"Tennis Court" is a song by New Zealand singer Lorde, taken from her debut album Pure Heroine (2013). On 7 June 2013, the song was released as the album's second single by Universal Music Group, following "Royals". Tennis Court EP was also released, comprising three additional tracks. "Tennis Court" served as the fourth single from Pure Heroine in the United States. Written by Lorde and Joel Little and produced by Little, "Tennis Court" combines alternative pop, art pop and electropop genres with elements from downtempo, hip hop and EDM. It features synthesisers and electronic pulses in its composition. The lyrics address Lorde's new-found fame and criticise the "high life."
"Tennis Court" was well received by critics, who complimented the song's production and musical style. The single garnered success in Oceania, peaking at number one on the New Zealand singles chart and entering the top thirty chart in Australia. In Europe, it charted in Belgium (in both Flanders and Wallonia), France, the UK and Germany; the song also appeared on multiple US charts. "Tennis Court" was certified platinum by both the Australian Recording Industry Association and Recorded Music NZ. A music video for the song was directed by Joel Kefali and features Lorde staring into the camera during one continuous shot. To promote Pure Heroine and the song, Lorde performed "Tennis Court" several times, including on Live on Letterman.
Lorde was spotted by Universal Music Group (UMG) after performing at her school. She signed with UMG at age 13, and was later paired up with Joel Little.
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."
On 7 June 2013, "Tennis Court" was released as Pure Heroine's second single in Australia and New Zealand. On the same day, an extended play—Tennis Court EP—was released digitally in some European countries and physically (as a 10-inch vinyl) on 22 July. The single was released for digital download in Scandinavia on 12 August 2013, and a 7-inch vinyl was released in the US on 27 August 2013. Lava and Republic Records were going to send "Tennis Court" to US modern rock radio on 11 March 2014 and to US contemporary hit radio on 8 April 2014 as the third US radio single, following "Royals" and "Team". However, its release was cancelled in favour of "Glory and Gore". Nevertheless, the label later decided to cancel the contemporary hit radio (CHR) release of "Glory and Gore" and send "Tennis Court" as originally planned. "Tennis Court" impacted US hot adult contemporary radio and CHR on 21 and 22 April 2014, respectively. "Tennis Court" was released in the United Kingdom on 12 May 2014.
"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. Billboard editor Jason Lipshutz commented that "Tennis Court" showcases Lorde's "darker edges of pop music" style. Nick Messtite from Forbes wrote that the track is reminiscent of The Postal Service's song "The District Sleeps Alone Tonight", while Siân Rowe from NME compared it to works by Lana Del Rey. An editor from Clash, Joe Zadeh, noted the similarities between "Tennis Court" and The xx's song "Together."
The lyrics of "Tennis Court" address Lorde's newly established fame and criticise the "high life." 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." Paul Lester, writing for The Guardian, compared the song's lyrical theme to that of two other songs by Lorde: "Royals" and "Million Dollar Bills" (from The Love Club EP).
"Tennis Court" opens with Lorde questioning "Don't you think that is boring how people talk?" featuring her, in the words of Lester, "sweet, sultry and sour" voice, which suggests "a frictional relationship with the high life." A critic from Digital Spy, Robert Cospey, wrote that the track "finds [Lorde] caught between fame and a more innocent time" with the lines "My head's filling up fast with wicked games/ How can I fuck with fun again when I'm known?" The tongue-in-cheek word "Yeah!" is repeated after each verse. Another lyric, "It's a new art form showing people how little we care" is described as "perfectly damning the wave of banal hedonism most recently celebrated by the MTV Video Music Awards", according to Kevin Liedel from Slant Magazine. At the bridge, Lorde sings "I fall apart, with all my heart/ And you can watch from your window", which was described as a "perfect" commentary on the breakdowns of teenage celebrities in an article published by The Huffington Post.
"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. "Tennis Court" was picked as one of the standout tracks of Pure Heroine by Stephen Thomas Erlewine from AllMusic, Jon Hadusek from Consequence of Sound, and Time Out editor Nick Levine. 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.
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". The video was filmed as a one-shot. Lorde appears in "black clothing, braided hair, and dark lipstick." It features Lorde staring into the camera as the song plays; she does not lip sync the lyrics except for the word "Yeah!" after each verse and during the chorus. The set lighting fades in and out throughout the video.
Writing for The Washington Post, Bethonie Butler observed a discrepancy between Lorde's statement that "In a perfect world, [she] would never do any interviews, and probably there would be one photo out there of [her]", and the fact that, in the music video, Lorde is "front and center." Butler viewed the video as "a metaphor for celebrity." Writing for Ryan Seacrest's website, Kathleen Perricone complimented the "super simple" clip, which allowed Lorde's "voice and lyrics [to] really shine." Lindsay Zoladz, of Pitchfork Media, compared the video to that for The Replacements' "Bastards of Young." MTV Buzzworthy blogger Luke O'Neil wrote that the "Tennis Court" video is "a bit unsettling at first, but eventually it starts to make sense. [Lorde is] trying to do things a bit differently, and so far it seems like it's working."
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. On 24 September 2013, she performed the track at The Fonda Theatre in Los Angeles, California. On 3 October 2013, Lorde held a concert at the Warsaw Venue in Brooklyn and performed the song among other tracks from the album. On 13 November 2013, Lorde performed several songs from Pure Heroine during the Live on Letterman to promote the album, including "Tennis Court." Lorde held a concert at Soho, England and performed a series of songs from her album on 19 November, including "Tennis Court". The song was also performed by Lorde during the "Almost Acoustic Christmas" event on KROQ-FM radio station on 9 December.
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. Lorde also performed the song during several music festivals. In April, Lorde performed "Tennis Court" at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Around 2014, she also performed the single live during the Laneway Festival in Sydney, and Lollapalooza Brazil in Sao Paulo. At the Lollapalooza Festival in Grant Park on 1 August 2014, she performed the track among other songs from Pure Heroine. The performance of Lorde was well received by media outlets, with Billboard picked it as the fifth best performance of the festival, while Rolling Stone deemed it the best part of Lollapalooza in Chicago, writing, "She danced like she was trying to fling her arms off her body, but just as with her voice, the sense that she was in absolute possession of her abilities never waned. She nailed every stomp and every note — but it was clearly fueled by passion, not perfection."
"Tennis Court" was played during the 2013 Wimbledon Championships – Women's Singles Final by British Broadcasting Company (BBC). "Tennis Court" was remixed by Australian musician Flume in 2014. In July 2014 American producer Diplo released his version, titled the Diplo's Andre Agassi Reebok Pump Mix. In 2014, "Tennis Court" was featured in the soundtrack of the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Microsoft Windows versions of Grand Theft Auto V.