was sitting in the back of the room while I was working on the music and she was saying, "I think I've got a chorus idea." I asked, "Can I hear it?" and she said, "No, no, no." She wouldn't sing it to me and then once she had it, she basically sang the entire chorus as you hear it now. I was like, "Holy shit, this is seriously good." This was the first time she had this fully formed, amazing idea for a chorus. This is, I don't know how long into the process, but it was when I was like, "This girl is going to be an amazing songwriter, or has turned into one in a really short amount of time." Then I just added the "yeahs" and we tweaked a couple things here and there."
"Tennis Court" was produced by Joel Little, who recorded it at his Golden Age Studios in Morningside, Auckland. The song was produced using the software Pro Tools; it is characterised as a downtempo hip hop and EDM-influenced alternative pop, art pop and electropop song. It utilises synthesisers and electronic pulses in its arrangement. The track lasts for a duration of 3:18 (three minutes and eighteen seconds). Written in the key of A minor, it has a moderate tempo of 92 beats per minute. Lorde's vocal range spans one octave, from the low-note of G3 to the high-note of G4.
The lyrics of "Tennis Court" most likely address Lorde's newly established fame and criticise the "high life", though when asked what the literal meaning of the song was she said:
"do you think things have to have a definite meaning to be good? i think there’s beauty in something people can’t quite work out, and maybe it wouldn’t be right for me to stick a meaning on it anyway. i made something that i thought was visually compelling, and that’s all i’m going to say. thanks for listening x"Lorde said she wrote the song "after having had a glimpse into the music industry, and I was just thinking about how superficial people can be and how we put up all these fronts." She found the idea of a tennis court "very visually beautiful" and "something I kept coming back to on Tumblr and all that sort of thing", saying it was "kind of a symbol of nostalgia for me. It was something which was familiar and safe to me." She also described the song as being "about the town where she grew up and the friends [with whom] she would ... hang out all summer."
It is often mentioned how the beginning lyrics are "Don't you think it's boring how people talk" and the ending lyrics of "A World Alone" are "Let 'em talk", since Tennis Court is the first track on Pure Heroine and A World Alone is the last.
"Tennis Court" received critical acclaim from music critics and media outlets. Siân Rowe from NME ranked the EP a seven out of ten, complimenting the song for its "forward-looking genres" and Lorde's "strong pop vocals." Emily Yoshida from Grantland labelled it a "murkily winsome, ever-so-slightly chopped ballad", while writer Kyle Jaeger for The Hollywood Reporter praised the track's lyrical content and its catchy melody. In an interview with USA Today, English singer-songwriter Elton John praised "Tennis Court", describing it as "one of the most touching, beautiful things on earth."
"Tennis Court" debuted at number one on the New Zealand Singles Chart during the week of 17 June 2013, becoming Lorde's second number one on the chart; "Royals" was her first. Spending a total of 21 weeks on the chart, the single was certified double platinum by the Recorded Music NZ (RMNZ) for exceeding sales of 30,000 copies there. "Tennis Court" became the 19th best selling single of 2013 in New Zealand. In Australia, the track peaked at number 20 on the ARIA Singles Chart, remaining to chart for 22 weeks. It was certified double platinum by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) for 70,000 copies shipped in the region. In the United States, it peaked at number 71 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and has sold 355,000 copies there, as of April 2014. It also reached number nine on the US Hot Rock Songs.
|Premiere||June 23 2013|
The official music video for "Tennis Court" was directed by Joel Kefali, who previously worked with Lorde on
the accompanying video for her debut single "Royals". It is one shot and appears Lorde staring at the camera with dark lips, a fishnet top, and braided hair. She only lip-syncs the "yeahs!" in the chorus. The lighting significantly fades out and fades back in sporadically throughout the video.
Royals was part of Lorde's world tour setlist and she has sung a number of times. To promote "Tennis Court", Lorde held a concert at Le Poisson Rouge in New York and performed the song among others on 6 August 2013. This was her first US show. Lorde performed "Tennis Court" at the 2014 Billboard Music Awards in May. The following month, she performed a Goth-influenced medley of "Tennis Court" and "Team" at the 2014 MuchMusic Video Awards.