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The third single from Lorde's debut album, Pure Heroine, finds the teenage singer touching on disconnection with modern pop music and the difference between on-screen portrayals and reality over a clap-along synth-heavy beat. She told Billboard magazine: There are a few lines which are kind of me being the 'realistic' pop star: 'We live in cities you'll never see on-screen,' which is like, no one comes to New Zealand, no one knows anything about New Zealand, and here I am, trying to grow up and become a person. I've been countering that with going to New York and seeing this place that's in every movie and every TV show. Part of me wanted to go back to writing for me and for my friends, and write something that I felt related to us a little bit."
Lorde told The Fader there are two lines on the song that are particularly important to her. She said: "One of them was: 'We live in cities you'll never see onscreen.' Because I like in Auckland, which is definitely not New York. It just felt important for me to be speaking for the minority. Coming from a small city, somewhere that feels unimportant, you just wanna get out of there. You're whole teenage life The other line is: 'I'm kind of over getting told to throw my hands up in the air.' Because, there's been so much of that in pop music, and I'm like, this is the stupidest thing. Being told to put your hands in the air? That's the last thing I wanna do right now. I just wanted to be a bit more realistic. I don't if that's relating to young people in general, or just people who listen to pop."
This along with all the other Pure Heroine tracks was penned by Lorde with producer Joel Little and recorded with him at Golden Age Studios in Auckland. Little recalled to Billboard magazine: "'Team' was a beat that I had floating around. I thought I'd be able to do something cool with it, but every time I started playing around with it, it didn't feel quite right. I was at home and I did a melody for the intro section, where it's just a double a cappella of her voice. It popped into my head and I was like, 'I can do something where it starts off super slow and dark and it's just her. If we can find a way to loop he last little bit and speed it up, then it will be a bit of a twist.' So I went into the studio with that idea, had her put the lyrics together for that intro, and it went from there. I'm proud of that song; it's a good one."
The song's music video was filmed in an abandoned building called the Red Hook Grain Terminal, in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Red Hook. The clip was directed by Young Replicant (The xx) and features a society of acne-faced misfit teenagers, headed by Lorde. "It was important to me that we cast real people with real faces. [H]olla acne!," the singer said. "This video was borne from a dream I had a few months ago about teenagers in their own world, a world with hierarchies and initiations, where the boy who was second in command had acne on his face, and so did the girl who was queen. I dreamt about this world being so different to anything anyone had ever seen, a dark world full of tropical plants and ruins and sweat. And of this world, I dreamt about tests that didn't need to be passed in order to be allowed in: sometimes the person who loses is stronger."
Like her hit "Royals," and many of her other tracks, this song uses a cold open, with Lorde singing right off the top. "Team" ends just as abruptly, with the song closing out all at once when she sings the last line, "And you know." This start-with-the-vocal approach was common in Punk Rock (listen to the Ramones for examples), but generally goes against convention, since musical intros can help ease the listener into the song and also give disc jockeys room to talk them up.
Like "Royals," this song relies on a simple percussion, this time with hand claps instead of snaps.
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