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"Bravado" was written by Lorde (credited under her birth-name Ella Yelich-O'Connor) and Joel Little, while production for the song was handled by the latter. The track was written and recorded in 2012 at Little's Golden Age Studios in Auckland. Within a week, Lorde had finished recording "Bravado" alongside "Royals" and "Biting Down " during a school break. Chris Schulz, from The New Zealand Herald, described "Bravado" as a chamber pop piece, while The Village Voice's Brittany Spanos called it an electropop song.
Composition and writing
Running for a duration of 3:41 (three minutes and 41 seconds), the track is composed on electronic beats in the key of B minor and plays in common time at a moderate tempo of 88 beats per minute. Lorde's vocal range on the song spans from F♯3 to D5. The lyrics of "Bravado" address the idea "of false confidence delivering real confidence" and of Lorde stepping into a line of work where, she said, "everyone would be watching me, and everyone would want to talk to me and confront me". Lorde cited the line "Me found bravery in my bravado" from Kanye West's song "Dark Fantasy" as an influence.
About the inspiration of the song, she commented:
"I am quite reserved in general and I’m not a very confident person. But I knew I was about to be entering an industry where you have to be. And so it was kind of my personal pep talk. Like kind of coming to a point where I could put on confidence."
"Bravado" was well received by music critics. Chris Schulz from The New Zealand Herald picked the song and "Million Dollar Bills" as the two best tracks from The Love Club EP. Jason Lipshutz, writing for Billboard, described the track as "delightfully spooky". In a review published in The Dominion Post, Tom Cardy compared the track's style to that of works by Florence Welch and Marina Diamandis, labelling it a "sharp, refreshing and smart" song.
The song peaked at number five on the New Zealand National Singles and number twenty-nine on the US Hot Rock Songs chart.
In November 2013, Lorde performed the song on the Late Show with David Letterman to promote The Love Club EP and Pure Heroine. Throughout the show, she was only backed by a drummer and a keyboard player. "Bravado" was additionally performed during Lorde's debut concert tour throughout 2013 and 2014. In 2014, she performed the track at Silo Park, Auckland on 29 January 2014 as part of her make-up show for the 2014 Laneway Festival, and at the Brazil edition of the Lollapalooza.