11 Weeks of Pure Heroine: Royals
Sophia Guerrier, A&E Editor
Holy smokes it is week four of the “Pure Heroine” installations, you’ve made it this far and I hope you’ve read the past three. We’re talking about “Royals” this time, Lorde’s most successful hit single and considered one of the best songs of the millenium. Seriously. Not only is it one of the best-selling singles of all time, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked it at number nine on their 21st century catalog.
Pretty legit. I feel like the song “Royals” speaks for itself so this isn’t going to be as long as it should be considering how impactful and transcending the track has proved to be almost six years later. This Friday, September 27, will also be the 6 year anniversary of “Pure Heroine”.
To start off, what needs to be brought to attention is that Lorde at the age of sixteen wrote “Royals” in thirty minutes. A song with such intricate symbolism to luxury and materialism was written in only half an hour and sold over 10 million units worldwide. Pretty impressive for a pop song battling the superficiality landscape of pop and hip hop music and separating itself as counterculture.
Lorde actually came up with the title of the song from a picture in “National Geographic” of baseball player George Brett signing baseballs. He played for the Kansas City Royals and Lorde seeing “Royals” sprawled across his uniform helped coin the song just that. She told Vevo in an interview, “He was just signing baseballs, but I was like, ‘That is so cool.’ That word is so beautiful and I was just wondering how I could incorporate it into something.”
Lorde also explained her intentions for “Royals” in the same interview, saying, “I definitely wrote “Royals” with a lightness in mind. I was definitely poking fun at a lot of things that people take to be normal. I was listening to a lot of hip-hop and I kind of started to realize that to be cool in hip-hop, you have to have that sort of car and drink that sort of vodka and have that sort of watch, and I was like, “I’ve literally never seen one of those watches in my entire life.” There you go, Lorde literally says the meaning of the song, so I’m just gonna moderately touch upon the song’s most valuable features. For example the opening lines of the song.
“I've never seen a diamond in the flesh, I cut my teeth on wedding rings in the movies, And I'm not proud of my address, in the torn up town, no postcode envy.” So here, Lorde could be speaking in both first person or as another, poorer character. Now, Lorde grew up in one of the most wealthy sections of New Zealand.
This is why when she says, “And I'm not proud of my address, in the torn up town, no postcode envy,” she could be speaking as someone else considering she did not grow up in a “torn up town,'' the median income where she grew up is 85,000 dollars. But compared to Los Angeles and New York, the glamorous cities that films and tv shows are always shot in, New Zealand is essentially unheard of and not cared about. Which could be why she says, “No postcode envy”.
Lyrics of assumingly lower income are present a few more times in the song like when she sings, “We count our dollars on the train” and “We didn’t come from money” can also suggest this poorer character Lorde is portraying or she may be comparing her being upper class to the wealth of celebrities as essentially being poor in their eyes.
The most treasured part of the song is undoubtedly the catchy pre chorus where Lorde’s luxury mockery resides in. “But every song's like gold teeth, Grey Goose, trippin' in the bathroom; But everybody's like Cristal, Maybach, diamonds on your timepiece,” She calls out rap music with the specifics of Cristal, Maybachs, Grey Goose and the rest.
All of these materialised possessions are prevalent in the “look” of a rapper and are worshipped within the hip hop community as symbols of wealth and success, most notably with billionaire rapper Jay Z. The tone in which she sings “But every songs like” and “But everybody’s like” is almost like she’s mocking that of a teenage girl who absorbs this sort of lifestyle for themselves even though they are nowhere near living it.
This goes back to Lorde’s criticism of celebrity exclusivity and materialism that is sold to the youth as the ideal way of living. The “Grey Goose” and “Maybach” talk from these artists influences the youth to want to be like them even though they’re poor. Lorde does reject this ideology with the simple phrase “We don’t care, we aren’t caught up in your love affair” and later in the chorus, “That kind of lux just ain't for us, we crave a different kind of buzz.” This buzz could be drugs, which are attainable for anyone, but it’s never specified.
I read an interpretation that said “Royals” is like “a revolutionary group that wants to overthrow the current power, but who is subject to the same temptations and corruptions” and I think that’s a valid observation and way to conclude this. Next week we’ll be looking at “Ribs”.